Look Inside. 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. This is what happened.
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Otherwise our image of the German resistance to Hitler might have been stuck in Hollywood, with Tom Cruise in a Nazi uniform. Instead, we have Fallada's grimly realistic page mosaic of Berlin under Hitler, based on the Gestapo file of a couple's quiet rebellion against the Nazi regime that shipped their only child off to die fighting on the front lines. In Fallada's retelling of the case, middle-aged, "bird-faced" Otto Quangel, whose furniture factory now makes coffins, initiates a secret protest with his wife, Anna.
The deadpan everyman writes postcards denouncing the Nazi regime and leaves the cards around the city. The tale of their modest campaign that outsmarts the Gestapo for a while reads like a gripping thriller, yet Fallada never loses his grip on the story's moral core. He leaves no doubt about the Nazis' savagery toward their own citizens, especially those who hint at the courage to resist. Fallada's perspective from within that society makes it unique. It was Fallada's final novel, written feverishly in 24 days in , and published two months after his death in His troubled life had more drama than most fiction.
Born Rudolf Ditzen, and institutionalized at 18 for killing a classmate in a duel he failed at his own suicide but was judged insane and acquitted of murder , he spent years working on farms before he took to writing, but not before alcohol and morphine led him to crime and prison. His adopted name, Hans Fallada, combines two characters from "Grimm's Fairy Tales": Hans, a fool who sees every misfortune as a new blessing, and Falada, a beheaded horse who speaks the truth after a scheming maid switches places with his owner, a princess.
The author added an extra "l. The film's U. His books kept selling. Fallada turned down a chance to emigrate in , and his addictions took over. In , he tried to shoot his wife and was sent to an insane asylum. Fallada then accepted an offer by Joseph Goebbels a sometime fan of his books to write an anti-Semitic novel.
Instead, on paper the Nazis gave him, he wrote "The Drinker," a raging Dostoyevskian account of one businessman's personal ruin - a metaphor for Germany's descent into horror. In , the Soviet liberators saw Fallada as a cultural asset and briefly made him mayor of his hometown. Instead, they got "Every Man Dies Alone," his mammoth hymn to a worker's autonomous courage. It was anti-authoritarianism that Stalin could not have welcomed.
The novel is rooted on Jablonski Street, a microcosm of the Third Reich where a mail carrier brings the apolitical Quangels bad news from the front.
The neighbors downstairs are loutish Nazi bullies, who plot to steal from a Jewish woman upstairs whose husband is already in a camp. Petty thieves and drunks hover around, sniffing for rumors and denunciations to sell to the police. With few exceptions, cynical Berliners curse the regime but are hopelessly corruptible.
Fallada made his own compromises, visiting the French front with German troops in Berlin in the novel is a prison of scarcity and fear, where information is the next best thing to black-market coffee. Fallada takes us from factories to the streets and eventually to Nazi kangaroo courts and the guillotine.
His landscape of fear is part police report, part Georg Grosz , part Hieronymus Bosch. It reads not as horror from afar or from memory, but as testimony from a witness who can't turn away. Fallada's stunningly vivid characters form their own inhuman comedy, yet some German critics slighted the book as a reportorial example of Neue Sachlichkeit, an aesthetic movement that shunned ornamentation.
The writing can indeed be not only deadpan but also humorous and wildly dramatic, even in this translation, which flattens the original German. Fallada is a writer of observations rather than symbols, of urgency rather than contemplation, of hard-edged honesty rather than lyricism. He reaches heights of grotesquery in scenes where a Gestapo agent drunk on looted Armagnac tortures another for not finding Quangel soon enough, and where Quangel shares a cell with an SS murderer who barks and bites like a dog.
Quangel's episodic journey from protest to death row shows you anything but the banality of evil. What exploded out of Fallada in 24 days gets you inside Nazi Germany like no other novel. For Fallada, it must have been an exorcism. For us, it is a belated revelation. Breaking News.
Every Man Dies Alone
It is based on the true story of a working-class husband and wife who, acting alone, became part of the German Resistance. Otto and Elise Hampel , a working class couple in Berlin, were not interested in politics, but after Elise Hampel learned that her son  had fallen in France, she and her husband began committing acts of civil disobedience. They began writing leaflets on postcards , urging people to resist and overthrow the Nazis. They wrote hundreds of them, leaving them in apartment stairwells and dropping them into mailboxes. Though they knew the law made this a capital crime , they continued this work for well over a year until they were betrayed and arrested. Fallada was given the Hampels' Gestapo files by Johannes Becher , a poet,  novelist and friend of Fallada's, who returned from exile after the war and became president of the cultural organization established by the Soviet military administration in the Soviet sector.
'Every Man Dies Alone,' by Hans Fallada
Otherwise our image of the German resistance to Hitler might have been stuck in Hollywood, with Tom Cruise in a Nazi uniform. Instead, we have Fallada's grimly realistic page mosaic of Berlin under Hitler, based on the Gestapo file of a couple's quiet rebellion against the Nazi regime that shipped their only child off to die fighting on the front lines. In Fallada's retelling of the case, middle-aged, "bird-faced" Otto Quangel, whose furniture factory now makes coffins, initiates a secret protest with his wife, Anna. The deadpan everyman writes postcards denouncing the Nazi regime and leaves the cards around the city. The tale of their modest campaign that outsmarts the Gestapo for a while reads like a gripping thriller, yet Fallada never loses his grip on the story's moral core.