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Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

Every Man Dies Alone (original 1947; edition 2010)

by Hans Fallada, Michael Hofmann (Translator)

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2,1011073,133 (4.19)248
Title:Every Man Dies Alone
Authors:Hans Fallada
Other authors:Michael Hofmann (Translator)
Info:Melville House (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 544 pages

Work details

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (1947)

  1. 81
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Ordinary Germans during the Holocaust and World War II.
  2. 50
    Life and Fate by Vassili Grossman (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Both are books about individuals under repressive regimes, set during WWII, by authors who lived through the circumstances they write about. Although both works are "fiction", the authority of each writer is plainly stamped on each novel. The subject matter may be grim, and the detail uncompromising, but the characters' humanity shines through to make these uplifting reads.… (more)
  3. 30
    A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers (2810michael)
  4. 20
    The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (Torikton)
  5. 20
    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (chrisharpe)
  6. 20
    In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: If you found In the Garden of Beasts moving and want to read fiction about the Third Reich, try Every Man Dies Alone, a haunting novel based on actual events surrounding a couple that attempted to undermine the Nazi regime.
  7. 10
    The Forests of the Night by Jean-Louis Curtis (Stbalbach)
  8. 10
    Mendelssohn is on the Roof by Jiří Weil (meggyweg)
  9. 10
    Allesbehalve een held : roman by Rudolf Lorenzen (gust)
  10. 00
    The 43 Group: Untold Story of Their Fight Against Fascism by Morris Beckman (abclaret)
  11. 00
    The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (sleepykid00)
    sleepykid00: Another book about civilians going against the Nazi regime during WWII
  12. 00
    The Invention of Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm (meggyweg)
  13. 00
    Wer übrig bleibt, hat recht by Richard Birkefeld (2810michael)
  14. 00
    The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: Different countries, different times, but both books tell of ordinary people battling against a powerful regime
  15. 00
    The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (generalkala)
  16. 00
    Hotel Berlin 1943 by Vicki Baum (1Owlette)
  17. 00
    History by Elsa Morante (marieke54)
  18. 01
    Cold Angel: Murder in Berlin--1949 by Horst Bosetzky (charl08)

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» See also 248 mentions

English (88)  Dutch (7)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  German (2)  Hebrew (2)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (109)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Every Man Dies Alone was written in 24 days after the author had been recently released from a Nazi insane asylum. It is an extraordinary and deeply humane novel that tell the story of a disparate group of factory workers, postal workers and petty criminals in Berlin who struggled to survive and even resist the ever-present threat of informers and their Gestapo masters.

It could be subtitled No Man Isn't Scared Witless of the Gestapo (who hauled in anyone they chose and routinely tortured people to death in the most gruesome fashion).

I thought it was going to be a spy story in the manner of Alan Furst (who blurbs the book in glowing terms and whose work I enjoy very much) but is a more ambitious and even philosophical novel that asks the question: what can you do to resist when faced with an overwhelming evil that threatens you with death or torture for even an insignificant wrong comment or small act of rebellion?

No Man is based on the true story of a couple who lost a family member in the war and who then carried a lonely campaign of resistance against the Nazi's using a simple and surprising method of protest. Their true story and the actual Gestapo files that were kept on the couple are an addendum to the novel (I wish I could read German because they are fascinating to see)

This book was not at all what I expected. I was looking for a spy story, and it is a spy story, but it is so much more. The characters are richly drawn and the details of day-to-day life in Berlin under the Nazi's are authentic and rich.

Fallada is reaching for a bigger story and he never falters in his portrayal of the power of love and moral courage in the face of the mundane and crushing evil.

You will probably like it if you enjoy Alan Furst or Philip Kerr or World War 2 stories, especially Germany under Nazism or stories of resistance and underground movement in a totalitarian state. We all wonder how we would behave. Would we collaborate or find some small courage to resist?

Fallada covers this ground with a sure and sympathetic hand. He lived in Germany throughout the war and the background, details and story of life of life in Berlin during the war ring absolutely authentic and true.

This is a compelling, deeply humane and even inspiring novel that is plotted well and has enough tension, intrigue and “spy stuff” to keep you turning the pages into the night.

