Every Man Dies Alone

Every Man Dies Alone


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A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

“To read Every Man Dies Alone, Fallada’s testament to the darkest years of the 20th century, is to be accompanied by a wise, somber ghost who grips your shoulder and whispers in your ear: 'This is how it was. This is what happened.'”
The New York Times Book Review

“I very much enjoyed the rediscovery of Hans Fallada ...  a wonderful novel. Compelling.”
—Ian McEwan

This never-before-translated masterpiece—by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn’t join the Nazi Party—is based on a true story.

It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, they launch a simple, clandestine resistance campaign that soon has an enraged Gestapo on their trail, and a world of terrified neighbors and cynical snitches ready to turn them in.

In the end, it’s more than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, more than a moving romance, even more than literature of the highest order—it’s a deeply stirring story of two people standing up for what’s right, and for each other.


This is a Hybrid Book.

Melville House HybridBooks combine print and digital media into an enhanced reading experience by including with each title additional curated material called Illuminations — maps, photographs, illustrations, and further writing about the author and the book. The Melville House Illuminations are free with the purchase of any title in the HybridBook series, no matter the format.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935554042
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Publication date: 03/30/2010
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 236,313
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.32(d)

About the Author

Before WWII , German writer Hans Fallada’s novels were international bestsellers, on a par with those of his countrymen Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse. In America, Hollywood even turned his first big novel, Little Man, What Now? into a major motion picture.

Learning the movie was made by a Jewish producer, however, Hitler decreed Fallada’s work could no longer be sold outside Germany, and the rising Nazis began to pay him closer attention. When he refused to join the Nazi party he was arrested by the Gestapo—who eventually released him, but thereafter regularly summoned him for “discussions” of his work.

However, unlike Mann, Hesse, and others, Fallada refused to flee to safety, even when his British publisher, George Putnam, sent a private boat to rescue him. The pressure took its toll on Fallada, and he resorted increasingly to drugs and alcohol for relief. After Goebbels ordered him to write an anti-Semitic novel, he snapped and found himself imprisoned in an asylum for the “criminally insane”—considered a death sentence under Nazi rule. To forestall the inevitable, he pretended to write the assignment for Goebbels, while actually composing three encrypted books—including his tour de force novel The Drinker—in such dense code that they were not deciphered until long after his death.

Fallada outlasted the Reich and was freed at war’s end. But he was a shattered man. To help him recover by putting him to work, Fallada’s publisher gave him the Gestapo file of a simple, working-class couple who had resisted the Nazis. Inspired, Fallada completed Every Man Dies Alone in just twenty-four days.

He died in February 1947, just weeks before the book’s publication.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Some Bad News

The postwoman Eva Kluge slowly climbs the steps of 55 Jablonski Strasse. She’s tired from her round, but she also has one of those letters in her bag that she hates to deliver, and is about to have to deliver, to the Quangels, on the second floor.

Before that, on the floor below, she has a Party circular for the Persickes. Persicke is some political functionary or other — Eva Kluge always gets the titles mixed up. At any rate, she has to remember to call out “Heil Hitler!” at the Persickes’ and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there’s not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks. Not that she’s a political animal, she’s just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she’s of the view that you don’t put children in the world to have them shot. Also, that a home without a man is no good, and for the time being she’s got nothing: not her two boys, not a man, not a proper home. So, she has to keep her lip buttoned, and deliver horrible field letters that aren’t written but typed, and are signed ‘Regimental Adjutant’.

She rings the bell at the Persickes’, says “Heil Hitler!” and hands the old drunk his circular. He has his party badge on his lapel, and he asks: ‘Well, so what’s new?’

She replies: “Haven’t you heard the special report? France has capitulated.”

Persicke’s not content with that. “Come on, Miss, of course I knew that; but to hear you say it, it’s like you were selling stale rolls. Say it like it meant something! It’s your job to tell everyone who doesn’t have a radio, and convince the last of the moaners. The second Blitzkrieg is in the bag now, it’s England now! In another three months, the Tommies will be finished, and then we’ll see what the Fuhrer has in store for us. Then it’ll be the turn of the others to bleed, and we’ll be the masters. Come on in, and have a schnapps with us. Amalie, Erna, August, Adolf, Baldur — let’s be having you. Today we’re celebrating, we’re not working today. Today we’ll wet the news, and in the afternoon we’ll go and pay a call on the Jewish lady on the fourth floor, and see if she won’t treat us to coffee and cake! I tell you, there’ll be no mercy for that bitch any more!”

