Every Man Dies Alone. Hans Fallada. Reviewed. In the Argo catalog.
Hans Fallada. HANS FALLADA. HANS FREAKING FALLADA. That is me yelling his name from the literary rooftops. Where has this guy been all my life? Have you ever wondered what Dostoevsky would have written about the Third Reich? Well now I think we know. Fallada knew that on our deathbeds the only judge that really counts is ourselves, and we will know better than anyone else whether our lives have been largely in the name of good or wasted in the name of evil, an especially important topic for someone living through the Early to Mid-Twentieth Century in Europe. Every Man Dies Alone is a story of German resistance to the Nazis. It is a tale of the banality of good in the face of real evil. It questions right and wrong from a staggering array of perspectives and leaves the reader dizzy. There are huge crimes and lesser ones, some straight forward others convoluted, sometimes it is difficult to know who the victim of a crime really is.
In the mess that was Third Reich Berlin Otto Quangel and his wife are leaving postcards denouncing the Nazis all over Berlin. A simple and seemingly small act that will cost them their lives if Hitler has his way. What a world of fear and hate Fallada depicts! When Fallada writes about facing death he knows what he is talking about. As a youth he was part of a homosexual scandal. Entered a duel with a friend (more of a suicide pact really). He shot and killed his lover, but the lover’s fire was to as accurate. Fallada picked up his lover’s weapon and shot himself in the chest, and failed to die. He was committed to a hospital and a life of drugs and alcohol followed. He writes from somewhere deep and succeeds in taking us to the heart of evil.
He demands you understand the position people were put in under the Nazis and further demands that we do not for a second forgive them for saving their own skins. His book could not be more compelling. It is (that clichéd term) a Staggering Literary Achievement that any high art literary buff needs to read. Fallada has several other books and you will be reading about them here in the near future. This is an author that has really, truly caught my attention. I am riveted even now that the book if over. I did not want it to end but am happy that there is so much more of him to read.