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Insight into Madness,
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This review is from: Drinker, The (Paperback)
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.