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Editorial Reviews

On its first publication into English in 2009, Hans Fallada’s 1947 book instantly took its place amongst 20th-century classics, aided (with the exception of a few jarring choices) by Michael Hoffman’s clean and lively translation. This recording, dripping with character, should help spread the word of this modest masterpiece even further.

Essentially, the book shows how corruption, intimidation, and fear radiate outwards from a morally bankrupt political center to the furthest reaches of society — a world of fear where neighbors and strangers alike are on the make, not to be trusted. The effects of countless assaults on personal decency and integrity are pitilessly displayed as, like an unblinking camera, Fallada follows each plot line to its conclusion. The remorseless force of destiny that propels each event is no less harrowing for being inevitable.

George Guidall possesses an idiosyncratic voice — if you already love this book, no doubt each character is a vivid presence in the back of your mind, and it will take a while to acclimate to Guidall’s aged and vinegary voice. But it is also a surprisingly malleable instrument — Fallada’s rich cast of characters is wholly present as Guidall shifts between long-suffering, resolute, broken, wheedling, pleading, and avuncular.

Guidall’s performance brings life to Fallada’s achievement in combining the cat-and-mouse criminal investigation of Crime and Punishment with Balzac’s exploration of society’s lower orders: In his portrayal of the cynical and relentless Gestapo inspector Escherich, the voice drips with insinuation and corruption, while the simple proletarian couple at the heart of the book speak with long-suffering endurance and increasingly angry resistance.

Every Man Dies Alone is also striking in the depth and complexity of its female characters, and here, too, Guidall delivers a set of subtly shaded performances. And in the last chapters, where suffering and oppression are raised to a state of grace, the spoken and written word become indivisible as the dramatic power of Fallada’s redemptive vision is movingly delivered by Guidall. —Dafydd Phillips

Publisher's Summary

Hans Fallada wrote this stunning novel in only 24 days—just after being released from a Nazi insane asylum. Based on a true story, Every Man Dies Alone tells of a German couple who try to start an uprising by distributing anti-fascist postcards during World War II. But their dream ultimately proves perilous under the tyranny that dominates every corner of Hitler’s Germany.

©2009 Melville House Publishing; Translation, Michael Hofman (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"The book has the suspense of a John le Carré novel, and offers a visceral, chilling portrait of the distrust that permeated everyday German life during the war." (The New Yorker)

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  • Overall
  • Heimo
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • 04-06-10

a difficult masterpiece

for anyone who wants to know what it was like to live in world war 2 germany, this is probably the best place to learn. for me the book was at times humorous, at times heart breaking, at times astonishing. the level of characterization rivals balzac at his best, the layers of political plotting are as good as dostoeyvsky. the writer apparently loved dickens and it shows. even in their darkest hours, fallada s good characters cannot be anything but good. which is good because evil characters abound in the book as they did in nazi germany. you can read a book like Hitlers Willing Executioners and be stunned into belief, but in a book like this you live the life of the revolutionary character in a way that gets into your soul. these two characters could be your parents, or your grandparents. they are difficult and loveable, and to the very end of the book nothing matters as much as their fate.

I do not agree that any of the characters or their dialogue feel dated. rather it is the reading given by this narrator that makes it sound that way. he gives one character a whiny voice that was probably accurate, but in an audio book, with no face to go along with it, it did seem exaggerated, even cartoonish. there were a few times when i thought the book would have been served better by a less exciteable acting. but that is only my opinion, someone else might love it. the narrator did a fantastic job otherwise, and obviouslsy gave it his whole heart. it was convincing and passionate.

a note about the translator. if you like this book, you should check out his other translations, particularly the books of joseph roth whom i had never heard of until moving to germany many years ago. he is now one of my favorite writers, and that debt is owed to this translator who is a poet, and who has a fantastic way with words.

this book should be read by anyone who thinks torture is a good idea, at any time, for any reason.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Cariola
  • Chambersburg, PA USA
  • 01-02-12

Hard Times

Written in 1947, this novel is based on the true story of a working class couple who left anonymous post cards in and around Berlin during the Nazi regime. The subversive cards encouraged people to sabotage the Nazi war effort by slowing down work in any way possible. The real-life couple, as well as the novel's main characters, Otto and Anna Quangel, were eventually captured and executed. There are also several subplots involving neighbors and relatives of the Quangels, including an elderly Jewish woman whose husband was taken away by the Nazis, an SS officer, a young thug making his way up the ranks of the Hitler youth, a female postal worker and her long-philandering husband, and others. Like most stories about Nazi Germany, this is the story of common people struggling just to survive and, sometimes, taking extraordinary risks along the way.