While Mr. Persicke, ringed by his family launches into increasingly wild vituperative and starts hitting the schnapps, the postie has climbed another flight of stairs and rung the Quangels’ bell. She’s already holding the letter out in her hand, ready to run off the second she’s handed it over. And she’s in luck: it’s not the woman who answers the door — she usually likes to exchange a few pleasantries — but the man with the etched, birdlike face, the thin lips, and the cold eyes. He takes the letter out of her hand without a word and pushes the door shut in her face, as if she was a thief, someone you had to be on your guard against.

Eva Kluge shrugs her shoulders and turns to go back downstairs. Some people are like that; in all the time she’s delivered mail in the Jablonski Strasse, that man has yet to say a single word to her. Well, let him be, she can’t change him, she couldn’t even change the man she’s married to, who wastes his money sitting in bars and betting on horses, and only ever shows his face at home when he’s skint.

At the Persickes’ they’ve left the apartment door open, she can hear the glasses and the rowdy celebrations. The postwoman gently pulls the door shut and carries on downstairs. She thinks the speedy victory over France might actually be good news, because it will have brought the end of the war nearer. And then she’ll have her two boys back.

The only fly in the ointment is the uncomfortable realization that people like the Persickes will come out on top. To have the likes of them as masters and always have to mind your p’s and q’s, that doesn’t strike her as right either.

Briefly she thinks of the man with the bird face who she gave the field post letter to, and she thinks of old Mrs. Rosenthal up on the fourth floor, whose husband the Gestapo took away two weeks ago. You had to feel sorry for someone like that. The Rosenthals used to have a little haberdashery shop on Prenzlauer Allee. That was Aryanized, and now the man’s disappeared, and he can’t be far short of seventy. Those two old people can’t have done any harm to anyone, they always allowed credit — they did it for Eva Kluge too when she couldn’t afford new clothes for the kids — and the goods were certainly no dearer or worse in quality than elsewhere. No, Eva Kluge can’t get it into her head that a man like Rosenthal is any worse than the Persickes, just by virtue of him being a Jew. And now the old woman is sitting in her flat all alone, and doesn’t dare go outside. It’s only after dark that she goes and does her shopping with her yellow star, probably she’s hungry. No, thinks Eva Kluge, even if we defeat France ten times over, it doesn’t mean there’s any justice here at home...

And by now she’s reached the next house, and she makes her deliveries there.

In the meantime shop foreman Otto Quangel has taken the field post letter into the parlor and propped it against the sewing machine. “There!” he says, nothing more. He always leaves the letters for his wife to open, knowing how devoted she is to their only son Otto. Now he stands facing her, biting his thin under lip, waiting for her smile to light up. In his quiet, undemonstrative way, he loves this woman very much.

She has torn open the envelope, for a brief moment there really was a smile lighting up her face, and then it vanished when she saw the typed letter. Her face grew apprehensive, she read more and more slowly, as though afraid of what each next word might be. The man has leaned forward and taken his hands out of his pockets. He is biting his underlip quite hard now, he senses something terrible has happened. It’s perfectly silent in their parlor. Only now does the woman’s breathing come with a gasp.

Suddenly she emits a soft scream, a sound her husband has never heard from her. Her head rolls forward, bangs against the spools of thread on her sewing machine, and comes to rest among the folds of sewing, covering the fateful letter.

In a couple of bounds Quangel is at her side. With uncharacteristic haste he places his big, work-toughened hand on her back. He can feel his wife trembling all over. “Anna!” he says, “Anna, please!” He waits for a moment, and then he says it: “Has something happened to Otto? Is he wounded, is it bad?”

His wife’s body continues to tremble, her mouth doesn’t make a sound. She makes no effort to raise her head to look at him.

He looks down at her hair, it’s gotten thin in the many years of their marriage. They are getting old; if something serious has happened to Otto, she will have no one to love, only him, and there’s not much to love about him. He doesn’t have words to tell her ever how much he feels for her. Even now he’s not able to stroke her, be tender to her, comfort her a little. It’s all he can do to rest his heavy hand on her hair, pull her head up as gently as he can, and softly say: “Anna, will you tell me what’s in the letter?”

But even though her eyes are now very near to his, she keeps them shut tight, she won’t look at him. Her face is a sickly yellow, her usual healthy color is gone. The flesh over her bones seems to have melted away, it’s like looking at a skull. Only her cheeks and mouth continue to tremble, as her whole body trembles, caught up in some mysterious inner quake.

