Sunday, 6 February 2011

Book Review - Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Synopsis - Berlin in 1940.  A city paralysed by fear but one man refuses to be scared.  Otto, an ordinary German living in a shabby apartment block with his wife under Nazi rule, tries to saty out of trouble.  On discovering his son has been killed in battle he decides to write anti-Nazi postcards and drops them off anonymously across the city.  If he is caught, he will be executed.  Soon this silent capaign comes to the attention of the Gestapo Inspector Escherich, and a murderous game of cat and mouse begins.
Review - The author Hans Fallada died in Berlin in 1947.  He wrote under this pseudonym, his real name was Rudolph Ditzen.  This book has been translated by Michael Hofmann.
I feel that I have to give this book 3* (good) rating even though I did not like it.  I did not like the writing style but I do wonder that sometimes descriptions and meanings can change in translation.  To coin the phrase "lost in translation".  The writer depicts how life must have been under Nazi Germany living in Berlin.  The lack of trust, continually watching your own back, being spied upon and constantly living with paranoia.  The desperate lengths people will go to stay out of trouble and those who will do anything for the Nazi's both out of their own belief and out of terror.  The book shows the nature of those with power and how they abuse their own.  Is this out of terror for themselves if they fail?  Or is it the brutal brainwashing of the regime that has turned them into such characters?  Otto's act of rebellion was both stupid and selfish.  He must have known that one day he would get caught, he even sensed it.  It was not just his life to pay but that of his wife, her family and the unfortunate Trudel and her husband.  I realise that my review does not do this book the justice that it perhaps deserves but it was not for me. 3*

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