I found [Every Man Dies Alone] difficult to read because of its relentless tension and the relentless cruelty and manipulations of the Nazis and their sympathizers. I'm sure that is exactly the effect that the author had hoped for, but: 1) I felt that I had suffered through similar books before, so there were few surprises; and 2) I just kept wishing that it would be over, since the unhappy ending was inevitable. These comments aren't meant to be disparaging; they just express the emotional impact that the book had on me personally. Would I recommend it? Yes, with the caution that it is far from a light summer read. If you 'appreciated' (I can't say 'enjoyed') books like Night or Schindler's List, you might want to put Every Man Dies Alone on your wish list--but don't expect heroism, suffering, and endurance to be rewarded here, nor the evil to be punished.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Powerful and Deeply Moving

This audio book may be as close to a masterpiece as it gets. I am just coming back from the journey and still reeling from the experience. The depiction of a range of simple, accessible characters finding surprising dimensions of themselves at moments of crisis and struggle; a degeneration of a society on a macro and an interpersonal level; a tapestry of images of humanity at its best and at its worst - I became hopeless immersed in the world of this novel. George Guidall brings the art of narration to a new level, bringing dozens of characters to life with a kind of subtlety of vocal gesture that serves the material perfectly. A beautiful, painful, piercing look into some of the darkest and most inspiring places in the human soul. It's going to take me some time to recover.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Enjoyable

I felt that I was all WWII'd out by time I got to this book. I didn't realize it was 20 hours long until I started it, and it went a little slow. But after the 2 or 3 hour mark it really opened up for me. As a 30-something American, I felt this author did what few other WWII books can do... and that was to place me in Berlin, in the experience of many different facets of average German men and women as they either obeyed their commanders, or defied Nazi rule. Ironically, I happened to be listening to Stephen King's "IT" at the same time and saw many similarities of average, seemingly powerless people trying to fight a giant evil that no one believes but them. I am very glad I read this book and if you do attempt it, please give it time to blossom. I seriously was ready to give up on it after two hours, but it grew on me. The characters suddenly came very alive.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ellen
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 09-20-10

Kind of slow, but very revealing

I think readers should know the back story of this book before they begin. It's not great literature, but it's very important and unique, and therefore worth listening to, especially in this age of Holocaust deniers. The author wrote it during the Nazi era while living in Germany. He had a chance to get out, but thought it couldn't be all THAT bad. Well, it was. Because this book was written (in code! in secret!) during the Nazi era in Germany, no one can say the tales of people being turned over to the Gestapo were exaggerated or life under the Nazis wasn't that bad. Of course they could try to deny that the denunciations, imprisonments, and executions as portrayed in this book happened, but the fact this book was written during the time instead of years later made an impression on me (I am younger than those who lived during that era.) I heard a Holocaust survivor say that she had only recently begun to speak out because there were so many deniers today. OK this book is not about the Holocaust per se, but about life inside Germany and how you could be denounced, imprisoned, and executed if you were suspected of not supporting the Nazi regime. Before I read this book, I didn't know the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose society and how they got executed for distributing anti-Nazi flyers. The couple in this book who distributed anti-Nazi flyers was based on a real couple, who were executed.

This book moves a little slowly, but it is worth listening to because people need to know and remember what really went on. All my life I have wondered "Why did the Germans go along with the Nazis?" I didn't really know what life was like inside Germany at that time.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Fasinating view of life in Nazi Germany

This is a fascinating book. This book is about a real couple who lived in Berlin during World War 2. Their son was in the German army and was killed during the invasion of France. The couple then started to write and distribute letters and post cards denouncing the war, Hitler and the Nazi regime.

There are many characters in the book. There are several subordinate stories and sub plots written through the novel. All of this is key for me, and American, to understand How Germans lived and what life was like in Nazi Germany. Eventually the couple is caught, tortured and killed. They die with honor and with their dignity intact.

According to Wiki, the book was written, by Hans Fallada in 24 days. He died only a few months after completing the book. The translation works well and there is enough german left to help the book be completely believable. The book was a best seller in 2009, when the English translation was published, and the reason for this is clear when you read it.

There is a great WIKI page about the book, movie and author.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Not at all what I expected!

i loved this book! It was such an interesting, well-narrated book. I'd expected something darker and not nearly so entertaining but I think this is because Guidall gave it just enough of a lift to keep it from being overly weighty or depressing. I recommend it and may very well listen to this tale again.

Side note: if the character is Eino, it should be pronounced A' No not N' O. (This is a family member's name.)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A masterpiece

This book is a masterpiece. Although it is a tragedy, it powerfully argues for the power of small acts of resistance, not for their efficacy in overturning a vile political order, but for the dignity of living with vulnerability, risk, responsibility, and, in the end, a kind of freedom, and of dying with honor. The narrator's voice brings the characters to life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger
  • Manchester, NH, United States
  • 08-25-17

Well written novel of a disaffected Berlin couple

excellent narration of a well crafted story of life in Nazi Germany during the war.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Glad it is over!

Interesting, but I was glad to have finished it and go on to something more my style.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful