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Alone in Berlin (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Jan 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (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 (416 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Self-help junkie VINE VOICE on 28 Sept. 2010
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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164 of 166 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Mankin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 April 2009
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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214 of 224 people found the following review helpful By Gilgamesh on 1 Mar. 2009
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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108 of 113 people found the following review helpful By JuliaC VINE VOICE on 7 Jun. 2010
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By glowworm on 7 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I've read my fair share of books recounting the many harships endured by the Jews but this is the first that I've read detailing acts of resistance from the citizens of Berlin. Even though the Quangels' resistance might seem small and futile from the get-go, the reader wills them to succeed and believe, like Anna, that they will not be caught. This isn't just another book about WW2, it's definitely worth reading and comes highly recommended!

I was even more impressed to learn that Alone in Berlin is based on an actual SS file that was handed to Hans Fallada after he was released from a Nazi insane asylum at the end of WW2. This superb book took him only 24 days to write but yet he didn't live long enough to see it published.
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