Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

alone in berlin

This book (recently adapted for the screen with Brendan Gleeson starring) is based on the true story of a German couple in the early part of WW2 living in Berlin. Both are quiet, respectable, working class people who were not recorded as showing any signs of political dissent. During the invasion of France however, the wife’s brother is killed in action. His death turns the couple resoultely against the Nazi state.

This was one of the first anti-Nazi novel’s published after the end of the war and has been translated into numerous languages, such is its regard amongst Germans and other Europeans who felt the brunt of Nazi power.

Most of the book’s narrative power comes from this reality that what you are reading is non-fiction. The author, who’s life is absolutely fascinating by the way, came upon the account of this couple upon the intervention of a friend. Struggling with his muse and his mental health, Fallada’s friend had hoped to reinvigorate the author. Fallada wrote the novel in less than 2 months during a sojourn in a mental institution and died 4 months later.

Despite the story behind the book, I found it a little dull at times. You get the sense that a lot has been lost in translation as anachronistic German phrases are repeatedly used which just don’t work in English, e.g. “such and such person….”. It’s also a very long book. 600 pages long, in fact. It could be nearly halved it’s so much. It’s worth reading, but the dullness persists till the end and for that reason I just couldn’t call it a great book.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ website here.

3 thoughts on “Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

  1. I’ve seen the film. Really enjoyed. I did think the book page length looked a lot given the actual span of the film. But the story behind it re the author is quite something too obviously and perhaps explains some of why it might be dull in places.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I watched it at Xmas on Netflix as one of a ton when I had pneumonia and flu. AND I thought it was excellent which was why I googled the book. But I accept that one person’s meat is another’s poison in the film category. I thought Brendan Gleason and Emma Thompson turned in sterling performances. On the laws of averages, in terms of how, when it came to how many his character had reached, given some of the messages probably washed into drains and things–so could be subtracted from the suggested total– it wasn’t much, but the fact they still did it was what was inspiring.

        Liked by 1 person

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