As Quangel gazes into this so familiar, and now so strange face, as he feels his heart pounding harder and harder, as he feels his complete inability to afford her the least comfort, he is gripped by a deep fear. A ridiculous fear really, compared to the deep pain of his wife, but he is afraid that she might start to scream, scream louder and wilder than she did a moment ago. He was always one for peace and quiet, he didn’t want anyone to know anything about the Quangels at home. And as for giving vent to feelings: no, thank you! But even in the grip of his fear, the man isn’t able to say any more than he did a moment ago: “What is it in the letter? Tell me, Anna!”

The letter is lying there plain to see, but he doesn’t dare to reach for it. He would have to let go his wife’s head, and he knows that this head — there are two bloody welts on it from the sewing machine — would only slump once more. He masters himself, asks again: “What’s happened with Ottochen?”

It’s as though the pet name, one that the man hardly ever used, recalled the woman from the world of her pain back into life. She gulps a couple of times, she even opens her eyes, which are very blue, and now look bled white. “With Ottochen?” she says in a near whisper. “What do you think’s happened? Nothing has happened, there is no Ottochen any more, that’s all!”

“Oh!’ the man says, just a deep “Oh!” from the core of his heart. Without knowing what he’s doing, he’s let go his wife’s head, and has reached for the letter. His eyes stare at the lines, without being able to decipher them.

Thereupon the woman grabs the letter from him. Her mood has swung round, furiously she rips the piece of paper into scraps and shreds and fragments, and she shouts into his face: “What do you even want to read that filth for, those common lies they always write? That he died a hero’s death for Fuhrer and Fatherland? That he was an exemplary soldier and comrade? Do you want to hear that from them, when you know yourself that Ottochen liked nothing better than fiddling about with his radio kits, and that he cried when he was called away to be a soldier? How often he used to say to me when he was recruited that he would give his right hand to be able to get away from them? And now he’s supposed to be an exemplary soldier, and died a hero’s death? Lies, all a pack of lies! But that’s what you get from your wretched war, you and that Fuhrer of yours!”

Now she’s standing in front of him, the woman, so much shorter than he is, but with eyes sparkling with fury.

“Me and my Fuhrer?” he mumbles, stunned by this attack. “Since when is he my Fuhrer? I’m not even in the Party, just in the Arbeitsfront, and everyone has to join that. As for voting for him, I only did that once, and so did you.”

He says it in his slow and cumbersome manner, not so much to defend himself as to clarify the facts. He still can’t understand what induced her to mount this sudden attack on him. They were always of one mind...

But she says heatedly: “What gives you the right to be the man in the house and determine everything? If I want so much as a space for my potatoes in the cellar, it has to be the way you want it. And in something as important as this, it’s you who made the wrong decision. But then you creep around everywhere in carpet slippers, you want your peace and quiet and that’s all, and not come to anyone’s attention. So you did the same as they all did, and when they yelled: ‘Fuhrer, give us your orders, we will obey!’ you went with them like a sheep. And the rest of us had to follow you! But now Ottochen’s dead, and no Fuhrer in the world can bring him back, and nor can you!”

He listened to her without saying a word back. He had never been a man for quarrel and argy-bargy, and he could also tell that it was her pain speaking in her. He was almost glad to have her scolding him, because it meant she wasn’t giving in to her grief. The only thing he said by way of reply was: “One of us will have to tell Trudel.”

Trudel was Ottochen’s girlfriend, almost his fiancé; she called them Mother and Father. She often dropped in on them for a chat in the evening, even now, with Ottochen away. By day she worked in a uniform factory.

The mention of Trudel straightaway set Anna Quangel off on a different track. She glanced at the gleaming clock on the mantel, and asked: “Will you have time before your shift?”

“I’m on from one till eleven today,” he replied. “I’ve got time.”

“Good,” she said. “Then go, but just ask her to come. Don’t say anything about Ottochen. I’ll tell her myself. Your dinner’ll be ready by midday.”

“Then I’ll go and ask her to come round tonight,” he said, but he didn’t leave yet, but looked in her jaundiced, ill-looking face. She looked back at him, and for a moment they looked at each other, two people who had been married for almost thirty years, always harmoniously, he quiet and silent, she bringing a bit of life to the place.

But however much they now looked at each other, they still had no words to say about this thing that had happened, and so he nodded and went out.

