The other side (novel)

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The other side. A fantastic novel is a novel by Alfred Kubin . It emerged in autumn 1908 out of a creative crisis and was published in 1909 with 52 illustrations by Kubin by G. Müller (Munich and Leipzig).

Structure of the novel

The novel is divided into three parts:

  1. The call ,
  2. Pearl ,
  3. The fall of the dream realm .

The first part has two sub-chapters, the second and third part each have five sub-chapters. These chapters are in turn divided into unnamed sub-chapters (exceptions: Part II, Chapters V.II and V.III). In addition, a short epilogue is attached, which shows the narrator after he has returned from the dream realm and has to go to a mental institution.


In the novel, the protagonist , like Kubin a draftsman by profession, travels to a dream kingdom created by the multimillionaire Patera in distant Asia and his capital "Pearl". The strange city lying in the eternal twilight is initially a welcome source of inspiration for the draftsman. But at the latest after the death of his wife, the fascination increases more and more to a merciless horror vision and the subsequent apocalyptic decline of the dream realm, which Kubin describes meticulously over the entire second half of the book.

First part: the reputation

Chapter I: The Visit

In the first chapter the narrator receives a visit from Franz Gautsch, an envoy from Patera, the lord of the dreamland. The narrator knows Claus Patera from attending a high school together in Salzburg, 60 years before the experiences were written down. Gautsch invites the narrator on behalf of Patera to follow him into dreamland. Dismissing the whole thing for a joke at first, the narrator asks what the dream realm is. Gautsch explains to him how the dream realm is structured and which ideologies are followed. One of the main aspects is the turning away from progress (especially from the sciences). Gautsch also gives the narrator a letter with the invitation and a miniature with the picture of Patera. The narrator, who previously believed in an encounter with a mentally ill patient, now becomes curious and finally receives a check for a hundred thousand marks. When this proves to be covered, his wife finally agrees after a long work of persuasion and they begin their journey to Perle.

Chapter II: The Journey

Similar to a traditional travelogue, the narrator describes the train journey to Central Asia and finally the arrival in the dream realm. Before entering the country, the narrator and his wife have to leave most of their belongings behind, because these customs regulations are also intended to prevent progress.

Part two: pearl

Chapter I: Arrival

The two of them take a train to Perle. The first impression is a very bad one, because the narrator exclaims: “This is how it looks in every filthy nest!” The woman, on the other hand, enjoys the mild air.

Chapter II: The Creation of Patera

With a break in personal experiences, the narrator begins to describe the creation of Patera. The primary characteristic of the dream realm is that the sun never shines. The dream realm is cut off from the outside world by a curtain of clouds. The narrator describes the different regions of Perle, the quarters and their people.

Chapter III: Everyday Life

The dream people wear all the clothes of their parents and grandparents' fashion. The couple find an apartment that reminds the narrator of a house from his childhood days. The two fit into the everyday life and customs of the dream city dwellers very quickly. In the following, the narrator is given a job as a draftsman at “Traumspiegel”. The money economy and the wealth of the individual depend only on coincidences, much is reminiscent of the wheel of Fortuna. The bureaucracy is not working, applications are being postponed due to formal errors. Furthermore, the narrator looks for some friends, including his hairdresser, who is more of a philosopher than a hairdresser. A letter that the narrator wants to send to a friend outside the dream realm comes back after two years as undeliverable. In the letter the narrator had described the watch ban. This watch ban is one of the country's religious customs. However, nobody talks about it, people simply surrender to the fate that is bestowed on them. The couple's neighborhood consists of the ugly princess of X, an old maid, and a student. Both make life difficult for the couple. Another negative aspect is the noises that prevail during the night and especially frighten the narrator's wife.

