Review: Alone in Berlin (1947 ) by Hans Fallada, tr by Michael Hofmann


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Penguin Classics, 2010 Format: Kindle edition. File Size: 3712 KB. Print Length: 612 pages. First published as Jeder stirbt für sich allein in 1947. Translated by Michael Hofmann, 2009. With an Afterword by Geoff Wilkes, 2009. ISBN: 978 0 14 190873 1. ASIN: B003ZUXX92.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707

Hans Fallada wrote Alone in Berlin in twenty-four days during January 1947. He died shortly after, without having the opportunity to see it published. Although it’s a work of fiction, the events narrated were based on a real case that was found on the Gestapo files, shortly after the War. This Penguin Classics edition contains an afterword by Geoff Wilkes, as well as facsimiles of the original files which inspired the novel.

The story begins in Berlin, on the very same day that a large part of France has been occupied by German troops under Hitler. On that day, Otto and Anna Quangel, a poorly educated working-class couple, have just received the news that their only son has been killed fighting in France. None of them is a fervent supporter of the Nazis and, although Otto has voted once for Adolf Hitler, he has always refused to enrol in the Party, what has prevented him from any kind of promotion in his work, despite his obvious abilities. As from that moment, the Quangels decide that they must do something in that regard and that they cannot remain inactive any longer. After some thought, they decide to start a campaign consisting on leaving hundreds of postcards all over Berlin calling for civil disobedience. Regretfully, their endeavour is extremely innocent and will not have the desired effect. Most cards are going to end in the hands of the Gestapo and nobody is going to read them However they are going to keep the police in check for close to three years, thinking they form part of a carefully orchestrated plan to topple the Third Reich.

Alone in Berlin was not translated into English until 2009 when it was rediscovered by US publisher Melville House Publishing and released in the US under the title Every Man Dies Alone, in a translation by Michael Hofmann. Melville House licensed it to Penguin Books in the UK, who used the title Alone in Berlin, following the French translation by André Vandevoorde in 1967, Seul dans Berlin. The US title is close to the original German title, which translates verbatim as “Everyone dies for himself alone“.

Alone in Berlin, besides being a very exciting reading, provides a highly enlightening picture of what was the ordinary life in Berlin under Nazism. Through day situations of ordinary people, we will be able to comprehend the real value of their decisions, which will enable them to maintain their dignity under extremely difficult circumstances. The book will also highlight not only the terrible brutality of the Nazis, but also their own insanity and stupidity. I very much enjoyed almost everything in this book. The plot is well-thought out, the characters are properly drawn and the dialogues are truly convincing. Nobody should become discouraged to read it for its length. At no time it becomes tedious or dull. In fact, I’ve been so engrossed reading it that I even found it too short. My only regret is not being able to convey properly all the merits of this novel. A true discovery. Highly recommended.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Rudolf Ditzen, who wrote under the name Hans Fallada, lived a chaotic life. Born in 1893 in Greifswald in north-east Germany, he was the son of a lawyer who was later appointed a judge. At the age of 18 he killed a schoolfriend in a duel, and spent much of his career in psychiatric hospitals and drying-out clinics or in prison for thieving and embezzlement to support his morphine habit. In between, he worked on the land, wrote a couple of novels and held down jobs for a period on newspapers. Fallada married in 1929, and for a while straightened out. His 1932 novel, Kleiner Mann – was nun? (“Little Man – What Now?”) brought him praise from Thomas Mann, international success, a Hollywood film and a small farm. Under the Nazis, Fallada wrote and published a series of gritty novels of the type that German critics call neue Sachlichkeit, or new objectivity. In 1944, he shot at his wife in a quarrel and was confined again to a psychiatric hospital. At the end of the war, Fallada was embraced by the new East German literary authorities. In 1947, he published with Aufbau-Verlag Jeder stirbt fuer sich allein (“Each dies only for himself“) which is here called Alone in Berlin. It was the first novel by a German author to take as its theme the small-scale domestic resistance to the National Socialists. The same year, weakened by years of alcoholism and drug-taking, Fallada died of a heart attack. (James Buchan at The Guardian)

Alone in Berlin has been reviewed at Euro Crime, The View From the Blue House, and  The complete review.

