Read this: Alone in Berlin

Posted in Berlin, Books, facism, Labour party, Terrorism by Deputy city editor on April 15, 2009


Even before ‘Jackboots’ Jacqui Smith announced her plan to recruit block wardens throughout Britain, trained to work with the authorities in the war on terrorism, there was more than a strong whiff of fascism in the air.

To see  the consequences of how easy it is for people to be led down this road by unscrupulous leaders, there is Alone in Berlin.

Today Berlin is a city that throbs with youth, art and music, but these streets are cohabited by ghosts and they are far from exclusively Jewish.

You do not need to know Alexanderplatz to see the contemporary resonance in Hans Fallada’s brilliant testament of Nazi state terrorism.

Modern Britain, where the police also kill with impunity,  is a good place to read this.

Alone in Berlin has only now been published in English, in a superb translation by Michael Hoffman. (The book is published in America as Every Man Dies Alone.)   This is the best book I have read about Berlin during the war.

This is not the high society Berlin of the same period, described by Marie Vassiltchikov nor do the grand events of the war provide more than a passing backdrop to the events Fallada describes.  More or less everything happens in this book, all at once. There are love stories, tales of brutality, ordinary people who are extraordinary for their braveness and courage, and ordinary people who are bullies and cowards. This is yet more evidence that what happened in Germany could happen to any of us – and perhaps especially to the delusional British, with our demented politicians and ridiculous media.

Fallada died shortly after finishing this masterpiece. On the basis of the experience of reading this novel, he seems to me one of the great journalist/writers of the 20th century.

Click on the image above to look inside this book.