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Every Man Dies Alone
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"The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis."-Primo Levi

This never-before-translated masterpiece-by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn't join the Nazi Party-is based on a true story.

It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, they launch a simple, clandestine resistance campaign that soon has an enraged Gestapo on their trail, and a world of terrified neighbors and cynical snitches ready to turn them in.

In the end, it's more than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, more than a moving romance, even more than literature of the highest order-it's a deeply stirring story of two people standing up for what's right, and each other.

Hans Fallada was one of Germany's best-selling authors-ranking with Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse-prior to the rise of the Nazis. But while those writers fled Germany, Fallada stayed. Refusing to join the Nazi Party, he suffered numerous difficulties, including incarceration in an insane asylum. After the war, he wrote Every Man Dies Alone based on an actual Gestapo file. He died just before its publication in 1947.

Customer Reviews:

  • Berlin in World War II
    Unbelievably well written, the novel has a unique focus: the everyday actions of ordinary people - postal lady, lady factory worker, carpenter foreman, etc. -- as they cope with the Nazi regime. These are the quiet, unlikely resisters we have never known about....more info
  • Life and death in the Third Reich
    Amazing saga of ordinary Germans during the early war years in Berlin. With a brilliant chronological narrative, author Hans Fallada tells the stories of heroic resistance to the Nazi state as well as stories of many less than admirable Germans who simply adapted or took advantage of the criminalization of the state.

    Plenty has already been well said by earlier reviewers about this book. I can only add that it would be difficult to find any account of WWII that is more realistic or poignant than Fallada's tale of what can happen --good and bad--when citizens are terrorized by their own government. Wonderful writing and a story that keeps you thinking long after you've finished the book. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • The price of decency in Nazi Germany during WWII
    This is a remarkable book for three reasons. First, the author Hans Fallada, German literary writer who chooses not to leave the country during WWII. In spite of Nazis' threatening to distroy his career and his mental state for Falla's refusing to write Nazi propaganda inspired work he chooses to stay in the country and life the life filled with hardship. Hans Fallada dies in 1947, shortly after World War II is over and just before his last work, "Every Man Dies Alone" book is published.

    Second, the topic of the book about German resistance during WWII is truly the first one I came across during my adult life. It is amazing to see that in the country led by Hitler and the powerful and supressive National Socialist Party there were people resisting the regime and they were Germans themselves. We all learn in the history books about high ranking German officers with access to Hitler who tried to assasinate him, but no one really talks about every day average people, civilians and the ways in which they resisted the regime. This book in its 500 pages explores the working class group of people who occupy the same building and whose lives are affected by the ruling party, Gestapo, SS, German Youth Nazi Party and all the rest convinced that they are creating a new superior Aryan world. Devastation of the war reaches even German civilians, particularly the ones in the city where they were forced to work in the industries catering to war efforts. When a a married couple creates a way to annoy the Gestapo with their homemade resistance propaganda postcards, we start to observe the manhunt, the brutality and greed surrounding all involved in the process. Finally, we see the model of the German Law during this period, state of the prisons and treatment of the "domestic subjects of treason".

    Finally, the fact that the book is created based on the real married working class couple, living in Berlin during WWII who refuses to surrender their decency to regime. Their brief biography and pictures are also featured in this book. A real story of this couple is that a wife looses her brother in war and the couple creates anti-war campaign that almost convinced Gestapo that they were dealing with large underground operation. This couple is the inspiratiion for everything that is human and decent, kind of people who refuse to submit their will to cruelty of the world at the price of their own lives.

    Absolutely wonderful book. Heartbreaking too considering that all of its protagonists, real and fictional, face their death in their own singlehanded way. And each man (and/or woman) goes through the exprience alone. Their death does not go unnoticed. ...more info
  • Finally Fallada
    What a fascinating book. How lucky we are to have Fallada's work to read albeit too late for his appreciation. While the end is no great secret since this book is based on historical fact, it is still a great and suspenseful read. The supplement containing factual details and photos enhances the volume tremendously. While not in the same league with
    'Crime and Punishment," there are certainly comparisons to be made between these two books as well as with "les Miserables." I have two other Fallada's books ready for reading....more info
  • Fabulous, must-read, page-turning moral thriller
    If you've any interest in what it was like to live through the War in Berlin, this gripping moral thriller is for you. Written in a few short weeks shortly after the War, it's an incredibly raw, powerful novel with a host of believable characters - from the working-class couple driven to resist in their small way after their son is killed at the front to the Gestapo inspector and many others. Michael Hofmann's translation brings the book vividly to life in English, though the title in French and of the British edition - Alone in Berlin - may capture the book's spirit more accurately in English. (The original German is, literally, 'Each person dies for him/her-self alone'.)...more info
  • Beautiful and thought-provoking
    The author's life story almost overshadows this book's own story, which I'm certain other reviewers have covered in depth, so I'll not bore you with a retread. Still, a man who survived the worst the Nazis could throw at him to write this book? He's probably got something important to say.

