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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 March 2012
German author Hans Fallada wrote novels and non-fiction, maintaining a successful writing career from the 1920's until his death in 1947. He published through changes in government, from the Weimar Republic through the Third Reich, and into the Communist regime in East Germany. His novels, in print and popular, managed to skirt the governmental authority's - whichever government was in power at the time - and avoid the censorship to which other authors were subject. In "More Lives than One", Jenny Williams updates a biography of Fallada originally published in the 1990's, to take advantage of the renewed interest in Fallada's work.

"Hans Fallada" was the name Rudolf Ditzen adopted as his pseudonym when he began publishing. The son of an upper middle class German family, centered mostly in the northern part of the country, Ditzen, who was born in 1893, one of four children. His only brother Ulrich was killed in WW1. Rudolf avoided wartime duty because he had spent periods in mental hospitals and prisons. He had a creative, yet fragile and addictive personality, and when he began publishing his writing in the 1920's, he was an almost immediate success. His first successful novel, "What Now, Little Man", published to much acclaim in 1932 was the story of a German "every man" figure, who battled life and economic forces in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Ditzen kept overt politics out of most of his writing. This was, of course, a prerequisite for successful publishing in Germany, especially after the Nazis came to power in the early 1930's. He stayed in Germany during the 30's and 40's - not emigrating as so many German writers, both Jewish and gentile, did - and wrote movie screenplays and other sanctioned works. After the war, he wrote his most famous book, "Every Man Dies Alone", a novel about individual wartime resistance, based on the activities of a real couple who were murdered by the Nazis when they were discovered. Rudolf Ditzen died right before publication of "Every Man", in 1947.

How did Rudolf Ditzen manage to capture the German character so well? He was certainly careful, in general, not to anger the authorities with his writing. But he wrote about the times and the people with such a plainness of prose that most readers were able to recognise themselves or others they knew well. I suppose that by concentrating on the everyday exteriors of those he wrote about, he was able to see inside these same people. His novels - and I've read three - are certainly as fresh and interesting 75 years after they were written as they were when first published.

Jenny Williams, the author of "More Lives Than One", has written a lively biography of both Rudolf Ditzen, the people around him, and the times he lived in. I'd suggest reading both Williams AND Fallada for a good historical record of the Germany of the first half of the 20th century.
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