This was a 5-star read for me.
( )
1 vote blnq | Jun 24, 2015 |
One of the best books I have reda for a long time. ( )
  Gilmore53 | Feb 8, 2015 |
Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada

Eva Klug has to remember to 'Heil Hitler' and watch her tongue when delivering letters to the Persickes - the old man is some sort of party functionary, his two older sons are in the SS, and the youngest, Baldur, is a nasty piece of work in the Hitler Youth. France has just capitulated and the celebrating Persickes joke about giving a roasting to Frau Rosenthal, who has lived alone on the top floor since her husband's shop was 'Aryanized' and he was taken away.

Eva's next delivery is to the apartment above the Persickes, a typed letter that she knows will contain bad news from the front.

Herr Quangel watches the profound change come over his wife as she reads.

"He looks down at her hair, it's got thin in the many years of their marriage. They are getting old, and if something serious has happened to Otto, she will have no one to love, only him, and there's not much to love about him. He has never had the words to tell her how much he feels for her. Even now, he's not able to stroke her, be tender to her, comfort her a little. It's all he can do to rest his heavy hand on her hair, pull her head up as gently as he can, and softly say "Anna, will you tell me what's in the letter?".

In the rage of her grief Frau Quangel rebukes her husband for not opposing the Nazi regime, for just going along with things for the sake of an easy life, and so he bears responsibility for their son's death. Although the criticism is not entirely fair, Quangel is galvanized into making small gestures of resistance, gestures which would be of no significance were they not occurring under a totalitarian regime. He comes up with the idea of dropping anonymous postcards around the city, postcards with slogans against the Fuhrer and the Party, against the war. These postcards will let people know that not everyone is signed up to the Nazi vision, that some people are thinking for themselves. He accepts that many of the cards will be lost or handed in, but if just a few of them enable dissent to spread the risk will have been worth it. His wife is disappointed in him; he has come up with something small, bland, and anonymous, just like him. He replies "Whether it's big or small Anna, if they get wind of it it'll cost us our lives". She realizes that whether an act is big or small no-one can risk more than their own life. "Each according to his strength and abilities, but the main thing was, you fought back."

Around this central couple Fallada weaves an assortment of characters, each with a different relationship to regime, from the informants and petty criminals through to the Inspector leading the hunt for the author of the postcards and the Gestapo who are his bosses. Fallada shows a whole chain of people corrupted by a combination of fear and power. The Inspector may toy with his suspects, but he in turn is subject to the whim of his brutish superiors. In one darkly comic scene he attempts to give a report to his drunken boss, who repeatedly interrupts him with toasts to the Fuhrer, insisting after each toast that the Inspector starts his report again from the top. They both know that the Inspector's career will be over if he doesn't match his boss glass for glass. The Inspector must read and drink, read and drink, as for long as it amuses the other man to make him do so. And against this background isolated individuals make their various brave small gestures of resistance.

Fallada himself had a complicated relationship with the Nazi regime. He accepted politically sanctioned commissions, yet at the same time wrote novels with sentiments against the regime. He enrolled his oldest son in the Hitler Youth, but gave financial and legal support to outcasts such as the authors and publishers who suffered discrimination on political or racial grounds. Sometimes the Nazis promoted his work, sometimes they censored it. Sometimes they sent him on tour, other times they sent him to jail. Like his characters, he had to balance between resistance and compliance.

The novel is based on the true story of Elise and Otto Hampel who, after the death of Elise's brother, ran a three year post card campaign before being caught and executed. Although it was only the two of them, their success for so long in evading the police and spreading the cards led the authorities to believe that they were dealing with a substantial resistance movement. Joannes R Becher, who was in effect the cultural minister in the post-war government set up by the Soviets in East Germany, was a friend of Fallada's and gave him the Gestapo file on the Hampels, suggesting he use it as the basis for a novel. Fallada wrote the book in twenty-four days but died before it was published.

'Alone In Berlin' was my first encounter with Fallada, whose name meant nothing to me, although I was aware of the titles of some of his other works. I thought this an excellent book, all the more interesting for its concentration on the ordinary people making small ineffective gestures with no real hope of damaging or overthrowing the system, making them not out of a sense of heroism or sacrifice, but simply because they needed to to keep faith with themselves.