Penguin Modern Classics publicity page

Melville House publicity page

audible  

Solo en Berlin de Hans Fallada

Hans Fallada escribió Solo en Berlín en veinticuatro días durante enero de 1947. Murió poco después, sin tener la oportunidad de verla publicada. Aunque se trata de una obra de ficción, los hechos narrados se basaron en hechos reales, que fueron encontrados en los archivos de la Gestapo, poco después de la Guerra. Esta edición de Penguin Classics contiene un epílogo de Geoff Wilkes, así como facsímiles de los archivos originales que inspiraron la novela.

La historia comienza en Berlín, en el mismo día en que una gran parte de Francia ha sido ocupada por las tropas alemanas de Hitler. En ese día, Otto y Anna Quangel, una pareja de trabajadores con un nivel de educación bajo, acaba de recibir la noticia de que su único hijo ha muerto luchando en Francia. Ninguno de ellos es ferviente partidario de los nazis y, aunque Otto ha votado una vez por Adolf Hitler, siempre se ha negado a inscribirse en el partido, lo que le ha impedido cualquier tipo de promoción en su trabajo, a pesar de sus evidentes capacidades. A partir de ese momento, los Quangels deciden que tienen que hacer algo al respecto y que no pueden permanecer inactivos por más tiempo. Después de pensarlo, deciden iniciar una campaña que consiste en dejar cientos de tarjetas postales por todo Berlín llamando a la desobediencia civil. Lamentablemente, su esfuerzo es muy inocente y no tendrá el efecto deseado. La mayoría de las tarjetas van a terminar en manos de la Gestapo y nadie va a leerlas Sin embargo van a mantener a la policía en jaque durante cerca de tres años, pensando que forman parte de un plan cuidadosamente orquestado para derribar al Tercer Reich.

Solo en Berlín no fue traducida al Inglés hasta el 2009 cuando fue redescubierta por la editorial estadounidense Melville House Publishing y publicada en los EE.UU., con el título Every Man Dies Alone, traducido por Michael Hofmann. Melville House autoizó a Penguin Books a publicarla en el Reino Unido, utilizando el título de Solo en Berlín, de acuerdo con la traducción francesa de André Vandevoorde en 1967, Seul dans Berlín. El título en los Estados Unidos está más cerca del título original en alemán, que se puede traducir textualmente como “Cada hombre muere solo“.

Solo en Berlín, además de ser una lectura muy emocionante, proporciona una imagen muy esclarecedora de lo que fue la vida ordinaria en Berlín bajo el nazismo. A través de situaciones cotidianas de la gente común y corriente, seremos capaces de comprender el valor real de sus decisiones, que les permitirá mantener su dignidad en circunstancias extremadamente difíciles. El libro también pondrá de relieve no sólo la terrible brutalidad de los nazis, sino también su propia locura y estupidez. Me gustó mucho casi todo en este libro. La trama está bien elaborada, los personajes están correctamente dibujados y los diálogos resultan realmente convincentes. Nadie debe desanimarse a leerlo por su extensión. En ningún momento se vuelve tedioso o aburrido. De hecho, he estado tan absorto con su lectura que incluso me pareció demasiado corta. Lo único que lamento es no poder transmitir adecuadamente todos los méritos de esta novela. Todo un descubrimiento. Muy recomendable.

Mi calificación: A + (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Hans Fallada (1893-1947), pseudónimo de Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen, es uno de los autores alemanes más importantes y más injustamente olvidados del siglo xx. Alcanzó la fama a principios de la década de 1930 con su novela Pequeño hombre, ¿y ahora qué?, pero el convulso clima político en la Alemania de la época y su inclusión en las listas de «autores no deseados» del Gobierno nazi lo relegaron a un olvido inmerecido. Su último gran éxito, Solo en Berlín, basado en un caso real que descubrió entre los archivos de la Gestapo al terminar la guerra, se publicó poco antes de su muerte.

Ediciones Maeva

8 thoughts on “Review: Alone in Berlin (1947 ) by Hans Fallada, tr by Michael Hofmann

  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer 2016! Follow Up and June Reading Round Up – A Crime is Afoot

  2. Pingback: New to me Authors, April to June 2016 – A Crime is Afoot

  3. How did I miss this review? In spite of following you on Twitter and on WordPress? Glad to see you enjoyed this book – I read it in German quite a few years back, but it left an indelible impression on me.

  4. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer 2015! (The final outcome) – A Crime is Afoot

  5. Pingback: A Crime is Afoot 2016 Favourite Books | A Crime is Afoot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s