Every Man Dies Alone
Publication Date: October 19, 2010
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This never-before-translated masterpiece—by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn’t join the Nazi Party—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. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, they 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, it’s 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.
Before WWII , German writer Hans Fallada’s novels were international bestsellers, on a par with those of his countrymen Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse. In America, Hollywood even turned his first big novel, Little Man, What Now? into a major motion picture.
Learning the movie was made by a Jewish producer, however, Hitler decreed Fallada’s work could no longer be sold outside Germany, and the rising Nazis began to pay him closer attention. When he refused to join the Nazi party he was arrested by the Gestapo—who eventually released him, but thereafter regularly summoned him for “discussions” of his work.
However, unlike Mann, Hesse, and others, Fallada refused to flee to safety, even when his British publisher, George Putnam, sent a private boat to rescue him. The pressure took its toll on Fallada, and he resorted increasingly to drugs and alcohol for relief. After Goebbels ordered him to write an anti-Semitic novel, he snapped and found himself imprisoned in an asylum for the “criminally insane”—considered a death sentence under Nazi rule. To forestall the inevitable, he pretended to write the assignment for Goebbels, while actually composing
three encrypted books—including his tour de force novel The Drinker—in such dense code that they were not deciphered until long after his death.
Fallada outlasted the Reich and was freed at war’s end. But he was a shattered man. To help him recover by putting him to work, Fallada’s publisher gave him the Gestapo file of a simple, working-class couple who had resisted the Nazis. Inspired, Fallada completed Every Man Dies Alone in just twenty-four days.
He died in February 1947, just weeks before the book’s publication.
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
“The greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis.”
“One of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. ... Please, do not miss this.”
“An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin.”
–Philip Kerr, author of the Berlin Noir series
“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 in your ear: “This is how it was. This is what happened.”
–New York Times Book Review
“Has the suspense of a John le Carré novel … visceral, chilling ….”
–The New Yorker
“One of the most extraordinarily ambitious literary resurrections in recent memory ....”
–The Los Angeles Times
“A one-of-a-kind novel … Fallada can be seen as a hero, a writer-hero who survived just long enough to strike back at his oppressors.”
–The Toronto Globe and Mail
“Stunningly vivid characters … gets you inside Nazi Germany like no other novel.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle
–The St. Petersburg Times
“This is a novel that is so powerful, so intense, that it almost hums with electricity.”
"It has something of the horror of Conrad, the madness of Dostoyevsky and the chilling menace of Capote’s 'In Cold Blood.'... In the quiet Quangels, Fallada has created an immortal symbol of those who fight back against 'the vile beyond all vileness' and so redeem us all."
– Roger Cohen, The New York Times/International Herald Tribune