She heard the apartment door close. And no sooner was she certain he was gone than she turned back towards the sewing machine, and swept up the scraps of the fateful field post letter. She tried to put them back together, but quickly saw that it would take too long now, and above all she had to get the dinner ready. So she scooped the pieces into the envelope, and slid it inside her hymnbook. In the afternoon, when Otto was at work, she would have time to fit the pieces together and glue them down. It might all be lies, mean, stupid lies, but it remained the last news she would have had of Ottochen. She would keep it safe, and show it to Trudel. Maybe she would be able to cry then; at the moment it still felt like a flame in her heart. It would do her good to be able to cry!

She shook her head crossly and went to the stove.

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Every Man Dies Alone 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
ADogInBrooklyn More than 1 year ago
I was prompted to buy this book after reading a very provoking review by the NY Times. I am not disappointed in the least - I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE. Though this book is not a difficult read at all, it is spectacular on so many levels. First of all, the storyline is so original and refreshing. It's a story based on 2 real life people - an elderly German couple staging their own revolt against the Hitler occupation in the little way they can. The characters, from the silent Otto to the valiant Anna, the complex inspector, even to the losers like Borkhausen and Kluge, they are SO developed. The plot was so believable, and other than a good read it's an enlightening picture of the German civil society that hid behind the militant Germany of its time. The ultimate message isn't patronizing, but very real, and it will keep your brain humming long after you've read the last page. I recommend this to all.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
This is an extraordinary book. I suppose you would classify it as historical fiction. The story is loosely based on a true occurrence in Nazi controlled Berlin during World War II. A middle aged couple, the Quangels, learn of the death of their only son in the war. The usually staid husband, Otto, is so full of grief and anger at the government for taking his son from him, that he hatches a plan, with the at first, reluctant help of his wife, Anna, to speak out against the Nazis. They decide to express their grievances on postcards and drop them in high traffic areas of the city so no one will be able to connect them with the subversive notes. This may sound like a very innocuous way to protest their feelings, but in Berlin at this time to partake in such seditious writing was punishable by death. The story flows nicely, being neither preachy nor pedantic. The lives of the Quangels hang for over a year on the words they laboriously print on their postcards. Each knows the other is in constant danger as long as a card is in their possession. Yet each is willing to give their life as the mere act of defiance has brought them a closeness and bond that has not been present before. Hans Fallada, the author, nicely balances the lives of this couple with many other elements of German society at the time. Petty crooks an criminals are contrasted with the Nazi faithful. Seemingly innocent people, who are just trying to live their lives in peace are contrasted with the vultures of society who prey on the weak and unprepared. A very moving story which can be enjoyed on many levels.
casa42 More than 1 year ago
I've read many historical works dealing with the Third Reich. None the less this novel, based on real events, brings home the underlying brutality of this regime to its own citizens more forcefully than any work of pure history that I've read. The sheer pleasure in dispensing pain and suffering characteristic of the minions of this state is convincingly demonstrated as the events of this tale unfold. The resistance of this very common couple is both banal and heroic at the same time. Perhaps that is what gives this work a convincing patina of realism. I highly recommend this novel.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
This is a book which I happened upon by chance, and I feel grateful that fate allowed me the honor of reading it. Hans Fallada captures the hopelessness of Nazi Berlin, bringing us into the lives of everyday people caught up in something too big for any one individual. Fear rules everyday life as the privileged lord it over the rank and file, and Fallada takes us into the darkest hearts of modern man. Some keep trying to hold onto some slight remainder of their soul in a battle that can't be won, and it is these stories that grip the reader and force a look into one's own soul.
CoopCR More than 1 year ago
This is a superb novel of "resistance," in this case a middle-aged couple's resistance to Nazism after their son dies in the German army. Though the resolution is arguably depressing--their battle can't help but lose--the novel is not pessimistic, but spun through with their determination to do what seems best to them. First rate.
teacher47 More than 1 year ago
