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Alone in Berlin (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Geoff Wilkes , Hans Fallada , Michael Hofmann
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (349 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Jan 2010 Penguin Modern Classics

Inspired by a true story, Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin is the gripping tale of an ordinary man's determination to defy the tyranny of Nazi rule. This Penguin Classics edition contains an afterword by Geoff Wilkes, as well as facsimiles of the original Gestapo file which inspired the novel.

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 bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks ...

Hans Fallada (1893-1947) was one of the best-known German writers of the twentieth century. Born Rudolf Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen, he took his pen name from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. His most famous works include the novels Little Man, What Now? and The Drinker. Fallada died from an overdose of morphine on 5 February 1947 in Berlin.

If you enjoyed Alone in Berlin, you might like John Steinbeck's The Moon is Down, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'One of the most extraordinary and compelling novels written about World War II. Ever'

Alan Furst

'Terrific ... a fast-moving, important and astutely deadpan thriller'

Irish Times

'An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin'

Philip Kerr

'To read 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"'

The New York Times


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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Later printing edition (28 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014118938X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141189383
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (349 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Fallada assembles a cast of vivid low-life characters, stoolies, thieves and whores (James Buchan Guardian)

Visceral, chilling ... has the suspense of a Le Carré novel (New Yorker)

A classic study of a paranoid society. Fallada's scope is extraordinary. Alone in Berlin is ... as morally powerful as anything I've ever read (Charlotte Moore Telegraph 2009-03-19)

First published in Germany in 1947 and evoking the horror of life in Germany in the Second World War. A rediscovered masterpiece that makes you want to seek out more works by this great chronicler of events in my own lifetime. (Barry Humphries, Books of the Year, Sunday Telegraph)

The other fictional high point of 2009 was Alone in Berlin ... Hans Fallada's 1947 portrait of an ordinary German couple stung into a life of protest by the death of their soldier son is harrowing and masterly. (David Robson Books of the Year, Sunday Telegraph)

[This novel] suggests that resistance to evil is rarely straightforward, mostly futile, and generally doomed. Yet to the novel's aching, unanswered question: 'Does it matter?' there is in this strange and compelling story to be found a reply in the affirmative. Primo Levi had it right: This is the great novel of German resistance. (Richard Flanagan)

'What Irène Némirovsky's "Suite Française" did for wartime France after six decades in obscurity, Fallada does for wartime Berlin.' (Roger Cohen, New York Times)

'[Alone in Berlin] has something of the horror of Conrad, the madness of Dostoyevsky and the chilling menace of Capote's "In Cold Blood"'. (Roger Cohen, New York Times)

'Fallada's great novel, beautifully translated by the poet Michael Hofmann, evokes the daily horror of life under the Third Reich, where the venom of Nazism seeped into the very pores of society, poisoning every aspect of existence. It is a story of resistance, sly humour and hope' (Ben Macintyre The Times)

'an extraordinary novel' (Daily Express)

A marvellous book, almost a masterpiece. The tension he maintains despite a fogegone conclusion is miraculous. This is the truest, most vivid I-was-there novel of the epoch. (Norman Lebrecht)

The stand-out book this year for me was Alone in Berlin (Penguin Classics £9.99) ... It's a page-turning moral thriller, based on fact, of a ­working-class German ­couple and their small-scale attempts to resist Nazi rule in Berlin. Bleak, chilling, utterly compelling and unforgettable. (Pugh Books of the Year, Daily Mail)

Penguin's reissue of Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin, brilliantly translated by Michael Hofmann, makes available one of the great novels of the past century. An almost unbearably intense challenge to its readers. (George Steiner Books of the Year, TLS)

What makes Alone in Berlin such a cracking read is that it pushes us into the midst of that grim reality and yet allows us to put it down - only at the very end - with a feeling of warm humanity. (Peter Millar The Times)

Hans Fallada wrote Alone in Berlin between September and November 1946, in postwar East Germany. He told his family that he had written "a great novel". He would die a few months later. .... Fallada was correct: he had written a great book, in circumstances and a space of time which make the achievement almost miraculous. But it's the double miracle of translation which gives us Fallada's novel in English as Alone in Berlin. Michael Hoffman is a fine poet, whose acute ear and eloquent understanding of the transition-points between the two languages make the text as powerful as it is down-to-earth. (Helen Dunmore Guardian)

Review

An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
152 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nazism in microcosm - Remarkable 24 April 2009
By D. P. Mankin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
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
Format:Hardcover
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
By D. Salmon VINE VOICE
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
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 23 days 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 25 days 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 27 days 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
3.0 out of 5 stars GRIM, EVOCATIVE & IMPORTANT
Grim book, and the writing can be tedious, (I seem to recall he never meant this to be published in this form). Needs a ferocious edit! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Fussy Londoner
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