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Every Man Dies Alone: A Novel [Paperback]

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

March 30 2010
“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 shoulder and whispers in your ear: 'This is how it was. This is what happened.'”
The New York Times Book Review

“I very much enjoyed the rediscovery of Hans Fallada ...  a wonderful novel. Compelling.”
—Ian McEwan

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 for each other.


This is a Hybrid Book.

Melville House HybridBooks combine print and digital media into an enhanced reading experience by including with each title additional curated material called Illuminations — maps, photographs, illustrations, and further writing about the author and the book. The Melville House Illuminations are free with the purchase of any title in the HybridBook series, no matter the format.

Frequently Bought Together

Every Man Dies Alone: A Novel + The Drinker
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Product Description


A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

“The greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis.” —Primo Levi

“One of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever.... Please, do not miss this.” —Alan Furst

"It has something of the horror of Conrad, the madness of Dostoyevsky and the chilling menace of Capote’s In Cold Blood.... In the quiet Quangels, Fallada has created an immortal symbol of those who fight back against 'the vile beyond all vileness' and so redeem us all."  —Roger Cohen, The New York Times

“An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin.”Philip Kerr, author of the "Berlin Noir" novels

“Has the suspense of a John le Carré novel … visceral, chilling.”The New Yorker

“One of the most extraordinarily ambitious literary resurrections in recent memory.”The Los Angeles Times

“A one-of-a-kind novel … Fallada can be seen as a hero, a writer-hero who survived just long enough to strike back at his oppressors.”The Globe and Mail

“Stunningly vivid characters … gets you inside Nazi Germany like no other novel.”The San Francisco Chronicle

“Essential, thrilling.” The St. Petersburg Times

“This is a novel that is so powerful, so intense, that it almost hums with electricity." —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

About the Author

Before WWII , German writer Hans Fallada’s novels were international bestsellers, on a par with those of his countrymen Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse. In America, Hollywood even turned his first big novel, Little Man, What Now? into a major motion picture.

Learning the movie was made by a Jewish producer, however, Hitler decreed Fallada’s work could no longer be sold outside Germany, and the rising Nazis began to pay him closer attention. When he refused to join the Nazi party he was arrested by the Gestapo—who eventually released him, but thereafter regularly summoned him for “discussions” of his work.

However, unlike Mann, Hesse, and others, Fallada refused to flee to safety, even when his British publisher, George Putnam, sent a private boat to rescue him. The pressure took its toll on Fallada, and he resorted increasingly to drugs and alcohol for relief. After Goebbels ordered him to write an anti-Semitic novel, he snapped and found himself imprisoned in an asylum for the “criminally insane”—considered a death sentence under Nazi rule. To forestall the inevitable, he pretended to write the assignment for Goebbels, while actually composing three encrypted books—including his tour de force novel The Drinker—in such dense code that they were not deciphered until long after his death.

Fallada outlasted the Reich and was freed at war’s end. But he was a shattered man. To help him recover by putting him to work, Fallada’s publisher gave him the Gestapo file of a simple, working-class couple who had resisted the Nazis. Inspired, Fallada completed Every Man Dies Alone in just twenty-four days.

He died in February 1947, just weeks before the book’s publication.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest novel about WW II April 11 2009
By J. C. Mareschal TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is an extraordinary book. I always wondered what the daily life could have been in Nazi Germany during the war. This novel was written by a well known German writer who survived the Hitler regime and its collapse. It was written just after the end of the war and describes with chilling realism, but also with a deep sense of humanity, what life was like in Berlin during those years. The book tells the true story of an old German couple, the Quangels who, after the death of their son, try to resist the Nazis. They drop anti Nazi cards over Berlin until the Gestapo catches them and they meet their fate. But around this plot, all kinds of characters revolve: police and Gestapo officers, party thugs, small time crooks, and a few people who try to remain decent in a world of violence and fear.
This is a thriller but a lot more than a thriller; it is a description of a society dominated by violence where it required a lot of courage to remain human. I cannot understand why it took so long for this book to be translated in English. With Vassili Grossman's "Life and Fate" this is one of the very few great novels inspired by World War II. To quote Primo Levi: "The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant Dec 10 2009
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 the gloom, despair and terror of World War Two. We were all brainwashed then to consider all Germans as the enemy. To capture a slice of German life under such a brutal regime without rhetoric and masculine bravado was entrancing and a relief that some at least were thinking of humanity after all.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars white heat writing makes for white heat reading
I was lucky and got this as a galley before publication because a friend works for Melville House's distributer in Canada and thought. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Olivia Jennings
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, honest and educational
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... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Michal
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 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
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