This is an extraordinary book loosely based on a true story. It takes place in Berlin during the Nazi reign. If this time in history interests you, then this is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ACQwoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This extraordinary novel was written in only 24 days by the author who survived Nazi Germany. It is loosely based on the story of Otto and Elise Kempel, a couple in Berlin who quietly dropped anti-Nazi postcards throughout the city at risk of their lives. In the novel, they become Otto and Anna Quangel. When their son is killed in the war, Otto and Anna realize they no longer believe in Hitler and feel they must act against him. Each postcard they drop could bring a death sentence. In my opinion, the book's strength lies not just in its portrayal of Otto and Anna, but in its ability to examine the psyche of many people, from the Jewish widow living upstairs to the SS officer investigating the postcards. As the novel progresses you are forced to see the many compromises and wrenching decisions people made during the dangerous times. The novel amazingly manages to combine a psychological examination with an action filled plot. I found the afterword about the author to be as interesting as the book itself; don't stop reading at the last page!
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This amazing novel explores the many facets of the human spirit, amidst a collection of German citizens during the height of Gestapo paranoia in Berlin and its surrounding areas. The plot is rather intricate, but basically involves a mild-mannered older couple, Otto and Anna Quangel (he a carpenter/foreman and she his devoted but surprisingly strong wife), who after the death of their son during the war, quietly defy the Nazis by leaving resistance postcards at various locations throughout Berlin. The premise is based on a true story. The postcards are considered high treason punishable by death; and the novel follows various people in the administration (who go literally insane trying to capture the "Hobgoblin", i.e., postcard writer) and other German citizens who somehow cross paths with the Quangels. The heart of the book reminded me a lot of Eli Wiesel's explorations on how humans face oppression, fear and victimization so differently, especially during this time period. Although certainly very sad and depressing considering the time and subject matter, at the end there is actually a huge triumph of the human spirit. Absolutely nothing in this book plays out like I thought it would and in that way, it is full of interesting twists and surprises. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in how German citizens were affected by the Gestapo during WWII. This novel really is a virtually unknown masterpiece (that would be a great academic choice, in so many ways) and hopefully, it will reach a much larger audience. I now want to read everything that Fallada has written - what a discovery!
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An elderly couple, whose son has died fighting, dares to compose anti-Hitler postcards and place them throughout Berlin. The times of distrust and everyone-out-for-themsleves is very obvious. Tension with neighbors and the struggle to survive in a world turned upside down is well played. Sometimes the writing is too dogmatic to be effective.
sara37 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read. Reflects German ordinary citizens life during the war. Excellent in description of life under the Nazi's regime. Excellent in developing characters. In depth description how fear of government can control your everyday existence.
flashflood42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't yet finished this powerful novel because it is so disturbing so that I can read only a few chapters each day. It deals with an ordinary working-class couple in Germany who take a stand against the Nazis. One watches the authoritarian powers circle in on them while the husband inveighs against the regime in postcards and letters. This is a stunning novel, beautifully written by a man who wrote it in 24 days after he was released from a Nazi insane asylum.
alexbolding on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
English translation of Fallada¿s masterpiece. The edition I read also contains a short biography on Hans Fallada and some excerpts from the original Gestapo files on the case. I found the first 250 pages tough going, thereafter it was take-off (couldn¿t stop reading). To be honest I hated the tone of the story and the world portrayed by it. In a way that is a skilful feat of Fallada: he describes very neatly the treacherous, brutal, and violent experience of day to day life in the Nazi Heil Staat. The most sympathetic account is definitely that of Judge Fromm. Yet also he suffers from the innate arrogance of the learned, aristocratic class of German intellectuals, which ultimately proves fatal for the Jewish woman whom he offers shelter. The world sketched by Fallada is so incredibly devoid of human kindness and care, and so rife with blatant self-interest, opportunistic behaviour, domestic violence, street violence and gendered privilege that it makes you puke. Also noteworthy is Fallada¿s bleak and ominous inclination for utter failure. All characters he portrays in his story fail. All fight fate, either bravely and principled like the Quangels, judge Fromm, and inspector Escherich, or else in a fatalistic way like the Jewish lady, and the two small time criminals; or in a brutally arrogant way, like all the Nazi and Gestapo characters, but what all have in common is their ultimate failure and certain death (even judge Fromm dies, courtesy of an Allied bomb). The only redemption the story offers is that of Eva Kluge, the retired post woman, and the reformed boy Kuno Dieter at the end of the novel. `You reap what you saw¿, seems to be the leading axiom of Fallada, in the wake of a devastating war. And yet, the novel is impressive. Disgusting, but impressive, and crafty.