Alone in Berlin

by Hans Fallada | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 014118938X Global Overview for this book
Registered by TheGreenMan of York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on 8/19/2013
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by TheGreenMan from York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Monday, August 19, 2013
From the back cover:

"Berlin, 1940. The city is paralysed by fear. But one man refuses to be scared.

Otto, an ordinary German living in a shabby apartment block, tries to stay out of trouble under Nazi rule. But when he discovers his only son has been killed fighting at the front he's shocked into an extraordinary act of resistance, and starts to drop anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city. If caught, he will be executed.

Soon this silent campaign comes the the attention of ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich, and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse begins. Whoever loses, pays with their life."

Journal Entry 2 by TheGreenMan at Marazion, Cornwall United Kingdom on Monday, August 19, 2013
Picked up several years ago in Marazion, Cornwall - from the bookshelves of a holiday apartment (where I deposited some BookCrossing-registered books in exchange). Have only just got around to registering it however...

Journal Entry 3 by TheGreenMan at Marazion, Cornwall United Kingdom on Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Well, the good news is that I finally got around to reading this !

The bad news is that it was a little while ago (several months), so my memories of it are not as fresh as they could be...

However... it was very, very good and utterly gripping once I'd got started. The many different characters were really well delineated (and therefore relatively easy to follow) and also highly believable - and the plot felt, for the most part, realistic (which is not entirely surprising, given the author's own experiences). The frequently shifting perspectives gave it a moral complexity than was actually quite sophisticated - and all the better for being generally rather understated.

I felt I really got a sense of the terror and, simultaneously, surreal banality experienced by many ordinary (and not-so-ordinary) citizens living in Berlin during the war period and the despair, shame, guilt, powerlessness, naive hope, resentment, confusion, denial and anger that were all so mixed-up in people's minds at the time. The novel was also very good at showing all the different shades of these feelings that could be at work in any individual at any time - and how many motivations could be at work in any given series of events. Despite this, though, the author draws clear moral lines and [perhaps this pull between complex and simple morality is where a little of the formal weakness of the story lies?] propels his key characters to differing degrees of redemption (or damnation). Obviously, on one level, it is unfair to critique this aspect since it is based on real individuals who really suffered for their actions - but I think it is still possible to critique the tone of the redemption(s) that the author ascribes to his characters within his fictionalised *work of literature*... and that [especially at the very end of the book] has a tendency to be surprisingly sentimental, glib, forced and almost religious in nature, given what has gone before. The author partially recognises this when he writes (at the start of the last chapter) "But we don't want to end this book with death, dedicated as it is to life, invincible life, life always triumphing over humiliation and tears, over misery and death" - but, as true as that might be, by stating it so boldly, it makes the denouement seem all the more tenuous. Or maybe that's the point?? Maybe Fallada is trying to convey his sense of uncertainty at the end of the war by presenting such a compromised and arguably 'weak' final scene? I don't know...

Still, this is a magnificent and compelling work - absolutely worth reading by anyone even faintly interested in WWII - and an important examination to a whole aspect of wartime experience that often goes overlooked by both historians and fiction writers. It only narrowly fails to get the full 10/10 for the reasons given above - but these may be largely down to my own aesthetic and philosophical preferences, who knows?

Journal Entry 4 by TheGreenMan at York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Planning to release this at this evening's 'War'-themed BC Meetup in York...

Released 5 yrs ago (11/26/2013 UTC) at Monthly Bookcrossing Meetup at The Graduate in York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom


releasing, as promised...

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