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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farmers, Bosses, and Bombs, 5 Feb. 2012
This review is from: A Small Circus (Penguin Hardback Classics) (Hardcover)
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Set in the fictional German town of Antholm, "A Small Circus" describes the build up to and aftermath of a farmers' demonstration which turns violent. The novel follows farmers, journalists, police, politicians, and businessmen, all of whom are only looking out for themselves or some profit, and for whom every action has an ulterior motive.

This is a frequently unpleasant and depressing book with, for the most part, unlikable and flawed characters. The constant politicking and scheming is reminiscent of that in The Wire and The Killing, for example, and is sometimes quite hard to follow. Through various conversations and meetings, Fallada builds up a layered picture of the town and the forces at work on it. From this portrait one can see why the Weimar Republic was in such trouble and how the Nazi party, who appear on the margins in this book, were able to build in power. Of course, the war was still some years off when Fallada published "A Small Circus" in 1931, but a reader today cannot help but be filled with dread knowing what awaits.

Much of the novel consists of direct speech, but there are some striking passages of description, a farmer's children, for example, are 'silent dwarves with frightening hands' and parenthesis is cuttingly deployed in the following: 'The little newspaper magnate of Pomerania, as his friends - he has none - call him.'. The translation itself seemed quite idiosyncratic, with frequent occurrence of words such as 'jounce', 'squinny' and 'a rickets' (i.e. a mess). Not knowing German, I'm not sure if this gives a good impression of Fallada's style or not, but I enjoyed it.

This new translation comes with a cast of characters (enjoyably described by the translator), some notes (irritatingly not indicated in the text itself) and a very good foreward by Jenny Williams.
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