Friday, December 18, 2009

Hans Fallada

If you enjoy the anguished work of tormented authors, you might like German writer Hans Fallada (1893-1947). Perhaps no artist was more troubled. Before he was 20 he’d been run over by a cart, fought typhoid, become addicted to his medicine, killed his best friend in a duel, and, in the moments afterward, tried to kill himself. And he still had the Kaiser, the Depression, and the Nazis to look forward to.

Fallada’s novels are about average people grappling with being unexceptional. Some succumb, some accommodate, some triumph in small ways. Fallada loathed accommodating his Nazi censors, but triumphed after the war with Every Man Dies Alone, a work Primo Levi calls “The greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis.” In it, a bland husband and wife who have lost their soldier son risk everything to oppose the regime. Central to the story is the futility of the couple’s effort and the smallness of their deed compared to the monster they’re up against.

The English publication earlier this year of Every Man Dies Alone was a literary event, and two other of Fallada’s novels were republished to make a set. The library has all three. (A fourth, Wolf Among Wolves, will be published in January, 2010.)

If you’re into bleak, Fallada is your man.

Little Man, What Now?
Every Man Dies Alone
The Drinker

Every Man Dies Alone is a staff pick for 2009.

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