    The story as a novel is compelling: characters are convincing, sympathetic (even a few of the bad guys!), the plot starts slow but ratchets up to a page-riffling pace (even though you really don't want to know how bad things are going to get!), and the setting, though thinly sketched, gives enough to anchor the reader in time and place. More than that, he describes the setting in such a way that you really feel what it might have been like to live in a place where every word, even a kind gesture or look, could be observed by your neighbors and used against you. I can't pin down how he creates that paranoiac atmosphere, but it's brilliantly done.

    More than a compelling story with a great atmosphere, though, this novel asks us to question ourselves in many ways: how would we respond to a totalitarian government? What kind of civil disobedience or rebellion would be effective? How easily could any of our actions or lives stand up to scrutiny from a state determined to find us 'wrong'? How 'just' is justice in our world? What is the larger cost of our actions? How very few sadists does it take to control a 'civilized' population?

    My general rule of a great novel is if I cry at the end. This was a multiple-kleenex deal. But more than a compelling story, this novel will make you look at Germany itself under the Third Reich in a new way (they weren't all sadistic Nazis) but will make you take a look at the modern world a new way. It almost reads like a prophecy of a totalitarian regime as much as a history. Unmissable. ...more info
  • ...and every woman too!
    I read about this new edition today in the International Herald Tribune, so obviously I have not read the English version that now came out. I hear that the translation is good (which I believe easily, since Fallada was not a 'word smith'), but the English title is slightly misleading. The original is not specific about men or women, it is 'everyone dies alone'.
    I did read the German original some time ago, as I also read most other novels by this man, who was a remarkable writer, if not remotely a great artist.
    The tenor of some of the more perceptive reviews here has been quite on the spot.

    Why is Fallada remarkable? He survived the Nazi regime without emigrating, even if only for a short period (he died in 47), and, even more interesting, apparently without singing the tunes of the regime. He was a difficult man, institutionalised for criminal as well as mental health reasons. He wrote prodigiously on a 'blue collar' level. He wrote about the jobless in the depression (Kleiner Mann, was nun?), he wrote about alcoholism (Der Trinker) (these two are also available in English pocket book editions). He wrote about the problems of men who have done time (Wer einmal aus dem Blechnapf frisst).

    And here he wrote about blue collar, unorganized, individual resistance to the Nazi regime. Such resistance was of course doomed, and Fallada's telling of the story, which is based on a 'true' one, is not more than adequate. But what a story it is!
    I have reviewed here, some time ago, the latest movie about Sophie Scholl's fate (not just her own, but of the whole group, the White Rose).
    Fallada's story is similar, but even more desperate.
    I recommend this writer for historical interest, not for literary value.

    As a footnote: his name was of course not Hans Fallada, but something quite different. He picked his writing pseudonym from the brothers Grimm: Lucky Hans, in the original Hans im Glueck, provided the first name, and is marvellously sarcastic considering the man's real life: jail, loony bin, alcohol.... 'Fallada' is taken from another story, the title of which escapes me at the moment. It is the name of a horse that gets killed and its head gets nailed to the wall, from where it utters wise things. The Grimms' version of the oracle....more info
  • Gritty, Breath-taking portraits of "EveryMan", during a stark era in history
    It is interesting that "Every Man Dies Alone" begins with a father losing his son, and ends with a son "losing" his father.

    And in between those two episodes, is a narrative rich with human frailty, bravery, treachery, love, stoicism and cruelty.

    Taken from factual history, and turned into a novel (with the usual fictional embellishments, but even so, being oh-so-close to the truth of what human beings will and can do in such times), Hans Fallada has taken his own pain and madness (having lived in and been oppressed and even institutionalized, in Nazi Germany through WWII) and created a stark, poignant reminder of not only what has happened in the not so distant past, but what can and still does happen between once-neighbors in their villages, in times of war.

    Although the characters sometimes get a little lost in the shuffle, and although their actions sometimes seem predictable, the novel is still bathed in a great deal of emotional pathos, self-searching and suffering.

    Otto and Anna Quangel, around whom this novel revolves, are ordinary German Citizens who hold respectable jobs, but once they decide to jon the resistance and drop off postcards, they not only seal their fate, but the fate of many others -- those involved in this scheme, those who are innocent of anything, and those close to them, who are also implicated. And the irony of the postcards is that they never ever achieve their intended audience or impact.

    Of particular interest are the chapters about Otto and Anna's jail time and their cell mates -- these are written with great detail and convey a range of emotions.

    In the end, every man does die alone, but in many cases, even in the midst of terrible perscution, they find themselves sometimes inexplicably, surprisingly, surrounded by friends like Judge Fromm and the kindly Nazi guard.

