Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book of the Month

This Month,


By Hans Fallada

Many historical novels struggle to truly capture the facts and details of a time period, while at the same time creating a compelling story with nuanced characters. In his 1947 book, author Hans Fallada, who wrote it in a mere twenty four days, does both with masterful skill. Fallada used the real life story of a German couple who wrote anti-Nazi postcards during World War II as the basis for this powerful novel. Having access to the Gestapo files that detailed the couple's rebellious acts against Hitler's oppressive regime, Fallada brilliantly interweaves the story of Otto and Anna Quangel with the story of the SS and Gestapo officials who are trying to hunt them down.

The Quangels are great characters that deserve to be put up with some of the best and most revered in all of literature. It is a shame that only in the past two years Fallada's works are finally being recognized in the U.S., having been regarded as classics in Germany for decades. Fallada is in the league of Charles Dickens when it comes to creating unique and memorable characters. In addition to the Quangels, he gives us the feeble thief, Enno Kluge, the conflicted but determined Gestapo officer, Inspector Eserech and the villainous Nazi family, the Persickes. While there are many parallel narratives in Every Man Dies Alone, the story is really about Otto and Anna.

Starting out as a mild mannered, working class couple, they are motivated to act when their son is killed in battle. They begin a campaign that is aimed at saying what people in Berlin during the war feared to say, through inflammatory postcards that are dropped in public areas in the hopes of sparking some kind of rebellion. For anyone who is a history buff, this book is a great slice of information about the lives of ordinary Germans who struggled against Nazi rule during the war.

Almost as compelling as the novel itself, is the story of Hans Fallada. He was born Rudolf Ditzen and wrote many books based upon events in his life and the history of Germany. Ditzen spent time in a Nazi Insane Asylum during the war and he chronicled that story in his book The Drinker. He died of a morphine overdose in 1947, shortly after completing Every Man Dies Alone. It is sad to think that we might have had more work from this fabulous author had he not died so young. I encourage you to read this book, and look into reading Fallada's other books. I know I will.

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