Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada. (1937, translated by Phillip Owens, 810 pages)

I offer my great thanks to Max ü for proving me with the Amazon gift card that allowed me to read Wolf Among Wolves.

I am estatic to once again be able to Participate in German Literature Month, elegantly and lovingly hosted by Lizzi's Literary Live and Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. This is my fourth year as a participant.   On the host blogs you will find the particularities of the event but the basic idea is to read literature first written in German (translated or not) and share your thoughts.  I began accumulating works for the event soon after the event ended last year and I began reading for it in mid-September.  

Works Read for G L V So Far

1.  Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. A brilliant recreation of life in Nazi Germany. 

2.  Ostend, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and the Summer Before the End by Volker Weidermann. A fascinating social history 

3.  Buddenbrook Ths Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann.  Must reading 

4.  "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig

5.  Demian:  The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth by Herman Hesse.  Read the major works first.

6.  The Tanners by Robert Walser. a serious work of art

7. The Hotel Years Wandering Between the Wars by Joseph Hoffman, a brilliant collection of feuilletons translated and introduced by Michael Hoffman

8.  "The Dandelioln" by Wolfgang Borchert. 

9.   "The Foundling" by Heinrich Von Kleist

10.  "A Conversation Concerning Legs" by Alfred Lichenstein 

11.  A Homage to Paul Celan

12.  "The Criminal" by Veza Canetti 

13.  Rebellion by Joseph Roth. Between the wars

14.  The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch - an amazing work of art

15.  The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun.  Sex and the City redone in the Weimer Republic  

At the start of German Literature Month V I read Every Man Dies Alone by Henry Fallada.  Primo Levi called it the best book ever written on Nazi Germany.  I loved it and accept the author's pronouncement that he produced a work of genius.  It is consistently very exciting.  

Wolf Among Wolves, a longer book, focuses on the impact of the hyper-inflation in Germany in the years after WW One.  The German Mark went from four to the dollar to four billion to the dollar.  The thrifty German middle class saw the savings of a life time wiped out.  Those who had debts  to pay greatly benefited from the inflation.  

The story follows the fate of three German war veterans.  It focuses a lot on a young man who struggles to support his girl friend working as a professional gambler while living in Berlin.  Germany's defeat in the war has destroyed the pride of the country.  Heroin and cocaine are the drugs of choice.   Prostitution is rampant, many an ex soldier is portrayed as turning tricks for foreigners with American dollars come to,the city for the rampant vice.  Police and government officials are all on the make.  We receive frequent announcements of the fall of the mark.  There was a time when a savings of ten thousand marks was enough for a comfortable retirement.  Fallada lets us see how crushing the inflation was on the very thrift oriented German middle class.  The poor had to,struggle terribly just to survive.  Many of the rich had reserved in dollars or pounds.

Fallada vividly portrays the period.  You can see how hyper inflation made the Germans vulnerable to an ideology which blamed their miseries on the Jews.  There are lots of interesting scenes.  In one very interesting case we witness a mortgage being converted from payments in marks to payment in bread.
Gangsters gain control of society.  

Bio Data from Melville House
Before WWII, German writer Hans Fallada's novels were international bestsellers, on a par with those of his countrymen Thoman 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, the Nazis blocked Fallada's work from foreign rights sales, and 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. Not long 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.
Wolf Among Wolves  is thoroughly entertaining. The characters are very well done.  I would suggest that those new to,Fallafa ffirst read Every Man Dies Alone. The next of Fallada's book i shall read is A Small Circus.  
I hope others will share their experiences with Fallada and other novels depicting Weimer Germany share their experiences.

Mel ü


1 comment:

Suko said...

Mel, I'm glad that you found Wolf Among Wolves to be thoroughly entertaining. I am not familiar with this work (although I am better off now, having visited your blog).

Enjoy your weekend!