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Alone in Berlin (Penguin Hardback Classics) [Hardcover]

Hans Fallada , Michael Hofmann
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Feb 2009 Penguin Hardback Classics

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the nervous Frau Rosenthal, the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming working-class couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the devastating news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France.

Shocked out of his quiet existence, the usually taciturn factory foreman Otto is provoked into an action that will endanger both his and Anna's life. With her help, he begins to drop hundreds of anonymous postcards attacking Hitler in stairwells and offices all over the city. If they are caught, they will be executed for treason.

As their silent campaign escalates, the cards come to the attention of the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between them. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, blackmail, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, gradually tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks ...

Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; First English Edition edition (26 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184614082X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846140822
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 16.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin'. - Philip Kerr
-- Philip Kerr

A powerful portrayal of the corrosive paranoia engendered by such all-pervading tyranny...hammered out with such passion that it is painfully convincing.
-- Caroline Moore, Standpoint, March 2009

A signal literary event of 2009 has read [Alone in Berlin], 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 into your ear: `This is how it was. This is what happened.'
-- Liesl Schillinger, New York Times Book Review, March 1, 2009

A terrific literary find....the first English translation of this fast-moving, important and astutely deadpan thriller not only fills in more of the story about ordinary life in wartime Germany, it will alert readers to yet another European classic now available to a wider readership. -- Eileen Battersby, Irish Times, February 21, 2009

An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin.
-- Philip Kerr

An utterly gripping thriller and subtle account of the moral status of Germans under the Nazis....A revelatory text. I urge you to read it.
-- Justin Cartwright, Sunday Telegraph, March 1, 2009

Fallada's prose...has a journalistic clarity and a thriller writer's pace. -- The Times review by Ian Brunskill, 6th Feb 2009

Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin is one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. Fallada lived through the Nazi hell, so every word rings true - this is who they really were: the Gestapo monsters, the petty informers, the few who dared to resist. Please, do not miss this.
-- Alan Furst

This is an extraordinary novel
-- Allan Massie, Scotsman, October 14, 2009

This novel is far more than a literary thriller. Fallada's vivid novel gives us the true, concentric circles of lives in a Berlin apartment block under totalitarianism. Michael Hofmann should be congratulated for bringing this work with all its immediate clarity to the English language.
-- Hugo Hamilton, Financial Times, March 23, 2009


An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The postwoman Eva Kluge slowly climbs the steps of 55 Jablonski Strasse. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
153 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nazism in microcosm - Remarkable 24 April 2009
This book grew on me more and more as I read it. At first I had to adjust to some of the phraseology - whether this is because it was written by a German in the 1940s or is the result of the translation I don't know. But what was remarkable about it was the way in which the characters came alive. There is a satirical edge to a couple of the characters but this works incredibly well as a counterpoint to the incidents of violence which provide a sinister insight into the minds of the Gestapo. There is no gratuitous violence as such; rather the story focuses on psychological anguish. In the last part of the book the humanity and sense of paranoia felt by the central characters (and replicated by those who find the 'postcards' in the story) is juxtapositioned with the inhumanity of the Gestapo. By the time I had finished the novel I felt as if I had been on a remarkable journey into Nazi Germany told through the lives of a small group of characters. Do read this novel.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling - terrifying 28 Sep 2010
By Self-help junkie TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm grateful for this book. For many years I've wondered: "How on earth did the Nazis get away with it - and why didn't ordinary Germans stand up against them?" This book helps me to understand how a regime such as the Third Reich effectively removes the possibility of resistance by creating an atmosphere of terror and mistrust at every level of society. The two main things which stand out from this book for me - which I have to warn you is a truly harrowing read - are how fear corrodes our ability to resist; and the absolute brutality which existed then and presumably still exists across the world. The scenes of abuse and torture are really awful - I found myself thinking "Can this really be true? Surely he's overexaggerating here!" - but instinctively knowing too that he was simpy telling the truth. I have to admit that my own courage and willingness to resist would vanish pretty quickly in the face of such depraved brutality. It is perhaps revealing that Death becomes the one bright point in the book: the ability to kill oneself, to remove oneself from such brutality becomes a freedom to cherish. That's how dark it all is/was.

