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Every Man Dies Alone [Hardcover]

Hans Fallada , Michael Hoffman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 3 2009

"The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis."-Primo Levi

This never-before-translated masterpiece-by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn't join the Nazi Party-is based on a true story.

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.

In the end, it's more than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, more than a moving romance, even more than literature of the highest order-it's a deeply stirring story of two people standing up for what's right, and each other.

Hans Fallada was one of Germany's best-selling authors-ranking with Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse-prior to the rise of the Nazis. But while those writers fled Germany, Fallada stayed. Refusing to join the Nazi Party, he suffered numerous difficulties, including incarceration in an insane asylum. After the war, he wrote Every Man Dies Alone based on an actual Gestapo file. He died just before its publication in 1947.

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"The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis."
--Primo Levi

"Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone is one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. Fallada lived through the Nazi hell, so every word rings true–this is who they really were: the Gestapo monsters, the petty informers, the few who dared to resist. Please, do not miss this."
--Alan Furst

"A signal literary event of 2009 has occurred. Rescued from the grave, from decades of forgetting, [Every Man Dies Alone] testifies to the lasting value of an intact, if battered, conscience. In a publishing hat trick, Melville House allows English-language readers to sample Fallada's vetiginous variety [and] the keen vision of a troubled man in troubled times, with more breadth, detail, and understanding than most other chroniclers of the era have delivered. To read Every Man Dies Alone, Fallada's testament to the darkest years of the 20th century, is to be accompanied by a wise, somber ghost who grips your arm and whispers in your ear: 'This is how it was. This is what happened.'"
-- New York Times Book Review

"Every Man Dies Alone...deserves a place among the 20th century's best novels of political witness."
--Sam Munson, The National

"Every Man Dies Alone [is] a suspense-driven novel...one-of-a-kind."
--Alan Furst, Toronto Globe and Mail

"Every Man Dies Alone [is] one of the most immediate and authentic fictional accounts of life during the long nightmare of Nazi rule."
--The New York Observer

"Primo Levi…called this "the greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis." It is, in retrospect, an understatement. This is a novel that is so powerful, so intense, that it almost hums with electricity."
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

" [Every Man Dies Alone] has the suspense of a John le Carré novel, and offers a visceral, chilling portrait of the distrust that permeated everyday German life during the war."
--The New Yorker

"[A]t once a riveting page turner and a memorable portrait of wartime Berlin...With its vivid cast of characters and pervasive sense of menace, Every Man Dies Alone is an exciting book."
—John Powers for Fresh Air / NPR Books We Like

Top "Summer Read" pick
—On Point Raido, WBUR

"...a belated revelation."
San Francisco Chronicle

"...necessary and gripping."
The Oregonian

About the Author

Hans Fallada was an internationally bestselling German writer who, unlike his peers Mann and Brecht, remained in Germany after the Nazi take-over. After one of his books was made into a Hollywood movie with a Jewish producer, he was prevented from publishing abroad. At war's end he was incarcerated in an insane asylum, and died soon thereafter.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Tour de Force! March 23 2009
By David
I took a chance on this book after seeing it mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal Magazine I picked up by chance. The concept intrigued me and so I hunted it down. Initially I was a bit put off by the almost 600 pages in hardback form (I read when I travel and so I like my books to be portable!)

A few minutes reading the first couple of pages in the bookstore and I was hooked. Not only is the style so completely engaging, the pace - in which the various inter-weaving tales of ordinary Berliners is told over a backdrop of one of the most disturbing times in world history - made it hard to put the book down. As it happened, I read it from cover to cover in about 4 sessions over as many days while on vacation. It wasn't until I read the afterword and the other supplementary sections at the end of the main novel that I realized the story was based on the true lives of a "working-class couple living in Berlin" (Otto & Elise Hampel). They undertook a silent 3 year anti-Nazi propaganda campaign by writing simple statements urging civil disobedience and sabotage on postcards and leaving them in noticeable places around Berlin. Their efforts kept the Berlin police and Gestapo baffled and enraged the whole time.

