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Summary and book reviews of Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

Every Man Dies Alone

by Hans Fallada

Every Man Dies Alone
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2009, 543 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2010, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Book Summary

This never-before-translated masterpiece—by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble under the Nazis— is based on a true story. It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front.

First published in Germany in 1947, Every Man Dies Alone is a true masterpiece from a bestselling writer who saw his life crumble following his decision not to flee Germany and his refusal to join the Nazi party. The novel presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple’s decision to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, Otto and Anna Quangel launch a simple, clandestine resistance campaign that soon has an enraged Gestapo on their trail, and a world of terrified neighbors and cynical snitches ready to turn them in. In the end, Every Man Dies Alone is more than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, more than a moving romance, even more than literature of the highest order—it’s a deeply stirring story of two people standing up for what’s right, and for each other.

Every Man Dies Alone

The postwoman Eva Kluge slowly climbs the steps of 55 Jablonski Strasse. She's tired from her round, but she also has one of those letters in her bag that she hates to deliver, and is about to have to deliver, to the Quangels, on the second floor.

Before that, on the floor below, she has a Party circular for the Persickes. Persicke is some political functionary or other — Eva Kluge always gets the titles mixed up. At any rate, she has to remember to call out "Heil Hitler!" at the Persickes' and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there's not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks. Not that she's a political animal, she's just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she's of the view that you don't put children in the world to have them shot. Also, that a home without a man is no good, and for the time being she's got nothing: not her two boys, not a man, not a proper home. So, she has to keep her lip buttoned, and deliver horrible field ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In what way does the apartment house at 55 Jablonski Strasse represent Berlin society as a whole? Do the occupations and character of the individual residents and their placement in the building reflect power structures or class systems within German culture at the time? Could you imagine an American equivalent?

  2. When we first meet Otto and Anna Quangel we have the sense that their relationship is very static. Does their relationship change over the course of the novel? How does it change? Many would call Every Man Dies Alone a love story. Would you agree?

  3. Hans Fallada brilliantly creates an atmosphere of fear, where all the characters are afraid of something. What are the different kinds of fear that effect them all? What role ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although it isn't a perfect novel, I would recommend it for Fallada's talent in showing us that sometimes the most frightening part of a war isn't dramatic at all -- it's the psychological game, that tension arising from waiting for something to happen, and wondering if it ever will, that slowly begins to wear the spirit down.   (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

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Media Reviews

New York Observer - James Martin

Though perhaps deficient in its treatment of the Jewish wartime experience, Fallada's novel - the work of one of the few German literary greats who did not emigrate during the war - provides a rich phenomenology of life lived under state surveillance ... one of the most immediate and authentic fictional accounts of life during the long nightmare of Nazi rule.

The New York Times - Liesl Schillinger

Rescued from the grave, from decades of forgetting, this novel…testifies to the lasting value of an intact, if battered, conscience…To read Every Man Dies Alone, Fallada's testament to the darkest years of the 20th century, is to be accompanied by a wise, somber ghost who grips your shoulder and whispers into your ear: "This is how it was. This is what happened."

Publishers Weekly

This disturbing novel.. isn't about bold cells of defiant guerrillas but about a world in which heroism is defined as personal refusal to be corrupted.

Kirkus Reviews

A very welcome resurrection for a great writer crucified by history.

The Globe & Mail - Alan Furst

At the end of the day, Every Man Dies Alone is a testament, nothing less. It is Fallada's attempt to retrieve the few shreds of honour and courage that the Nazis, no matter how viciously they tried, could not manage to destroy. Thus, in his way, Fallada can be seen as a hero, a writer-hero who survived just long enough to strike back at his oppressors. And it is in his honour, as a fellow novelist, that I wrote this review.

Author Blurb Primo Levi
The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis.

Author Blurb Alan Furst
Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone is one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. Fallada lived through the Nazi hell, so every word rings true–this is who they really were: the Gestapo monsters, the petty informers, the few who dared to resist. Please, do not miss this.

Reader Reviews

lotus

A very Important Book
This book takes place during the reign of Nazi Germany and details the lives of Germans living in a stage of constant fear and fear is what explodes off each page. It is about several people's reaction to Nazi Germany, in particular one couple's ...   Read More

Cortney Hankins

Every Man Dies Alone
"Every Man DIes Alone" is indeed an extraordinary book. The psychological and physical dismay are portrayed with talent and unmistakable genious. Although this novel was good, it was entirely too strung out. 543 pages is a lot and I'm sure ...   Read More

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Elise and Otto Hampel
Elise Every Man Dies Alone is inspired by Elise and Otto Hampel, a blue collar couple. Elise and Otto eluded the police and the Gestapo from September 1940-42, "leaving hundreds of postcards calling for civil disobedience and workplace sabotage all over Berlin."

EliseOne of the frequent subjects of the Hampels' postcards was the Winter Relief Fund, a seasonal charity backed by the Nazis, but widely suspected of being open to graft. A considerable public show was made of the fund, and not contributing to it was seen as a form of disloyalty. The Hampels used the fund as a touchstone of their opposition in part because "pressure to contribute was considerable, and armbands and pins were distributed for public display to ...

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