Since reading 'Alone In Berlin' I went on to read The Drinker and more Fallada is waiting on my shelves.
2 vote Oandthegang | Nov 15, 2014 |
I was mesmerised by this book. I didn't have high expectations for a German book from 1947, but having come straight from the precious schmaltz of The Book Thief, Every Man Dies Alone was a fantastic experience. Nowhere before have I found such a credible description of what it must have been like to live as an ordinary German citizen under the Third Reich: the constant worry, the power abuse by the uniformed castes and the sense of inevitable doom. Since it was written in 1947, the Third Reich was stil in the veryrecent past. Seventy short chapters give this story a brisk pace, making this a true page-turner.
Initially, I suspected that this was going to be an apologetic book, written by a contrite German a few years after WWII in order to ingratiate oneself with the Allied occupation forces. But as episodes from Fallada's own life make clear, he certainly had had great difficulties during the Nazi era, falling in and out of favour with people like Goebbels, and refusing their suggestions to add chapters to novels where the Nazis would appear as a deus ex machina for the German people. As a reader, you feel that the author has had brushes with Nazi authority and has been able to observe their methods closely. He is also an accomplished writer: characters are nicely fleshed out, and the plot is elegantly woven together by the vicissitudes of apparently isolated people. Though based on a true story, this is a work of fiction, that demonstrates how difficult it was to organise acts of resistance against the Nazis (and how easy to get caught and punished). The end notes mention Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem" and its "Banality of Evil", comparing it the "banality of good" which is described in this book. Resistance doesn't always consist of great heroic acts.
Spoiler & Final note: this book read like a screenplay. I think a big screen adaptation is long overdue (even though there is no happy end, since almost every character dies - alone). ( )
1 vote fist | Jul 13, 2014 |
This German novel first published in 1947 was inspired by Otto and Elise Hampel who beginning in 1940 wrote 'postcards' decrying Hitler and urging resistance to him and then left the postcards where they hoped they would be fourd. In the novel Otto and Anna Quangel distribute cards saying anti-Nazi things after their son is killed in the invasion of France in 1940. This seems an ineffectual thing to do but it is all they think they can do. Most of the cards promptly come into the hands of the police and Gestapo who spend lots of effort trying to see who is distributing the cards. While this is going on the book is I thought tensely exciting, since if they are caught they will probably be killed. Clearly what they did was futile but their role is to show that there were Germans resisting the evil that had conquered Germany. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | May 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Every Man Dies Alone is a good book, a readable, suspense-driven novel from an author who a) knew what he was doing when it came to writing commercial fiction, and b) had lived through, and so knew intimately, the period he was writing about. This is an extraordinary combination. I hesitate to use a word like "serendipity," but cruelly enough, that's exactly what it was.
added by MidnightDreamer | editGlobe and mail (Jul 30, 2009)
To read “Every Man Dies Alone,” Fallada’s testament to the darkest years of the 20th century, is to be accompanied by a wise, somber ghost who grips your shoulder and whispers into your ear: “This is how it was. This is what happened.”

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hans Falladaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coisson, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hofmann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mooij, A.Th.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
The postwoman Eva Kluge slowly climbs the steps of 55 Jablonski Strasse.
He might be right: whether their act was big or small, no one could risk more than his life. Each according to his strength and abilities, but the main thing was, you fought back.
"What did you expect anyway, Quangel? You, an ordinary worker, taking on the Fuhrer, who is backed by the Party, the Wehrmacht, the SS, the SA?...It's ludicrous! You must have known you had no chance! It's a gnat against an elephant. I don't understand it, a sensible man like you!"

"No, and you will never understand it, either. It doesn't matter it one man fights or ten thousand; if the one man sees he has no option but to fight, then he will fight, whether he has others on his side or not. I had to fight, and given the chance I would do it again. Only I would do it very differently."
"Who can say? At least you opposed evil. You weren't corrupted..."

"Yes, and then they kill us, and what good did our resistance do?"

"Well, it will have helped us to feel that we behaved decently till the end... 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 that we are alone, Quangel, or that our death will be in vain..."
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Alone in Berlin (UK - 2009) - Every Man Dies Alone (US - 2009) - Jeder stirbt für sich allein (DE - 1947)
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"Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks ..."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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