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in 1947, this novel is based on the true story of a working class couple who left anonymous post cards in and around Berlin during the Nazi regime. The subversive cards encouraged people to sabotage the Nazi war effort by slowing down work in any way possible. The real-life couple, as well as the novel's main characters, Otto and Anna Krungl, were eventually captured and executed. There are also several subplots involving neighbors and relatives of the Krungls, including an elderly Jewish woman whose husband was taken away by the Nazis, an SS officer, a young thug making his way up the ranks of the Hitler youth, a female postal worker and her long-philandering husband, and others. Like most stories about Nazi Germany, this is the story of common people struggling just to survive and, sometimes, taking extraordinary risks along the way.I found [Every Man Dies Alone] difficult to read because of its relentless tension and the relentless cruelty and manipulations of the Nazis and their sympathizers. I'm sure that is exactly the effect that the author had hoped for, but: 1) I felt that I had suffered through similar books before, so there were few surprises; and 2) I just kept wishing that it would be over, since the unhappy ending was inevitable. These comments aren't meant to be disparaging; they just express the emotional impact that the book had on me personally. Would I recommend it? Yes, with the caution that it is far from a light summer read. If you appreciated (I can't say enjoyed) books like Night or Schindler's List, you might want to put Every Man Dies Alone on your wish list--but don't expect heroism, suffering, and endurance to be rewarded here, nor the evil to be punished.
BAP1012 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An intense novel regarding a simple man's fight against Hitler.
VisibleGhost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are plenty of reviews that cover the plot and story fictionalized in Every Man Dies Alone so I'm going to comment on the writing/translation style. Fallada wrote the book at a feverish pace: it was written in twenty four days or so. He had completed a non-fiction piece on the case so he was familiar with the main characters and fairly unimpressed with their resistance efforts. I get the impression that the translator of the book into English from German, Michael Hofmann, was a deliberate, conscientious translator with a flair for capturing the mood of Fallada. The combination of frenzied writing and careful translation may have enhanced the original book.The two principal characters are doomed and powerless against the powerful Nazi machine. It could have been bleak as hell but somehow it is and isn't. At times it has a noirish feel. At times it has some wicked black humor. Then there are some tragicomic moments. From there, the inane bureaucracy of the times is explored. Inept secondary characters with weird sad stories of their own are beautifully drawn. There is introspection and musing on hopeless situations. All these styles mesh into a book that is a powerful example of what literature can be. Fallada stretches out several threads of plot and then condenses them with near brutal precision. The chapter, The Fateful Monday, is a good example of this. Some of the minor characters go from near success to great failure in quick time. Many do not see the doom approaching them including some of the Nazis. Fallada doesn't get polemical and keeps his writing voice on a even keel. Thus, he shows how life can be under a regime when one side has all the power and individuals try to survive a day at a time.
Ronrose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an extraordinary book. I suppose you would classify it as historical fiction. The story is loosely based on a true occurrence in Nazi controlled Berlin during World War II. A middle aged couple, the Quangels, learn of the death of their only son in the war. The usually staid husband, Otto, is so full of grief and anger at the government for taking his son from him, that he hatches a plan, with the at first, reluctant help of his wife, Anna, to speak out against the Nazis. They decide to express their grievances on postcards and drop them in high traffic areas of the city so no one will be able to connect them with the subversive notes. This may sound like a very innocuous way to protest their feelings, but in Berlin at this time to partake in such seditious writing was punishable by death. The story flows nicely, being neither preachy nor pedantic. The lives of the Quangels hang for over a year on the words they laboriously print on their postcards. Each knows the other is in constant danger as long as a card is in their possession. Yet each is willing to give their life as the mere act of defiance has brought them a closeness and bond that has not been present before. Hans Fallada, the author, nicely balances the lives of this couple with many other elements of German society at the time. Petty crooks an criminals are contrasted with the Nazi faithful. Seemingly innocent people, who are just trying to live their lives in peace are contrasted with the vultures of society who prey on the weak and unprepared. A very moving story which can be enjoyed on many levels.
