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80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2005
I first read Hans Fallada's 'The Drinker' eight years ago and my second reading of it confirms all its macabre power to haunt its readers. Written in just two weeks in a German lunatic asylum in 1944, this hypnotic, compelling story of a respectable businessman's alcohol-induced descent into squalour and psychic collapse will sober its merriest reader. Based on events in Fallada's own life, the novel takes us into the progressively warped worldview of one Erwin Sommer - well off, middle class, insecure; a man who will soon discover all the charm and malignant power of a flight into self-destructice alcoholism. Estrangement, Paranoia and Victimisation are Sommer's travelling companions on this journey with only the passing comfort of the bottle for solace. Despite 'The Drinker' lacking any reference to the events of Germany,1944, the reader may soon find himself wondering to what extent Erwin Sommer's experiences are analogous to the descent of Germany in the years of the Hitler period. 'The Drinker' is not for those seeking a comforting or moral conclusion. For the reader who is fascinated by the extremes of human psychology and experience, this book book will stay etched in your mind.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2010
I discovered Hans Fallada a few months ago, was immediately hooked, and this is now the third of his books I've read. Once again I'm absolutely amazed that this superb writer is not lauded more loudly from the rooftops!

This book is a brilliant and moving study of a small businessman whose whole life unravels due to alcoholism.

It is a work of such depth, pathos and humour that it's near impossible to believe it was secretly written in just two weeks in the confines of a German insane asylum! However it's extremely easy to believe and understand why Fallada was viewed as suspect and undesirable by the Nazis and was incarcerated by them in just such an asylum...

The physical and psychological decline into alcoholism and rapid spiral into financial ruin, marriage breakup and nervous breakdown is really powerfully and poignantly illustrated. The self-delusion and bravado shown in dealings with his wife, girlfriend, financial and business colleagues is tragic, brutal, distressing - but in many places is actually laugh-out-loud funny too!

Fallada details the despair and Catch-22 misery of asylum life and the strategies and cunning required to survive its rigours in a way that only a real inmate could. Again there are many flashes of wit and humour in the descriptions of the hardships endured with the motley and somewhat grotesque collection of patients and staff.

As with Fallada's other books I just cannot recommend this too highly.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2010
I think this is probably Fallada's greatest book.
The psychological insights that this author possesses are remarkable.
His portrayal and fascination with seedy characters and the low moral standards of the criminal classes is astounding.
Good writing like this is timeless, this book could have been written today,as much as 1944, when it was written.
The book shows how quickly, in this case, alcoholism takes hold of, shapes and distorts one's personality, from a respectable businessman to the lowest gutter of society.
Fallada was no stranger to Mental Hospitals himself, having had numerous stays in different establishments and he wrote this book in two weeks, whilst sojourned in one such establishment.
There are few Authors in the history of books, that can write so eloquently about the foibles and intricacies of deviant personality.
I won't spoil the ending here, but there is one hell of a twist in this tale at the end.
"Alone in Berlin" is also another cracking book by Fallada, but I think that this book, even surpasses it in it's sheer quality and brilliance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2011
'The Drinker' is not only an exploration of alcoholism, but also of human egotism and the fragility of the basis of most human lives. Written in the first person, it vividly creates, as no other novel has done before or since, the descent of a human being into alcoholism while, with consummate artistry, letting the reader see how the alcoholic is viewed by those around him. The range of human weaknesses thus explored is extensive: selfishness, arrogance, complacency, paranoia, lack of empathy, reliance on social status for identity - and much more. And, as with all Fallada's novels, it engages the reader from the beginning, is forever unpredictable, and is impossible to put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2010
Disturbing yet hilarious at times . Very sympathetic to the main character and his paranoic way of thinking when under the influence , as unfortunately sometimes it rang very close to home . Just started Alone in Berlin which looks to be another classic . I cannot get enough of this writer at the moment . Highly recommended .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2010
What I love about Fallada, amongst other elements, is the fact that I feel as though I am standing right next to the character and in this novel, I am sharing a drink with him, standing over him as he sleeps in the asylum and feeling his, pain, anger, paranoia etc. This a deeply personal novel that Fallada wrote and perhaps his best....I will write little of the story for fear of spoiling it....but wonderful novel...truly wonderful...
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on 19 June 2012
This is a great read and could be taken as a lesson in moral rectitude for the masses. It's also an indication of the despair of the writer, who battled with his own demons: alcohol and drugs. He also spent time in a madhouse. It's written by one who knows.

Our hero is vain and intolerant and subject to flights of fancy which are disturbing to the reader as we are invited to engage in his particular train of logic. His lack of common sense, inability to empathise with others and wild imagination lead him to make very bad decisions, and certainly not always while under the influence of alcohol. He sees himself as a victim,and as such, takes almost no responsibility for what happens to him. It is the landlord, it is the wife, it is the wife's lover; always someone else.

I did think him almost cured until he downed the medical alcohol.

Jack Kerouac wrote a book about alcoholism too: John Barleycorn, about growing up among the oyster catching fishermen of San Francisco Bay. That's also a good read although not nearly so dark as this tale of Fallada's.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2010
Hans Fallada's novel "Alone in Berlin" was so impressive that I was almost reluctant to try any of his other works as I was concerned that they not be up to the same high standard.

Fortunately, this was not the case with this work which is also set in Germany in the 1940s and was published posthumously in 1950.

However, there are no Nazis or references to the political and social situation of Germany at that time which makes the story more immediate and universal. At the same time, the characters are as trapped and powerless inside their own heads and bodies as they were under the Nazi regime.

It is a first-person narrative by a man in his early 40s who suddenly finds that life becomes a lot more interesting and exciting when seen through an alcoholic haze.

His sudden affair with alcohol - presented as a seductress - changes his character and he starts behaving in a reckless, criminal way that lands him in prison and then a lunatic asylum after threatening to kill his wife.

His meandering self-pity, maudlin recollections of happier times are at times pathetic and sad and, at others, very funny in the bleak way that drunks can be funny.

Like "Alone in Berlin", many of characters are repulsive, morally and physically, and the narrator's mental deterioration is matched by his corporeal decay when part of nose is bitten off by an enraged inmate and he contracts boils from malnutrition.

Fallada himself experienced life behind bars and in lunatic asylum and died of a drugs overdose so the picture he paints is convincing.

The book loses some of its vitality in the latter part when it becomes almost a documentary, highlighting the awful conditions and crazed characters.

Nevertheless, the ending is quite chilling.
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on 15 April 2012
Just got back from my spring break and 'The Drinker'was one of my holiday relax reads. Considering that i have spent 2 weeks in France and have just been overdoing it on the vin rouge, this book proved to be a sobering lesson. Thankfully i have never been partial to schnapps and brandy like the central character is.

As with 'Alone in Berlin', i found this novel totally current, despite its age, and found the story within it both interesting, tragic and shocking. I have truly become a Fallado fan.
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on 29 October 2010
I read this book after reading two other Hans Fallada novels and I wasn't disappointed. This book is funny, touching and gives a personal account of Hans Fallada's own battle with addiction and insecurities. The book was written in code while he was imprisioned in a Nazi mental institution which makes the book even more impressive. The book is a must read!
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