Posts Tagged every man dies alone

Every man dies alone. (Hans Fallada, 1947)

Every man dies alone. (Hans Fallada, 1947). Original title: Jeder stribt fur sich allein

Every Man Dies Alone gives a poignant look into Nazi Germany during the second World War.  The main characters are based on a real-life couple that rebelled against the Party and their sadistic ways.  Anna and Otto Quangel are representations of the millions of working class Germans struggling to stay humane despite the many hurdles that come their way.  Following their son’s death fighting for Hitler in the War, Anna and Otto conjure up the idea to leave postcards with anti-Naziism phrases in busy office buildings for people to read and hopefully become inspired by.  Little do they know that these postcards strike mostly fear into the people who pick them up and are quickly turned into the police without even a whisper of inspiration instilled.

I bought this book because it was on the recommendations list of a local bookstore.  It’s not the typical book I would pick up, but I’m glad I read it.  The only other Nazi Germany-based book that I read was The Diary of Anne Frank ages ago while I was still in grade school.  I don’t think I was mentally mature enough to understand the implications of Anne Frank’s words then.  The strength of human character that lives in the face of tremendous turmoil, indecencies at every corner, and every-present fear is astonishing.  Leaving postcards at the doors and windows of office buildings may not seem like much of a stand against injustice, but just the simple fact that these two people never succumbed to the lures of the Party, ignoring its advantages in status and wealth, is commendable.  There were so many normally good-natured people that became greedy snitches to eliminate suspicions of themselves.  But really, you can’t blame those people for trying to survive under such harsh circumstances.

Although the story ends with Anna and Otto’s deaths (Otto by execution and Anna by accident), there’s still an undertone of hope and accomplishment through it all.  When I reflect on the book, I feel sadness when I think of all the suffering but I also feel proud of the perseverance of decency.

Perhaps even more fascinating than the book itself is the story of the author, Hans Fallada, an incurable addict who lived in and out of prisons and psychiatric institutions for most of his life.  He attempted suicide as a teenager with a childhood friend.  The two boys were to shoot each other with pistols and die together.  When Fallada’s friend missed, Fallada took it upon himself to end his own life.  Somehow, Fallada managed to survive the incident despite shooting himself in the chest.  Crazy, right?

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