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Every Man Dies Alone
Cover of Every Man Dies Alone
Every Man Dies Alone
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Based on a true story, this never-before-translated masterpiece was overlooked for years after its author--a bestselling writer before World War II who found himself in a Nazi insane asylum at war's end--died just before it was published.

In a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis, it 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 Third Reich, Otto and Anna Quangel 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, Every Man Dies Alone is 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 edition includes an afterword detailing the gripping history of the book and its author, including excerpts from the Gestapo file on the real-life couple that inspired it.
Based on a true story, this never-before-translated masterpiece was overlooked for years after its author--a bestselling writer before World War II who found himself in a Nazi insane asylum at war's end--died just before it was published.

In a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis, it 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 Third Reich, Otto and Anna Quangel 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, Every Man Dies Alone is 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 edition includes an afterword detailing the gripping history of the book and its author, including excerpts from the Gestapo file on the real-life couple that inspired it.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One Some Bad News

    The postwoman Eva Kluge slowly climbs the steps of 55 Jablonski Strasse. She's tired from her round, but she also has one of those letters in her bag that she hates to deliver, and is about to have to deliver, to the Quangels, on the second floor.
    Before that, on the floor below, she has a Party circular for the Persickes. Persicke is some political functionary or other -- Eva Kluge always gets the titles mixed up. At any rate, she has to remember to call out "Heil Hitler!" at the Persickes' and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there's not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks. Not that she's a political animal, she's just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she's of the view that you don't put children in the world to have them shot. Also, that a home without a man is no good, and for the time being she's got nothing: not her two boys, not a man, not a proper home. So, she has to keep her lip buttoned, and deliver horrible field letters that aren't written but typed, and are signed 'Regimental Adjutant'.
    She rings the bell at the Persickes', says "Heil Hitler!" and hands the old drunk his circular. He has his party badge on his lapel, and he asks: 'Well, so what's new?'
    She replies: "Haven't you heard the special report? France has capitulated."
    Persicke's not content with that. "Come on, Miss, of course I knew that; but to hear you say it, it's like you were selling stale rolls. Say it like it meant something! It's your job to tell everyone who doesn't have a radio, and convince the last of the moaners. The second Blitzkrieg is in the bag now, it's England now! In another three months, the Tommies will be finished, and then we'll see what the Fuhrer has in store for us. Then it'll be the turn of the others to bleed, and we'll be the masters. Come on in, and have a schnapps with us. Amalie, Erna, August, Adolf, Baldur -- let's be having you. Today we're celebrating, we're not working today. Today we'll wet the news, and in the afternoon we'll go and pay a call on the Jewish lady on the fourth floor, and see if she won't treat us to coffee and cake! I tell you, there'll be no mercy for that bitch any more!"
    While Mr. Persicke, ringed by his family launches into increasingly wild vituperative and starts hitting the schnapps, the postie has climbed another flight of stairs and rung the Quangels' bell. She's already holding the letter out in her hand, ready to run off the second she's handed it over. And she's in luck: it's not the woman who answers the door -- she usually likes to exchange a few pleasantries -- but the man with the etched, birdlike face, the thin lips, and the cold eyes. He takes the letter out of her hand without a word and pushes the door shut in her face, as if she was a thief, someone you had to be on your guard against.
    Eva Kluge shrugs her shoulders and turns to go back downstairs. Some people are like that; in all the time she's delivered mail in the Jablonski Strasse, that man has yet to say a single word to her. Well, let him be, she can't change him, she couldn't even change the man she's married to, who wastes his money sitting in bars and betting on horses, and only ever shows his face at home when he's skint.
    At the Persickes' they've left the apartment door open, she can hear the glasses and the rowdy celebrations. The postwoman gently pulls the door shut and carries on downstairs. She thinks the speedy victory over France might actually be good news, because it will have brought the end of the war nearer. And then she'll have her two boys back.
    The only fly in the ointment is the uncomfortable realization that people like the Persickes will come out on top. To have the...

