Interesting But Somewhat Unremitting and Predictable,
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This review is from: Little Man, What Now? (Paperback)
`Little Man, What Now?', was the breakthrough novel that made the German writer Hans Fallada famous. It is a story of unremitting gloom set in the depression hit Germany of 1932 against a background of street fighting between the Nazis and Communists. Little is made of the background so this is not a novel for those interested in learning more about conditions in Germany, or more particularly in Berlin, at the time. The novel is very closely focussed on the day to day minutia of a salesman trying to make his way on a wage that barely sustains him and his family, with wage cuts and the constant threat of unemployment looming large.
It was the unusual and detailed depiction of a little man being tossed about helpless on the waves of an economic storm that ensured the book's success in 1932. Today, however, much of the impact of the story is lost as we read it with the benefit of hindsight and the background of many films, books and documentaries about the 1930s. Undoubtedly Fallada's `Alone in Berlin', depicting the life of simple people trying to register disapproval of the Nazi regime, is a far more mature work with a more complicated plot line, better tension and better use of characterisation, which all combine to make the work great despite our familiarity with Nazi history. Unfortunately this earlier work does not quite manage that achievement.
The book is quite interesting, well written and well translated but the unremitting gloom and somewhat predictable outcome detract from its satisfaction as a good read. The `Afterword' does not add much of interest and little or nothing about the author. The Melville House edition seems to be printed on the poorest quality paper they could find.