Study Guide

Professor Alfred Bolk in The Danish Girl

By David Ebershoff

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Professor Alfred Bolk

Dresden Dolls

Professor Bolk is the good doctor who performs Einar's gender reassignment surgery. Although Einar Wegener was a real person, and shattered barriers by having the first surgery of this kind performed, Professor Bolk isn't a real person. The actual doctor was a dude by the name of Kurt Warnekros (source).

Maybe because he's an entirely fictitious character, we don't get to know Professor Bolk very well. He's met someone like Einar before, a man who wanted to be a woman, and developed a surgery because of his expertise rooting around in men's abdominal cavities during the war.

It's rumored that Bolk saved five hundred lives during the war and he helps pregnant women (likely by performing abortions) at the Municipal Women's Clinic in Dresden. Some of the girls know him as "Bolk the Blade" (20.111) but that's just dramatic talk. He is a nice man and a skilled surgeon, who saves Lili's life by making it easier for her to live as herself in a body she feels comfortable in. His surgical technique is a success.

However, Bolk still views Lili more as a patient than as a person, and he wants to try a new technique on her: implanting a uterus into her so she can have children. It's overambitious and Lili dies. With Bolk, it's the best of times… and then the worst of times.

We don't get to see the aftermath from Lili's death, so we don't know if Bolk is upset or considers himself a failure or not. We do know that Greta considers him a miracle worker and paints his portrait. It doesn't sell.

Professor Alfred Bolk in The Danish Girl Study Group

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