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Alone in Berlin (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Jan 2010
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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)
About the Author
Hans Fallada was one of the best-known German writers of the twentieth century. Born in 1893 in Greifswald as Rudolf Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen, he took his pen name from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. His most famous works include the novels Little Man, What Now? and The Drinker. Fallada died from an overdose of morphine on 5 February 1947 in Berlin.
Michael Hofmann is the author of several books of poems and a book of criticism, Behind the Lines, and the translator of many modern and contemporary authors. Penguin publish his translations of Kafka's Metamorphosis and Other Stories and Irmgard Keun's Child of All Nations.
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The writing style is similar to that of Orwell and other writers of that time and I loved the way crafted his paragraph - switching from past tense into the present in the same paragraph, which put the reader right into the middle of the action, e.g. 'He was standing on the Pier looking into the water, just before the gun sounded. He feels a rush of blood and falls into the dark water beneath, his body swept away.......' All the characters were individuals and there were no stock characters - what I like to call 'stocking fillers' - each one had a life that had a purpose within the story told and each one was complete in his or her own right - not dependant on the actions of the other/others. Clever and timeless writing.
The subject matter was challenging and not always easy to read as you knew it wasn't fantasy. I was pleased he didn't go into graphic detail about how people were tortured - but then this didn't need to be written in - we can leave this to imagination, which in a way, can make the whole scene even more horrific.
Overall an incredible novel, but it doesn't make for easy/light reading.
A quote: “As it was, we all acted alone, we were caught alone, and every one of us will have to die alone. But that doesn’t mean we are alone, Quangel, or that our deaths are in vain. Nothing in this world is done in vain, and since we are fighting for justice against brutality, we are bound to prevail in the end”.
A fine book, it might not be as literary as similar of the era, but obviously a brilliant read. The life of the author would make a good novel too by the looks of it.
Good kindle copy.