A sobering read but one that I think is necessary to remind ourselves of just how awful conditions were in Germany during this regime. There was no glamour, no sense of superiority - at least not for the mass of people. Just grinding fear, mistrust, and despair.
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209 of 218 people found the following review helpful
This novel is nearly impossible to put down. It's an incredibly moving, gripping story based around an ordinary couple who, after the death of their only son at the front, decide to resist the Nazi regime - if only in a small, mainly symbolic way. For me its power comes from the rough, raw style - it was written in just a few short weeks shortly after the War - and the unfamiliar yet utterly believable events that eventually overtake each character. Subtly translated by the award-winning Michael Hofmann, it's a novel not to be missed if you've any interest at all in what it must have been like to live through the War in the heart of Germany.
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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe the hype 7 Jun 2010
By J. Coulton VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had never heard of this novel until a few weeks ago, but it is taking book lovers by storm across the world. It is not a new book, it was published in 1947, tragically just after the author's death. But it was translated again into English last year, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The events, based on a true story, take place in Berlin under the grip of Nazi rule. One elderly couple, Otto and Anna Quangle, learn of the death of their only son fighting in the German army, and the futility of this ending changes something inside Otto. He starts to resist the Nazi regime in a very low level but profound way. He writes postcards with subversive messages on them, asking people to question what the Nazi's are doing and what they are telling the people. He leaves them in apartment blocks and offices on stairwells for random strangers to find. He performs this task alone at first, but later his wife Anna finds out and joins him in his mission.

The Gestapo are infuriated by this postcard campaign, which goes on for over two years, and leaves them floundering in the dark looking for the culprit. The novel is a great thriller as the police try to track down who is daring to oppose the Nazi regime in such an infuriating way, and their inept attempts at investigating the crime make both gripping and amusing reading. What is remarkable for me about this book is that is shows just what a chilling effect the terrifying Nazi dictatorship had on ordinary people, who had a range of reactions to it, from enthusiastic embrace, to indifference, to resistance and defiance. And the patchwork quilt of characters that Fallada weaves into the story is rich and extensive. The tentacles of fear reach into the hearts of families and communities, making people react in gross and frightening ways.
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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, if not a classic 13 May 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Alone in Berlin is frighteningly engaging portrait of how evil can spread through every facet of people's lives. Fallada's characters, the ordinary populace of wartime Berlin, suffer under the yoke of a Nazi regime who's footsoldiers barge and bully around the city reveling in a state sanctioned thuggery that allows them to control and terrorise their own countrymen.
Perhaps the book's most effective device is the recognisable domestic normality of its characters, it becomes chilling to realise Nazi Germany was no cartoon villain, but a very real evil that invaded every single inhabitant's freedom and privacy with its idea of what constituted a 'pure' state.
When a couple's son is killed in action, they undertake a humble rebellion, leaving handwritten postcards critical of the regime in public places. At first it seems a pathetic gesture, but when even such small defiances guarantee a death sentence, their bravery becomes both affirming and admirable. The book is compelling in its demonstration that to think and act decent in a climate of fear and hatred is the greatest rebellion of all.
It is however slightly overlong, which may be due in part to the translation being slightly wooden and American at times.
Still, a good book and a definite recommend to anyone interested in the period. The description of the domestic, as opposed to military, impact of National Socialism is a refreshing and thought provoking take on what should never be assumed is an overfamiliar subject.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly compelling novel
Set in the era of the Third Reich, this compelling novel has a cat-and-mouse structure as it shows what happens when a lone and disillusioned protester begins to lay down postcards... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Mike K
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
The characters are entirely human and that's what makes this book a worthwhile read. The story and its characters are brutal and honest.
Published 1 month ago by Samantha O'Connell
5.0 out of 5 stars Fallada Gripping Tale
Insightful and mesmerising account told without recourse to melodrama; Fallada presents a tale of moral integrity battling the mighty force of Nazi philosophy. Brilliant! Read more
Published 1 month ago by MOCO
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving Story - Easy to read -
A touching story of an ordinary german couple subversively fighting against the nazi regime.Ultimately they are doomed to failure against such a powerful force. Read more
Published 1 month ago by abigail lowe
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a truly great book: gripping, profound and essential.
Hans Fallada was all but forgotten outside Germany when this 1947 novel, Alone in Berlin (US title: Every Man Dies Alone), was reissued in English in 2009, whereupon it became a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by nigeyb
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that you will remember
Great novel based on a true story. A pretty grim look at pockets of resistance in war time Berlin within the German population.
Published 1 month ago by Simon S.
4.0 out of 5 stars A revelation
This book tells the story of life in Berlin during the war and how opposition to the Nazi regime occurred
Published 1 month ago by chris
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, almost enjoyable
Interesting book. Unusual subject matter, set in mid-war Berlin with Gestapo detectives and German factory workers and various other Berlin characters from judges to petty... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Grant F Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Spellbinding
This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. It is thrilling from the first page to the last, and I found it impossible to put down! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lilia333
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
One of the best books I have read in years.
Makes you consider What would you have done in such circumstances -
Would you have turned a blind eye or tried to make a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Heather Razzell
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