Fiction Alone in Berlin Fallada

Published on February 10th, 2010


Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

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Blurb: Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the nervous Frau Rosenthal, the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming working-class couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the devastating news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of his quiet existence, the usually taciturn factory foreman Otto is provoked into an action that will endanger both his and Anna’s life. Translated by Michael Hofmann (Penguin Classics)

Other books by the author

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

Penguin bill the novel as a thriller, but though the narrative is gripping, the true fascination of the book is the picture it offers of working-class Berlin during the war… This is an extraordinary novel. The wonder is that it has taken so long to be available in English. Hofmann’s version is as good as one would expect from the translator who has introduced Joseph Roth to English-language readers.

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Caroline Moore, Standpoint

Alone in Berlin is completely, even remorselessly, gripping and tells the tale of a true-life campaign of resistance – but conducted through acts of defiance which are paltry, dogged and utterly doomed… Fallada’s novel, scribbled in 24 days, is nonetheless neither raw nor inchoate, but reads as if molten emotions have been obsessively pounded into hard shape.

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Charlotte Moore, The Daily Telegraph

…a very fine novel… I was reminded of The Grapes of Wrath; though many corrupted fail and fall, the common man cannot be entirely crushed. The redemptive, symbolic final scene forms a parallel to Steinbeck’s. The prose, like its subject matter, is harsh, unlyrical, sombre, sometimes clumsy, but Fallada’s scope is extraordinary. Alone in Berlin is an exhausting book, gruesome and harrowing, but as morally powerful as anything I’ve ever read.

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Hugo Hamilton, The Financial Times

This novel is far more than a literary thriller… Fallada’s vivid novel gives us the true, concentric circles of lives in a Berlin apartment block under totalitarianism. Michael Hofmann should be congratulated for bringing this work with all its immediate clarity to the English language.

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James Buchan, The Guardian

It is remarkable that Fallada, just months before his death, could compose a long novel that, after an overcrowded beginning, advances so confidently to its conclusion… In the foreword, Fallada (or his editor) defends the brutality of the book on the grounds that it takes place “among opponents of the regime and their persecutors, where quite a few came to grief”. This dialectic of persecutor and persecuted is Fallada’s most profound contribution.

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Ian Brunskill, The Times

Fallada’s prose, well rendered by Michael Hofmann, has a journalistic clarity and a thriller writer’s pace

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Tom Deveson, The Sunday Times

His naturalistic method helps us believe in the story and the accuracy of its details, but we are left with little sense of how and why all this happened. Perhaps that’s too much to ask of any writer… Fallada often packs in detailed paragraphs of redundant exposition or alerts us to what will happen in later chapters… Yet despite its flaws, Alone in Berlin is, by unrelenting implication, a case study of how Nietzsche’s reassessment of all values might take a frighteningly distorted historical form.

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