Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Lives than One A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams

I offer my great thanks to Max u for the Amazon Gift Card that allowed me to read this book.

More Lives than One A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams was first published in 1998, then republished in 2012 with substantial revisions


We Die Alone (Also translated as Alone in Berlin) by Hans Fallada, 1893 to 1947, is a great novel, brilliantly depicting life in Berlin during the rule of the Nazis as the war as winding down.  Primo Levi said it was the best depiction of life in the era ever written.  Fallada has recently come back into favor due to new translations of a number of his novels.  I have read also his Wolf Among Wolves, commonly called the Vanity Fair of the Weimer Republic and A Small Circus, set in a small German town in the days just before the Nazis came to power.  

Rudolph Ditzen, the real name of Hans Fallada, was born into an affluent but not truly rich family.  As Jenny Williams shows us in her well done biography, Fallada had a troubled youth.  For years he was an alcoholic and a morphine addict, in an out of treatment centers and prison, for embezzlement and for a bizzare murder suicide duel.  He tried several times to break from his addictions and was sucessful for long periods.  He obtained a good job, especially for one who loved books and the reading life as did Fallada.  Fallada worked for a well know publisher as a book reviewer.  He was a rapid writer and began to write articles, short stories and novels.  His family always provided Fallada and his wife with an allowance.  He hit the jack pot when his novel Little Man What Now, 1932,  became a best seller in Germany after which it was translated into numerous languages.  It became a selection of the American  Book of the Month Club and was made into a movie by Hollywood.  This success enabled him to to spend the rest of his life as a professional writer.  German literature from 1933 to 1945 when the war ended, was regulated by Nazi bureaus. Censors were normally not terribly bright or cultured and Fallada learned how to work within the rules without totally giving up his integrity.

Many leading German writers and intellectuals left Germany.  Hans Fallada decided to stay and learned to work within the acceptable guidelines.  Joseph Goebells, Nazi called him" a very talented fellow".  Fallafa was not a Nazi, just a man who wanted to live by writing novels and stories.  He began again to escape into alcohol and morphine when he could not accept the horrors of Nazi rule. 

  After the war ended, he lived in the Russian area of control in Berlin, he had some difficulties and was briefly in a mental,hospital.  Once he got out he wrote his master work, We All Die Alone in just 24 days.  He died at fifty, taken to an early grave by his demons.

Jenny Williams has done a good job laying out the facts of Fallada's life.  She lets us see how hyper inflation made life so challenging in Germany.  

Only those already interested in Fallada will read this book and that is how it should be.  

JENNY WILLIAMS is Senior Lecturer in German at Dublin City University

Mel u

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