“All my life long I have fed on people,” a young Fallada wrote, “I have storied them in my mind with their ways of moving, speaking, feeling, and now I have them there, ready for instant use. Nothing has ever interested me so much as the realization why people behave as they do. My otherwise hopeless memory is excellent for each detail, the most trivial facts I learn about the habits of my fellow man.”
- Hans Fallada
June is Lost Books month here on the Devil's Accountant and with the new Front List/Back List format I have decided to use Mondays throughout June to feature titles by publishers who have resuscitated lost books.
Today I am featuring three books published by that fine firm from Brooklyn.
Melville House's Hans Fallada
The question of how Hans Fallada went Out-Of-Print in the US and other English language countries is a somewhat disconcerting one. His writing should have been influential, perhaps immensely so, as it contains elements of what would be hailed by later generations in the writings of Franz Kafka, Witold Gombrowicz and to some degree even Vladimir Nabokov. Perhaps the one difference (and it is much to Fallada's credit) is that Fallada wrote with more tooth, more political claw and fang, than those other names above. Sure, he could be as obliquely humorous as Kafka or as outrageously slapstick as Gomrbowicz, but he did so in front of the horrid backdrop of German fascism and with a steadying rudder of realism.
Hans Fallada is the nome de plume of Rudolph Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen. He took the name Fallada in order to insulate his respected father from the implications of his fiction’s matter-of-fact dealings with life on the down and out. The name Fallada is taken from the horse Falada of the classic German fairy tale, The Goose Girl (Grimm’s Fairy Tales has a definitive telling).
Over the last two years Melville House has republished Fallada's writings with additional informative materials and in stunning new translations. The diversity of appeal and memorable nature of Fallada's writings is such that at once I thank (as a reader) Melville House for bringing the books back to life and ask (as a critic) how did it happen that these books were gone from our shelves for decades.
The important thing is of course that they are back on them now.
Here are three of Fallada's books issued by Melville House. Others can be found on their website.
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. Translated by Michael Hofmann. Fiction. ISBN: 1935554042. 544 pps. $16.95.
from Melville House's website...
"The greatest book ever writtten about German resistance to the Nazis."
- Primo Levi
This rediscovered masterpiece, lost after World War II, was translated for the first time into English last year by Melville House and became one of the most acclaimed books of the year.
It presents a rich detailed portrait of life in Berin under the Nazis and tells a sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand against the Nazis 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 campagin that soon has 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 moving story of two people who stand up for what's right, and for each other.
The Drinker by Hans Fallada. Translated by Charlotte and A.L. Lloyd. Afterword by John Willet. Melville House. ISBN: 9781933633657. 304 pp. $16.95.
from a March of 2009 Devil's Accountant post...
Fallada’s early works were received by the Nazis as critiques of the Wiemar Republic. In reality Fallada described a poverty that exists in any place or time, and in his harsh treatment of communists the Nazis overlooked his equally critical comments on fascism. Joseph Goebbels forced him at one point to write an anti-Semitic (or at least anti-Weimar) tract. Fallada resisted, but in time he caved under the increasing pressure. Following this caving Fallada was never quite the same. The reliance on alcohol for escape and the admission of cowardice when confronted with a dire situation were things that Fallada perhaps shared with his quintessential drunkard, Erwin Sommer.
Admission of cowardice is no easy thing. Even harder is rendering it as a lesson. Like the horse in the old fairy tale, Fallada to the end lived to unmask treachery with his words.
The Drinker was one of Fallada's last works and certainly one that was written at the height of Nazi power. It is however a brilliant rumination on of urfascism and the minutiae of a society journeying toward the inhumane.
Wolf Among Wolves (published 2010) by Hans Fallada. Based on a contemporaneous translation by Philip Owens that has been revised and restored in full by Thorsten Carstensen and Nicholas Jacobs. Afterword by Thorsten Carstensen. Fiction. Melville House. Trade paperback. ISBN: 1933633921. 816 pps. $18.95.
From Melville House's website...
Wolf Among Wolves is a sprawling saga of the collapse of a culture--its economy and government--and the common man's struggle to survive it all. Set in Weimar Germany soon after Germany's catastrophic loss of World War I, the story follows a young gambler who loses all in Berlin, then flees the chaotic city, where worthless money and shortages are causing pandemonium. Once in the countryside, however, he finds a defeated German army that has deamped there to foment insurrection. Somehow, amidst it all, he finds romance--it's The Year of Living Dangerously in a European setting.
Fast-moving as a thriller, fascinating as the best historical fiction, and with lyrical prose that packs a powerful emotional punch, Wolf Among Wolves is the equal of Fallada's acclaimed Every Man Dies Alone as an immensely absorbing work of important literature.
That, my cultured friends, is what preservation is about.