George V. Reilly

Review: Every Man Dies Alone

Every Man Dies Alone
Title: Every Man Dies Alone
Author: Hans Fallada
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Melville House
Copyright: 1947
Pages: 544
Keywords: fiction
Reading period: 2–24 August, 2010

Every Man Dies Alone was published in German in 1947, and became a “surprise best­seller” after it was translated into English in 2009. It’s a novel of the little-known German resistance against the Nazis, loosely based on true events.

Otto and Anna Quangel are apolitical, middle-aged, working class Berliners, who become rad­i­cal­ized after the death of their son early in the War. Otto starts writing seditious postcards and dropping them in public buildings, hoping to foment unrest. The Gestapo grow furiouser as this goes on for two years, and several people are caught up in their dragnet before they eventually catch the Quangels.

Fallada is very good at capturing the paranoia and the aloneness of the ordinary Germans living in the Nazi police state. Even Gestapo inspectors have reason to be fearful. Fallada had, of course, just lived through it himself, under some degree of suspicion. The plotting and the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion are clumsy and not as good as the atmosphere.

Somewhat rec­om­mend­ed.

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