mecpc1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a study of relentlessness by uncommon characters.It eloquently but simply demonstrates the values of two people whose singlemindedness brings anxiety and ultimately degradation to the Reich whose inability to stop a couples' pursuit of justice for their dead son becomes an obsession for many in the Gestapo.The writing is deceptively minimalist, yet satisfies.The characters are skillfully drawn, engaging, and heroic. This is one of the most unforgettable books I have read in a liferime of reading.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time picking up Fallada's novel of quiet resistance in Berlin during the Second World War. I've read several reviews that had me eager to read it, but it's not the most cheerful of topics, so I put off reading it. But I'm trying to tackle those kinds of books this year, the long, the challenging and the important. So I gathered my resolve and began.Every Man Dies Alone tells the story of Otto and Anna Quangel, a factory foreman and his wife, who decide that they have to resist the Nazi regime somehow. Spurred by the death of their only child, they come up with the idea of writing postcards denouncing the Reich and dropping them in busy places all over Berlin. They envision hundreds of people heartened and inspired to resist, but the reality is a bit different. Where they do not err, however, is in their expectation of eventually being caught. The book also features a petty malingerer and gambler whose attempts to get by doing very little go badly for him, his long suffering wife, who decides to renounce her membership in the Party (necessary for most jobs) and to move to the countryside. They, in turn, come into contact with other ordinary Berliners, some willing to collude with the state and others keeping their heads down. She drops her voice further: "But the main thing is that we remain different from them, that we never allow ourselves to be made into them, or start thinking as they do. Even if they conquer the whole world, we must refuse to become Nazis.""And what will that accomplish, Trudel?" asks Otto Quangel softly. "I don't see the point."The novel is filled with an overwhelming atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Otto reacts to this by cutting ties to everyone but his wife, which does not help his relatives in the slightest. Holding onto one's dignity becomes an enormous challenge. Despite the grim subject matter, Fallada allows the reader some moments of grace and choses to end his novel with a small moment of triumph.
labfs39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hans Fallada, the alias for Rudolf Ditzen, wrote his last novel, Every Man Dies Alone, in 24 days and died of a morphine overdose before it could be published. A man tortured by substance abuse and his ambivalent relationship with the Nazis, Fallada wrote prolifically but with few successes. After stints in hospitals and even an insane asylum, Fallada was shown a Gestapo file by a friend and told it would make a good story. The file was on a German couple who resisted the Reich by dispersing hand-written postcards denouncing Hitler and the war throughout Berlin. Fallada uses the basic plot suggested by the file to create the novel.The story of the ficticious Otto and Anna Quangel is one of an average, working-class couple who live placidly under the Fuhrer until the death of their only son in the war. The senseless death of their son spurs them to defiance, and they begin their postcard campaign. Woven within and around their story are the stories of dozens of other people, resisters, snitchers, and Nazis, who together create a picture of life under Hitler. The richness of the character depictions are the highlights of the book. Even minor characters take on life and draw one in.Unfortunately, the characters are almost entirely single-faceted. One is either good or evil, and only one character, the Inspector Escherich, seems to have any moral development as the story progresses. Despite this, I was interested in the fate of the characters and found the book a quick and absorbing read. Fallada creates an image of German life during the war as being as morally compromising as life under Stalin, a comparison that came quickly to mind having just finished reading The Whisperers. I was left wondering once again what I would be capable of if I were in such a situation. Would I be capable of resistance or would I collude in silence letting fear prevent action?
laVermeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every Man Dies Alone is disturbing, engrossing, and powerful. Based on the real experiences of a married couple's resistance to the Nazis, it is an insightful story of love, standing up for one's beliefs, and the atrocities committed by power that is fed by fear.Enno and Anna Quangel are middle-aged, working-class Berliners whose son is killed in France. Together they launch a private war against the Führer, dropping anonymous postcards around Berlin in an attempt to expose the Nazis as insane bullies and destructive liars. As their campaign advances, their lives entwine with dozens of other Berliners' in unimaginable ways, some compassionate, some desperate, some despicable. Their commitment to resistance is tested again and again, but Anna and Otto demonstrate how vital to human being are integrity, honour, kindness, and courage.The novel evokes consistent tension in the reader; it also speaks with immediacy and an almost ultra-real level of detail. The action is relentless, unflinching. Readers may find the novel reminiscent of Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldiers (1987) in its entwining of various plots and of Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River (1994) in its look at the daily lives of Germans under Nazism, but it is stylistically distinct. The author uses some interesting technique in tense shifting to bring the reader into the moment of the action, and the diction is exquisitely managed to enrich character, setting, and situation (kudos to the translator!). This is a long novel ¿ some 500 pages ¿ but it moves extremely quickly and kept me consistently wanting to know what would happen next. The footnotes and afterword are nice touches. I was not familiar with some of the more obscure elements of Germany society under the Nazis, and greatly appreciated learning more about the author, Hans Fallada, whose work is new to me. This is a masterful novel, and learning that Fallada wrote it a matter of weeks makes it even more impressive.Anyone interested in the Second World War, social justice, or the psychology of fear should enjoy this novel, as should anyone who simply wants a compelling read. It is extremely well written and will leave a reader with much on which to reflect.
