‘Tatsachenphantasie’ – factual imagination – is what Döblin demanded of the modern novel. And if there is one novel in literary modernism driven by this unbridled, boundless factual imagination, it is Döblin’s Wallenstein from the year 1920. With its opulent and shocking images of the Thirty Years’ War, the novel not only reflects the contemporary madness of the First World War, but also looks ahead to the barbarism yet to come.
The terrible events of this time – the battles and sieges, the flooding armies and tides of refugees, the triumph and misery of the princes and generals, the major figures’ struggle for power and the nameless suffering of the people, the figures of Maximilian of Bavaria, Kaiser Ferdinand, Wallenstein or Tilly – add up to a brightly-hued historical tapestry, and like a waterfall of characters and events, the tragedy of an age flows past the reader. Its incredibly powerful language makes Döblin’s Wallenstein one of the most memorable works of modern literature.