"Every Man Dies Alone" turns out to be a masterpiece of a novel based on that true story, while also exploring the lives of many people - family, friends and strangers - that come into contact with the two protagonists over that 3 year period. It's a real roller-coaster read. I just couldn't help thinking that because this novel was written just over a year after the end of the war, the many examples of what life was like in wartime Berlin, and the way people behaved (treachery/loyalty, cowardice/bravery, cruelty/kindness, blackmail/generosity, suspicion/trust, etc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criminals and other Germans Feb. 19 2010
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
It is difficult to imagine the impact of Hans Fallada's novel on his German contemporaries in 1947. In the years immediately following World War II, hardly any fiction authors who had remained in the country throughout the Nazi regime were even considering the raw topics of the very recent past because they were more concerned with the shaping of the "new" Germany. Yet Fallada, in his characteristic way of observing and writing about the "little people" *), for which he had been widely read before the war, was bursting with everyday stories of the struggles of working class people of the early forties. For him, writing was like an addiction that enabled him to pen the novel in a mere 24 days.

In the fall of 1945, the author came upon a thin Gestapo file on the case of an elderly working class couple and their private futile attempt at stirring resistance against the regime. To honour their memory and to ensure that their suffering was not in vain, Fallada placed Anna and Otto Quangel, as he called them, into the centre of his novel about the struggle for survival of the "little people" during the early war years. He surrounded his heroes with a small, yet diverse and representative group of Berliners, centred around an apartment block in Berlin's working class north. Creating believable characters and vivid scenarios, he conveyed a series of reality snapshots of the social and political conditions of the time. There was the misery of poverty and the constant fear of being denounced, conscripted to the army or sent to a concentration camp for not obeying the orders that controlled people's daily lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars white heat writing makes for white heat reading April 15 2014
I was lucky and got this as a galley before publication because a friend works for Melville House's distributer in Canada and thought. I read the short Fallada bio the publisher uses that claims Fallada wrote this book in a number of days, not years or even months. And that he was inspired to do so by a Gestapo file outlining the resistance of a couple of ordinary Germans. The resistance of an ordinary couple in Fallada's novel is aroused because the two are middle-aged and heart-broken because their only child has been killed in this war. They had never participated in anything political. They lived, mom, dad and their boy, to support each other in their rather quiet ride through daily life, but now that he has been killed, they have nothing to live for except this act of resistance that is also about justice for their son. I couldn't put it down. It would be inevitable that the Nazis would find out about them. Wouldn't it? Oh my, must stop before I have to issue a spoiler alert. A great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, honest and educational Dec 5 2013
By Michal
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am so grateful that this authors work has finally been translated into English. The story is of an ordinary German family, going about life in an extraordinary period of history. It tells of their moral, physical and intellectual turmoils in dealing with life in Nazi Germany. It is an honest look at what can happen and the choices and responses people make. It is a page turner that left me wondering and thinking about myself and how I would or if I would be able to have the strength of my moral convictions.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic (Back) Story
It was the author's history and circumstance that prompted me to read this novel. As well, the idea that a dissident German who suffered under Nazi rule sought to reveal life... Read more
Published on June 17 2012 by Jeffrey Swystun
5.0 out of 5 stars True portraits of wartime bleakness and brutality
Not only is this novel based on the actions of a Berlin couple who naively dropped off self-authored anti-Nazi postcards in public building all over Berlin, but it is grounded in... Read more
Published on July 15 2011 by S Svendsen
2.0 out of 5 stars A good backstory does not a good novel make
Every Man Dies Alone comes in a new, and very good, translation by Michael Hoffman (disastrously retitled Alone In Berlin in Britain). Read more
Published on June 12 2010 by Philippe Ranger
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Having been brought up in working class England during and after the war, it was refreshing to read a story portraying such courage and fortitude of ordinary German citizens during... Read more
Published on Dec 10 2009 by jack baker
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story That Takes You Into The Minds Of The Characters
Hans Fallada has twisted knots and threads of paranoia together to portray the dense complexities of wartime Berlin. Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2009 by J. Peters
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Man Dies Alone
This book gives a strong account of how life in Nazi Germany was, and how difficult it was to mount any counter offensive against the State and its objectives. Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2009 by Mark Arneson
1.0 out of 5 stars Long-winded and lacks emotion
This negative review will probably not win any positve helpful votes (readers tend to indicate the review is not helpful if it is a negative one;) however, it is far more... Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2009 by The Mad Hatter
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Small People One Giant Act
The reviewers have said that this book was 'one of the best novels about the Nazi resistance'. From that I expected it to be a book about resistance fighters, it was not. Read more
Published on May 26 2009 by Dave and Joe
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest novel about WW II
This is an extraordinary book. I always wondered what the daily life could have been in Nazi Germany during the war. Read more
Published on April 11 2009 by J. C. Mareschal
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