HowHop on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hans Fallada's dark novel about a working class couple's futile resistance against the Nazi regime is a nearly perfect picture of pessimistic existentialism. Almost everyone involved in the plot finds themselves struggling to achieve something of worth in a meaningless existence where only death offers an escape from the forces of fate that are beyond their control. Though the evil fascist state devours anyone against it, underlying the plot is the assurance that even the fanatical efforts to oppress all dissent are not enough to put off the day of reckoning which inevitably brings its demise. Despite its total control over its citizens and the zealous cruelty inflicted to assure its existence, the mighty Nazis are no less vulnerable to fate than the feeble Quangels and the rest of the characters in the novel.Despite the novel's length, it moved along at a crisp pace, shifting its focus around a realistic cast of characters that made it hard for me to put down. Fallada has much to teach about living in a totalitarian society where fear dominates the affairs of the people and affects every level of relationship. My one caveat in reccommending this book is the extreme profanity that, thankfully, occurs infrequently and adds nothing to the quality of the story.
jbealy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At 500 pages, the new Michael Hoffman translation of the 1947 Hans Fallada novel, Every Man Dies Alone, is an indictment of war and all its inherent brutalities, but also of the individual ways we allow fear to rule our lives. The book has been called a thriller and, while it is indeed a fast moving page turner, ¿thriller¿ does not quite give justice to the intricacies of this novel.The story of the Quangels, an elderly couple intent on destroying Hitler¿s regime of terror with a campaign of postcards dropped anonymously over a 2 year period around Berlin, is based on a true story. It is one story, one would assume among many, of the (failed) Nazi Resistance movement inside Germany during the second world war. Fallada¿s rendering of the various characters, most of whom are based in one apartment block in the middle of the city, is masterful. Whether describing working class citizens trying to stay alive and out of trouble or members of the SS, an elite military unit of the Nazi party, or prisoners and their sadistic guards, Fallada has given us an extremely accessible peak inside the Third Reich and, indeed, a close study of humanity under pressure. It is not always a pretty picture but despite the atrocities, Fallada tries still to give his characters hope. Kudos to the publisher for raising the curtain on this never before translated novel.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s 1940 and Otto Quangel¿s life revolves around his job as foreman at a Berlin furniture factory and his wife, Anna, whom he loves unequivocally. He¿s a quiet, undemonstrative man, preferring his private ruminations to mindless chatter with those around him. Yet when they receive word that their son has been killed at the front and Anna, in her initial stage of grief, refers to ¿you and your Fuhrer,¿ Otto knows he must do something to show her how wrong she is. He is not even a Party member, which she knows; what can he do to assure her and the world of his hate for the Nazi Party that is turning the lives of all Germans into a private hell? He devises a plan and Anna enthusiastically joins him in it, even after he warns her that if they are caught they will probably be charged with treason and executed. Based on the true story of Otto and Elise Hampel, the tale that Fallada tells is the compelling story of that plan: its inception, its execution and its final outcome. The book gets to the heart of the struggle that the average German faced every day, from food shortages and ration cards, to terror of suspicion by the mighty Gestapo, no one was safe. He paints a chilling portrait of wartime Berlin as the Quangels carry out their plan. That the book is a riveting page turner goes without saying. But this reader found herself admiring the quiet courage showed by those German people who attempted to save their fellow citizens and the country they loved from the crazed military that had taken over their lives. Can a single citizen bring about change even as all citizens are living in mortal fear?Fallada, who refused to leave Germany at this time, demonstrates a fluid storytelling ability with a bleak irony. Certainly as in other wartime situations, your situation is improved if you know the right people, have an in. Consider this as the author describes how¿Baldur Persicke, the most successful scion of the Persicke clan, had pulled all the strings he could....and in the end he had succeeded in having the whole rotten business discreetly set aside....so the Persicke honor remained unstained. While the Hergesells were being threatened with violence and capital punishment for a crime they hadn¿t committed, Party member Persicke was forgiven for one he had.¿The way in which Fallada is able to demonstrate the horror and brutality of the time with vignette¿s about the lives of stunningly vivid characters makes you think you are on the streets of Berlin with them. And yet, it¿s the love of a man and woman for each other and their country that makes this story so memorable. This harrowing saga should be at the top of your list of WWII literary accounts of life in Nazi Germany. Very highly recommended.