Chapter IV: Under the Spell

The narrator's wife sees Patera and becomes increasingly anxious. While the narrator cultivates his relationships in the coffee house, she mainly stays in the shared apartment. Then there is the couple's miserable financial situation because their money is gone. Finally, the woman claims that a nearby well is haunted and the narrator goes to the dairy to come across a neglected horse in the cellar that rushes past him and terrifies him to death. The corridor in which he met the horse leads directly into the coffee house, where an “older, dignified gentleman with a white scarf” informs him that everyone is under the spell here. He also explains to the narrator that these events are about the slap that is explained as Patera's epileptic seizure. The woman is getting worse and worse and they decide to go on a trip to the mountains. But on the way the woman complains that she's only feeling worse in this atmosphere, and they turn back. The narrator then comes to Patera, whom he asks to help his wife. When the narrator asks Patera shortly afterwards if he is happy, Patera begins to shout: “Give me a star, give me a star!” And transforms into the various dream cities, whereupon the narrator flees. On his return the narrator finds his wife dying and in a relatively short time she will be buried and everyone advises the narrator to forget her. That same night he surrendered himself to Frau Lampenbogen, the doctor's wife. In the following days the American Hercules Bell appears.

Chapter V: The Suburbs

The narrator goes to the suburbs, where he meets the blue-eyed (the natives of the dream realm). They appear very calm to the narrator; in later times he often seeks the sight of this calm in order to find refuge from his own restlessness. The second and third sub-chapters are the only ones to have a title: “The clarification of knowledge” (II) and describe the philosophy of the blue-eyed. The world is imagination. In “Confusion of Dreams” (III) the narrator experiences a great dream, which, however, follows confusing strands and could possibly be a reference to the last chapters of the novel.

Third part: The fall of the dream realm

Chapter I: The Adversary

Hercules Bell, the American, is portrayed. He is from Philadelphia and is immensely wealthy. This already indicates that he has a similar status to Patera. Bell wants to bring about a revolution with a proclamation.

Chapter II: The Outside World

The outside world is not informed about the dream realm and one tries to find it, because some of the inhabitants of the dream realm are missing, for example the princess of X.

Chapter III: Hell

Hercules Bell looks at himself in the mirror and realizes that he is as powerful as Patera. In the meantime, the dream city dwellers are falling asleep - no matter what they have just done, they fall asleep. Only Hercules Bell stays awake. When waking up, the dream city dwellers find themselves in a huge animal paradise. A real plague comes over the kingdom and the animals take control in a certain way. Bit by bit, however, morality also declines and the disintegration of the material begins: mold and mold cover both houses and clothes. Many die. The food is hardly edible anymore, because verdigris and mold form everywhere. A rebellion is brewing. Most die and it is no longer possible to bury all of the bodies.

Chapter IV: Visions - The Death of Patera

In a visionary scene, Patera and Hercules Bell fight each other, and it appears that Bell will eventually win. The dream realm is going under. The blue-eyed Patera pay their last respects in a rock cave, and Patera is brought close to a deity, although the mystery of his person remains unsolved. The text gives the interpretation hints in different directions, but ultimately remains open.

Chapter V: Conclusion

The outside world and with it the sun penetrate into the former dream realm. Only very few survived, the princess of X is found as a mummy, but can be brought to life.

Central themes

Central themes are the seamless transition between dream and reality , which Kubin spells out into a “dream in a dream”, as well as the recognition of the duality of the world and the togetherness of opposites. Kubin illustrates the latter through the final titan fight between the Proteus figure Patera and his adversary, the American canned meat manufacturer Hercules Bell. In the course of the struggle described in Urgewalten-Metaphorik both grow into one another, become an indistinguishable mass. At the end of the novel is the realization: "The demiurge is a hybrid".

Further aspects in this complex work are the preoccupation with the world of dreams in all its facets (how familiar Kubin was with Sigmund Freud's interpretation of dreams in 1908 is unclear) and the exclusion of the sick (the dream townsfolk are mainly nervous people) has strongly shaped modernity . Here the sick are brought into the microcosm of the dream realm, where they remain closed to the outside world by a thick veil of permanent clouds.


