"Jeder stirbt für sich allein"
January 5, 2020 7:17 AM   Subscribe

The complicated life story of Hans Fallada (1893 – 1947), Meth head and Insanely maladjusted German author, who wrote “Every Man Dies Alone” (or 'Alone in Berlin'), "the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis".
Born Rudolf Ditzen, he took his pen name Fallada from the magical talking horse in the Grimm tale 'The Goose Girl'. The horse is killed because it always tells the truth and continues to do so even after decapitation.
German site.
Previously on Metafilter
posted by growabrain (10 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
This novel sounds amazing! I'll have to pick up a copy.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:52 AM on January 5

It's relentlessly grim, but for sure worth reading as a novel (not merely as a historical artifact).
posted by thelonius at 10:36 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]

It's gripping.
posted by Lyme Drop at 1:37 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

I have read another novel by Fallada, Little Man, What Now? It is about a husband and wife surviving Depression-era Germany. If you are into Fallada's grimness, you'll love this one.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:45 PM on January 5

Fallada is amazing. Relentlessly grim. The Drinker is also definitely worth a read.
posted by saladin at 5:28 PM on January 5

The story of the Hampels and their resistance is appended to at least one of the translations of Every Man Dies Alone (Melville House). They were courageous people whose anti-Nazi actions never mobilized masses of people. I suppose that is why the article says their resistance was a failure. But that is partly what Fallada is writing about: Not to resist is to fail. If the Hampels were unable to save anyone but themselves -- well, see the title.
posted by CCBC at 5:30 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]

I just ordered it; I can't wait for it to get here.
Tangentially, I had never heard of The Goose Girl, but it's a quick read.
posted by ambulocetus at 5:40 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

Not to resist is to fail.

That's it exactly. When telling my brother about this book he asked "Why'd they do it?" and my answer: They had to do something.
posted by Rash at 7:40 PM on January 5

Mildred countered: "Perhaps, Herr Ditzen, it is less important where one lives than how one lives."
Fallada said nothing.
After a moment, Mildred asked, "Can one write what one wishes here these days?"
"That depends on one's point of view," he said. There were difficulties and demands, words to be avoided, but in the end language endured, he said. "Yes, I believe one can still write here in these times if one observes the necessary regulations and gives in a little. Not in the important things, of course."
Mildred asked: "What is important and what unimportant?"
Martha wrote: "He revealed uneasiness and self-consciousness, though he tried to be proud and happy in the infant, in his self-tilled garden, in his simple buxom wife, in the many translations and editions of his books lining the shelves. But he was an unhappy man." ... Mildred described him as cowardly and weak but then added, "He has a conscience and that is good. He is not happy, he is not a Nazi, he is not hopeless."
Martha recorded another impression: "I saw the stamp of naked fear on a writer's face for the first time."

Fallada became, ultimately, a controversial figure in German literature, reviled in some quarters for his failure to stand up to the Nazis but defended in others for not choosing the safer path of exile. In the years that followed Martha's visit, Fallada found himself increasingly compelled to bend his writing to the demands of the Nazi state.
Fallada saw this [the Goebbels-directed rewriting of Iron Gustav] as a prudent concession. "I do not like grand gestures," he wrote; "being slaughtered before the tyrant's throne, senselessly, to the benefit of no one and to the detriment of my children, that is not my way."
He recognized, however, that his various capitulations took a toll on his writing. He wrote to his mother that he was not satisfied with his work. "I cannot act as I want to - if I want to stay alive. And so a fool gives less than he has."
Other writers, in exile, watched with disdain as Fallada and his fellow inner emigrants surrendered to government taste and demands. Thomas Mann, who lived abroad throughout the Hitler years, later wrote their epitaph: "It may be superstitious belief, but in my eyes, any books which could be printed at all in Germany between 1933 and 1945 are worse than worthless and not objects one wishes to touch. A stench of blood and shame attaches to them. They should all be pulped."
In The Garden Of Beasts, Erik Larson
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:19 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]

Apparently, Terence Malick's new film, A Hidden Life, touches on this question of personal resistance. It is based on the life of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who declared himself a conscientious objector and was executed by the Nazis. He has been beatified by the Church. (Re: this kind of resistance, cf. sculptor Ruedi Baur's Cologne monument and the Unknown Deserter memorials in various cities, constructed as counters to the Blood-and-Glory monuments.)
"Inner emigrants" may have been disdained by Mann and those others who were able to arrange a comfortable exile, but there are no manuals of correct behavior for those who resist unsupported.
posted by CCBC at 5:18 PM on January 25

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