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A compelling book, based on a true story, and very well read. I recommend it.
I have tried to see the deeper meaning of this book. Tried to look for the message or lesson. But there is nothing there. It's just a sad, never ending tale of hopelessness. With no feeling of understanding why these people all went through this endless trauma
What does the lucky reader get?
1. Authenticity. The novel is set in Berlin in the years 1940-1946, Fallada stayed in Berlin throughout the war and wrote the book in 1946. Fallada had first hand experience both of being denounced to the Gestapo and collaborating with the Nazi party. I love that immediate, first hand, recent feel. It is almost what I read novels for.
2. Lessons in Politics. Explains how a tyrannical system works. How fascism can capture a civilized, educated, modern state. It works by giving power to the wrong people - not on merit but to the party faithful. This creates a hell on earth, but also sows the seeds of its own destruction. In the end, power in the hands of imbeciles and sadists is inefficient.
3. Characters. There are goodies, all with credible flaws and limitations; there are baddies with all their faults, self-justifications and weaknesses, penned with the same level of detail and empathy. I have rarely read a novel where the low-lifers are depicted with such subtlety and intimacy.
4. Plot. Exciting, action packed, satisfying.
5. Good taste. Gestapo interrogation is a pretty grim subject, Fallada writes so delicately that you understand what is happening without it becoming overwhelmingly distressing.
6. A happy ending. Er, no. There is a final battle between good and evil (represented by a blond son waving a horse whip at his evil, corrupt father on a rural, spring morning in 1946) where the son prevails. It is the merest glimmer of hope. Fortunately, we can visit Berlin today and see that hope realized. I’m sorry Fallada never lived to see it – he died within weeks of finishing this book.
This book reminded me repeatedly of 1984 – written at about the same time with a similar political message. I cannot understand how this book was only translated into English in 2009. It should have been hugely famous for years. IMHO it is a truly wonderful book.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
First published in 1947 as Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man Dies Alone) and translated beautifully by the poet Michael Hoffman in 2009, this book is a disturbing, visceral, accurate and beautifully realised portrait of a society consuming itself from within seen from the perspective of ordinary people caught up in the nightmare of the Nazi machine. What makes it all the more poignant is that the story is based on a real case from wartime Berlin.
The author, Hans Fallada (or Rudolf Ditzen to give him his real name) is said to have written the book in just 24 days in post war East Berlin, having been handed a Gestapo file detailing the central case by a friend who became a government minister. Sadly the author died from a morphine overdose shortly before the book was published.
The narration is the best I have ever encountered and perfectly captures each character from the lowest, snivelling crook, to the screaming viciousness of the Nazi functionaries. John Telfer is to be applauded for his performance.
The subject matter is dark and deeply thought-provoking but please, please do not let that put you off. Running through this work is the redemptive and triumphant power of the human spirit against almost unimaginable horror.
This is a work of genius, translated perfectly and read sublimely.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
There's too much dialogue altogether and too much designed to vilify the Nazi characters in a crushingly crude and tedious way.
This is a crass novel that has very obvious messages that it then repeats over and over again. The British Telegraph recommended this but I can't believe the reviewer actually listened to the eighteen hours of tedium.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Not for the fainthearted. Heavy subject matter, but brilliantly written and exceptionally well narrated.