"Life is a Dream! Nothing seems more accurate to me than this well-known parable ”, wrote Kubin in 1922 about his“ dream experience ”. This saying would also be a fitting motto for the Austrian's first and only novel.

The other side experienced resounding success with contemporary writers and artists, although - probably to this day - it has never become known to a wider public. The novel, titled “fantastic”, had an impact both with Gustav Meyrink and Franz Kafka and with the German-speaking surrealists , whose pioneer Kubin is considered to be. In 2009, the literary scholar Hartmut Binder also demonstrated a mutual influence between Kubin and Gustav Meyrink, in which he wrote both the originally planned subject of the two authors and the drawings by Hugo-Steiner Prag and Alfred Kubin with the final results The Other Side and The Golem compared. The “other side” itself follows the tradition of E. A. Poes and ETA Hoffmanns , whom Kubin knew well as their illustrator.


  • Reprint of the first edition Müller, Leipzig 1909. Edition Spangenberg in Ellermann-Verlag, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-7707-0151-8 , new edition 1990, ISBN 3-89409-051-0 ; as paperback: rororo 25556, Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-499-25556-4 .
  • Festival edition for the 75th birthday of Alfred Kubins with 52 new drawings and a plan. Gurlitt-Verlag Wien-Linz-Munich, printed by the Democratic Printing and Publishing House Linz, 1952
  • Paperback edition with 51 drawings by Kubin and a plan. Reclam Volume 901, Leipzig 1981 (without ISBN , "Licensed edition of the Ellermann Verlag, Munich for the GDR and the other socialist countries").
  • New edition: With 51 drawings and a plan. With an afterword by Josef Winkler . Library Suhrkamp 1444, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-518-22444-1 .
  • Paperback with a plan. Rowohlt Taschenbuchverlag, Reinbek near Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-499-13771-2 .




  • Philip Ajouri : Literature around 1900. Naturalism - Fin de Siècle - Expressionism . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-05-004536-8 .
  • Philipp Blom: The tumbling continent. Europe 1900–1914. (Original title: The Vertigo Years ), Hanser, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-446-23292-1 , as paperback: dtv 34678, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-34678-8 .
  • Clemens Brunn: The way out into the unreal. Fiction and world model with Paul Scheerbart and Alfred Kubin . 2nd updated edition. Igel, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-86815-518-1 .
  • Ralf Georg Bogner: Introduction to Expressionist Literature . 2nd edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-534-22798-3 .
  • Peter Cersowsky: Fantastic literature in the first quarter of the 20th century. Investigations into the structural change of the genre, its intellectual-historical prerequisites and the tradition of "black romanticism" in particular with Gustav Meyrink, Alfred Kubin and Franz Kafka. 2nd edition, Fink, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-7705-2133-1 .
  • Andreas Geyer: Dreamers for life. Alfred Kubin as a man of letters . Vienna u. a .: Böhlau 1995, ISBN 3-205-98404-8 .
  • Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams. In: ders .: study edition. Volume 2, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1972, pp. 488-588.
  • Winfried Freund (Ed.): The Demiurge is a hybrid. Alfred Kubin and the German-language fantasy. Munich: Fink 1999. ISBN 3-7705-3329-1 .
  • Anneliese Hewig: Fantastic Reality. Interpretation study of Alfred Kubin's novel “The Other Side”. Fink, Munich 1967 (= On the Knowledge of Poetry , Volume 5, also dissertation at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau 1966).
  • Helmut Kiesel: History of literary modernity. Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 978-3-406-51145-5 .
  • Heinz Lippuner: Alfred Kubin's novel "The Other Side". Francke, Bern / Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7720-1376-7 .
  • Jürgen Neffe: Invitation to dream realm . Alfred Kubin's novel of the century is a virtuoso key work for the turn of the epoch at which we are standing. In: Die Zeit , No. 34/2009

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Konstantin Kountouroyanis: News from the master of fantastic literature book review - Gustav Meyrink - A life under the spell of magic (monograph) . In: , May 26, 2017