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 5, 2016

A Small Circus A Novel by Hans Fallada (1931, translated by Michael Hoffman, 2012)

This will be the fifth year The Reading Life has participated in German Literature Month.  This event is one  of the reason it is great to be part of the international book blog community.  Last year I was motivated to read world class literary works by writers like Thomas Mann, Hermann Broch, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse as well as lesser know treasures.  I learned a lot from the many very erudite posts by coparticipants and from those by our very generous hosts Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.  You will find excellent reading suggestions and planned events on their blog.  To participate all you have to do is to post on any work originally written in German and put your link on the event blog.  

My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

Last year during Germany Literature Month in November, 2015 I read and posted on two novels by Hans Fallada (1893 to 1947)  Wolf Among Wolves and We All Die Alone.  

Wolf Among Wolves is often called The Vanity Fair of the Weimer Republic.  It is a long book with lots of characters.  Primo Levi said We All Die Alone is the best book ever written about life in Nazi Germany.  We All Die Alone is among the best novels I have ever read.  The characters are beautifully realized, the plot is very exciting.  You feel the fear of daily life in Nazi Germany.  After reading this I wanted for sure to read more by Fallada so I turned to Wolf Among Wolves.  I was disappointed by this book, maybe my expectations were too high but I did find the characters especially well developed or interesting.  If this had been my first book by Fallada I think it would have been my last and I would have missed out on We All Die Alone.  Anyway I liked this book so much I decided to read all his translated novels, a total of six, in the hope that maybe one was even better than We All Die Alone.  I was also motivated by a strong interest in life in Weimier and Nazi Germany.  

I am glad I read A Small Circus A Novel.  It is interesting and depicts a lot of the political strife in Germany that opened the door for the Nazis to rise to power but it is far from the quality of We All Die Alone.  The characters are not well developed and the plot about the small news paper began to wear me down. It will take an act of faith but I will try to one day read his other three novels. 

From the publisher's webpage

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.

Mel ü

1 comment:

Suko said...

Mel, thank you for your honest review of this work. I would like to read more German literature as well.