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.
Thus, the characters - and what characters they are, the good, the bad and the ugly of the Berlin working class during the war - are drawn from life. They are alive. The plot follows the daily lives of a few of them who resisted evil at a time when it was pretty much guaranteed to be fatal to do so. As a reader, you desperately want them to evade capture, to get away with it, but you fear from the very first page that they won't. Still, the suspense never eases; Fallada, like any good commercial novelist, knew how to work on the reader. It's hard to find a comparison here.
Every Man Dies Alone seems to me a one-of-a-kind novel. Jean Malaquais's World Without Visa is a resistance novel written by someone who was there to see it - in the unoccupied zone of France until - but I find it more of a political statement than a novel.
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Some of the best books about the period were written by authors who successfully escaped - Erich Maria Remarque is one - but as good as these are, they are a long way from the tension, the claustrophobia, of every page in Fallada's book. At the end of the day, Every Man Dies Alone is a testament, nothing less. It is Fallada's attempt to retrieve the few shreds of honour and courage that the Nazis, no matter how viciously they tried, could not manage to destroy. Thus, in his way, Fallada can be seen as a hero, a writer-hero who survived just long enough to strike back at his oppressors.
- Review: Every Man Dies Alone, by Hans Fallada - The Globe and Mail!
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And it is in his honour, as a fellow novelist, that I wrote this review. Alan Furst is the author of the Night Soldiers series of historical spy novels, set before and during the Second World War. The most recent is The Spies of Warsaw. Fallada's breakthrough novel, published in as Kleiner Mann - was nun? But the fact that the movie was produced by Jews brought Fallada to the attention of the Nazi Party, which was just coming to power. This is the novel that Fallada wrote in the madhouse, when he claimed to be producing an anti-Semitic work for Joseph Goebbels.
Der Trinker is Fallada's poignant, often funny, semi-autobiographical account of a small businessman resisting the encroachments of an increasingly oppressive society.
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As such, of course, it is a deeply critical study of life under the Nazis, and could have resulted in his death if it had been discovered. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way.
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Male Loneliness: The Uncomfortable Truth
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Alone Again, Naturally
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