Alone in Berlin

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Penguin Classics, 2009 - Anti-Nazi movement - 568 pages
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BERLIN, 1940, AND THE CITY IS FILLED WITH FEAR.

In the house at 55 Jablonski Strasse, the various occupants are all trying to live under Nazi rule in their own different ways: the nervous Frau Rosenthal, the bulling Hitler-loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm, and the unassuming working-class couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangles receive the devastating news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France.

Shocked out of his quiet existence, the usually taciturn factory foreman Otto is provoked into an action that will endanger both his and his wife's lives. With her help, he begins to drop hundreds of anonymous postcards attacking Hitler in buildings all over the city. If Otto and Anna are caught, they will be executed for treason.

As the couple's silent campaign escalates, the cards come to the attention of the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich, and a deadly game of cat-and-mouse develops between them. When the petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, blackmail, deception, betrayal and murder ensure, gradually tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks . . .

Hans Fallada's gripping and haunting novel was first published in German in 1947. It is both a dark, fast-paced wartime thriller and a chilling portrayal of a paranoid, brutal society, where the smallest action can have fatal consequences, and love has to survive against the cruellest of odds. Michael Hofmann's powerful new translation brings this extraordinary masterpiece to English readers for the very first time.

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (Penguin Classics). First published in Germany in 1947 and evoking the horror of life in Germany in the Second World War. A rediscovered masterpiece that makes you want to seek out more works by this great chronicler of events in my own lifetime. - Barry Humphries

The other fictional high point of 2009 was Alone in Berlin (Penguin Classics), published in English translation for the first time. Hans Fallada's 1947 portrait of an ordinary German couple stung into a life of protest by the death of their soldier son is harrowing and masterly. - David Robson

Hans Fallada: Alone in Berlin (Penguin Classics). Fallada wrote this just before his death in 1947, brought on by appalling mistreatment by the Nazis. It is an extraordinary book, part thriller, part personal record and translated for the first time. - Justin Cartwright

Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin (Penguin Classics) was first published in Germany in 1947 but has taken more than 60 years to appear in English, in an excellent translation by Michael Hofmann. Primo Levi called it 'the greatest book ever written about resistance to the Nazis'. Its resisters are not the brave aristocrats who tried to kill Hitler and save German honour in July 1944, but ordinary working-class Berliners, and part of the fascination of this gripping novel comes from the vivid and terrible picture it offers of the Nazi regime seen from below. It is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment. - Allan Massie

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About the author (2009)

Hans Fallada was one of the best-known German writers of the twentieth century. Born in 1893 in Greifswald, north-east Germany, as Rudolph Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen, he took his pen-name from a Brothers Grimm fairytale. His most famous works include the novels, Little Man, What Now? and The Drinker. Fallada died in 1947 in Berlin.

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