About the Author-
  • About the Author
    Hans Fallada
    was the pseudonym of Rudolph Ditzen, who was born in 1893 in Berlin, the son of a superior court judge. Prior to WWII, his novels were international bestsellers. But when Jewish producers in Hollywood made his 1932 novel, Little Man, What Now? into a major motion picture, the rising Nazis began to take note of him. His struggles increased after he refused to join the Party and was denounced by neighbors for "anti-Nazi" sympathies. Unlike many other prominent artists, however, Fallada decided not to flee Germany. By the end of World War II he'd suffered an alcohol-fueled nervous breakdown and was in a Nazi insane asylum, where he nonetheless managed to write--in code--the brilliant subversive novel, The Drinker. After the war, Fallada went on to write Every Man Dies Alone, based on an actual Gestapo file, but he died in 1947 of a morphine overdose, just before it was published.

    About the Translator
    Michael Hofmann is the translator of many of the twentieth century's leading authors in German, including Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth, and Thomas Bernhard, and is the winner of the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize.

    Geoff Wilkes (Afterword) is a Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Queensland and perhaps the world's foremost English-speaking expert on Hans Fallada. He is the author of Hans Fallada's Crisis Novels 1931-1947.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 12, 2009
    This disturbing novel, written in 24 days by a German writer who died in 1947, is inspired by the true story of Otto and Elise Hampel, who scattered postcards advocating civil disobedience throughout war-time Nazi-controlled Berlin. Their fictional counterparts, Otto and Anna Quangel, distribute cards during the war bearing antifascist exhortations and daydream that their work is being passed from person to person, stirring rebellion, but, in fact, almost every card is immediately turned over to authorities. Fallada aptly depicts the paralyzing fear that dominated Hitler's Germany, when decisions that previously would have seemed insignificant—whether to utter a complaint or mourn one's deceased child publicly—can lead to torture and death at the hands of the Gestapo. From the Quangels to a postal worker who quits the Nazi party when she learns that her son committed atrocities and a prison chaplain who smuggles messages to inmates, resistance is measured in subtle but dangerous individual stands. This isn't a novel about bold cells of defiant guerrillas but about a world in which heroism is defined as personal refusal to be corrupted.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from January 15, 2009
    Grim, powerful epic portrait of life in Germany under Nazi rule, published shortly after the author 's death in 1947 but never before available in English.

    Fallada was a bestselling novelist before the rise of the Third Reich, but during World War II he was hounded by the Gestapo and psychologically brutalized by Joseph Goebbels, who unsuccessfully tried to force him to write an anti-Semitic book. Sinking into alcohol and drug addiction, he was a broken man by the end of his life, and his final novel is shot through with his despair. Written in a 24-day rush, it was inspired by the real-life case of a working-class husband and wife who conducted a covert three-year propaganda campaign against the Nazi regime. Fallada 's fictionalized version centers on Otto and Anna Quangel, who are driven to protest after learning that their only son has died fighting at the front. The protest is small and timid: Otto writes anti-Hitler messages on postcards that he distributes around Berlin, and the Quangels are never certain if they influence any hearts or minds. Nonetheless, they provoke the Gestapo. Fallada reveals a deep understanding of the agency 's chain of command, its grisly abuses of power and the culture of fear it cultivated among German citizens. His hefty novel includes a host of characters, from hard-drinking reprobates and factory workers to judges and, in a poignant early passage, an elderly Jewish woman in the Quangels ' apartment building who lives in a perpetual state of terror. Most of these people are archetypal to a fault: Otto Quangel rarely strays from a stance of stoic nobility, and the drunken, proud bloviations of Gestapo brass occasionally border on the absurd. The characters ' fates are clearly telegraphed, yet Fallada keeps readers engaged with passionate prose that rushes events along at a thriller-like pace. And there 's stark grandeur in the closing chapters, featuring a Nazi trial, an execution and death in prison.

    A very welcome resurrection for a great writer crucified by history.

    (COPYRIGHT (2009) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Primo Levi "The greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis."
  • Alan Furst "One of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. ... Please, do not miss this."
  • Ian McEwan "I very much enjoyed the rediscovery of Hans Fallada, the German writer ... a wonderful novel. Compelling."
  • New York Times Book Review "An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin."--Philip Kerr, author of the "Berlin Noir" novels "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 Globe and Mail "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."
  • Minneapolis Star-Tribune "Stunningly vivid characters ... gets you inside Nazi Germany like no other novel." --The San Francisco Chronicle "Essential, thrilling." --The St. Petersburg Times "A masterpiece." --Nextbook "This is a novel that is so powerful, so intense, that it almost hums with electricity."
  • Roger Cohen, The New York Times "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."
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