    And as for Eva Kluge, who happily goes about hoeing potatoes and living a life she had never expected, freed from the misery of Enno, (a bright spot in the otherwise bleak situations of all the others) there is a new beginning, even as the others die or are killed or lost forever.

    This book is destined to be a classic....more info
  • Has Aged Well
    A creepy but realistic account of everyday urban life in the Third Reich, where the homefront is rife with with paranoia, passive resistance, anger, hatred, bravery, sadism and political intrigue. Autobiographically based fiction enlivened by hair-trigger suspense and unforgetable characters. A very large book, but conveniently broken down into short, self-contained chapters that contribute to leisurely reading....more info
  • Small Potatoes
    "The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis." The review edition splashes this quote from Primo Levi across the cover. But let's face it: this is a rather poor novel (3 stars at most) that happens also to be a unique historical document (5 stars or more). Hans Fallada was institutionalized by the Nazis and only lived long enough after the war to write this novel before he died in early 1947. Fallada was thus well placed to describe the texture of life under the Nazi regime, and was one of the very first to do so.

    In novels such as Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, and even more in Hollywood, resistance against totalitarian oppression has a heroic ring, but not so with Fallada, who is determinedly ordinary. He focuses at first on a number of apartment-dwellers in Berlin: a middle-aged carpentry shop foreman and his wife, an old Jewish woman dispossessed of her haberdashery store, a retired judge, a family of drunks and their Hitler Youth leader son, and a womanizing petty criminal. None of them is particularly impressive. The foreman and his wife, Otto and Anna Quangel, shortly after hearing that their son has been killed, begin a quiet campaign of writing anti-Hitler postcards and leaving them in public places. This is based on a true case in the Gestapo files, with one curious feature: although the campaign went on for years, it was remarkably unsuccessful, since nearly all the cards were turned in immediately to the police. This results in a book that has a beginning and an end, but a stagnant middle that has little more to offer than an ordinary police procedural. Fallada treats a few hard-working individuals inside the Gestapo with some sympathy, but spends most time on the criminal activities of various low-lifes who are neither sympathetic nor interesting. The loss of focus is made worse by a translation by Michael Hofmann riddled with British slang, which gives a curious quality of dislocation. What Fallada does achieve, I suppose, is a sense of decay infecting every part of German society, so that every decision is tainted by fear and heroic action is virtually impossible.

    By the end, of course, the Quangels are caught and their end is a foregone conclusion. But in the final chapters Fallada does rise to moments of moral grandeur as he describes their lives in prison and the long impossibly biased show trial. But it is a long read before you get there. For my money, this novel is nothing like as moving as any of several books about the Munich student-based White Rose movement, such as SOPHIE SCHOLL AND THE WHITE ROSE by Jud Newborn and Annette Dumbach. Although also ineffectual in the long term, this movement was genuinely heroic, and involved people of more human depth than any of Fallada's two-dimensional creations....more info
  • And The Banality of Good....
    Hannah Arendt's famous remark about the banality of evil is proved true in Every Man Dies Alone. Surprisingly though, Fallada shows us there is too a banality to goodness as well The Quangles are the unlikeliest of heroes...small fish in a very big, polluted pond. Their little postcards of protest reverberating only at Gestapo headquarters as though they were billboards on the autobahn.

    These small acts of courage are indeed remarkable, but one cannot help but wonder the difference, if any they make. Sadly, the answer is probably very little. In the end their achievement is in holding on to their integrity and their humanity when others so eagerly goose stepped down the road to perdition. A very moving, if at times a bit slow depiction of ordinary people doing their part in extraordinary times....more info
  • A sobering look into lives affected by war
    Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada is one of those rare books that lets the reader know, right from the beginning, that this isn't just any old book. Indeed, it is not. The biggest surprise is that this book was written in less than a month. Remarkable, indeed. Now the book, while on the brink of literary masterpiece, does have some flaws...but considering it was written in German over fifty years ago, those flaws can be easily over-looked.

    Otto and Anna Quangel, were a married couple in war-torn Germany, and campaigned against the war and the Third Reich. (the book even contains reproductions of the postcards the couple were posting) In 1940, Otto Quangel's son is killed in a German victory over France, and thus, the campaign begins. It really is sobering to see how the war drastically changes both their lives. Otto was a furniture maker before the war...and became a coffin maker during it. Anna, during a time when women weren't given many rights, was an equal partner to Otto, and a driving force in the campaign against the Third Reich.

    The story was translated by Michael Hofmann and follows both the noble men and women and those with less scrupulous values involved in the investigation of this anti-campaign -- and all the lives affected by the war. Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada does a superb job capturing the true emotions and actions of people forced to deal with war.......I would also highly recommend reading Clarence Cage's novel Ashes Divide: Ashes Divide another sobering look into the affects of war. ...more info