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by Bamber Gascoigne

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Hans Fallada (1893-1947) - originally Rudolf Ditzen


German writer, representative of 'Neue Sachlichkeit', who took his pen name Fallada from the magical talking horse in the Grimm tale 'The Goose Girl'. The horse is killed because it always tells the truth and continues to do so even after decapitation. Fallada's best-known works include Kleiner Mann – was nun? (1932, Little Man, What Now?). It depicted the survival struggle and problems of a young couple, Johannes Pinneberg and Emma "Lämmchen" Mörschel, in Germany in the grip of unemployment. During World War II Fallada did not openly criticize the government, but published later on an intense story, Jeder stirbt für sich allein (1947, Every Man Dies Alone), about the life and thoughts of ordinary people in a police state. Primo Levi, the author of If This is a Man (1947), has called it "the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis."

"Persicke is some political functionary or other – Eva Kluge always gets the titles mixed up. At any rate, she has to remember to call out "Heil Hitler!" at the Persickes' and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there's not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks." (in Every Man Dies Alone, translated by Michael Hofmann, 2009)

Rudolf Ditzen (Hans Fallada) was born in Greifswald, the son of Wilhelm Ditzen, a jurist, and Elisabeth Ditzen (née Lorenz), who came from a family of clerics. Fallada's father would later become a supreme court judge. In his childhood memoir, Damals bei uns daheim (1941) Fallada described him as a sensitive man, who loved music and literature, and suffered deeply, when he had to condemn somebody to death and attend and witness the execution. The first 18 years of his life Fallada spent in Berlin and Leipzig. In his youth he joined the Wandervogel association, which arranged walking tours and journeys to young people. Due to its opposition to petty bourgeois conventions, it was viewed with suspicion by teachers and parents. After causing death of his friend in a duel in 1911 and trying to shoot himself, Fallada was confined to an asylum. His attempt to enlist the army in 1914 was rejected.

In his childhood Fallada had found the fantasy world of books. Among his favorite writers was Karl May, whose works he later, as an adult, bought – all 57 volumes. At one point of his life he sold his library to buy morphine. In his early teens Fallada read also works by such authors as Flaubert, Zola, Daudet, and Maupassant. Encouraged by his aunt Adelaide, who had known Nietzsche, Fallada went to Berlin, where he was introduced to expressionist circles. He worked in odd jobs, as a clerk, a bookkeeper, an estate agent, a dealer in provisions, and a potato grower. Fallada once claimed that he learned to identify 1,200 varieties of the tuber.

Between the years 1920 and 1922 Fallada wrote his first novels, starting with autobiographical Der junge Goedeschal (1920). In order not to embrass his father, Fallada published it under his pseudonym, which he used for all of his subsequent books. After his second novel, Anton und Gerda (1923), Fallada fell in silence for years. Neither novel was successfull, he became addicted to morphine, and was unable to write. Continuing his self-destructive way of life, Fallada was condemned into prison twice for embezzlement when trying to finance his drug habit. Fallada also spent times in clinics.

In the late 1920s Fallada's life took a new turn. He joined a temperance society and married in 1929 Anna Margarete Issel, a working class woman, who become a balancing force in his life. The couple moved to Holstein where Fallada was employed by Neumünster Advertiser, rising to the rank of an editor, and had a close observation place in the conflict between the socialist administration and the protesting farmers. After moving back to Berlin, where he worked for the Rowohlt Verlag, Fallada published Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben (1931), his first important novel. Kleiner Mann – was nun?, published by Rowolt, gained international success, and restored the firm's finances. (It was also the very first book in Rowohlt's paperback series starting in 1950, selling between 1950 and 1976 half a million copies.) As a tribute to his wife, Fallada modelled the figure of Lämmchen after her. Noteworthy, none of the main characters express stong political statements, they are reserved to minor characters. Pinneberg's colleague, a Nazi, is presented in an unsympathetic light. The novel was praised by Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Carl Zuckmayer and Graham Greene, and filmed eventually twice. Also Fallada's children's book became immense popular. Geschichten aus der Murkelei (1938), remained a classic for several generations of German children. Süßmilch Spricht: Ein Abenteuer Von Murr Und Maxe (1939) was a children's story commissioned by the Hitler Youth.

The realistic style of Neue Sachlichkeit (new factualism) was born as a reaction against expressionism in the 1920s. Like the Futurists in Italy, the movement acknowledged the importance of technological advances to the development of a new view of the world. Its prominent representatives included Fallada, Erich Kästner, and Erich Maria Remarque. Fallada's characters struggle with the social and economic difficulties of the era, the Inflation of 1923 and its effects, unemployment, poverty, and the decline of moral values. Though in general cynicism and disillusionment was the tone of fiction which dealt with topical issues and the discontent of the Kleinbürger, Fallada's social critical stories were often progressive in their content and expressed his faith in people. Critics considered his uncomplicated style banal, but his works were well received by readers.

Shortly after the Nazis seized the power in 1933, Fallada was briefly arrested by a stormtrooper unit. The former owner of the house, which he had purchased in Berkenbrück, had falsely accused him of being an anti-Nazi conspirator. Following this experience, he moved into the country, in Carwitz, near Feldberg. Almost all Fallada's novels, which he wrote in the 1930s, were translated into English. Setting aside his light non-contemporary novels, the best of these works provide an unique insight into everyday life in Germany by an author, who neither embraced Nazism nor left his home country, like so many of his friends and colleagues. Little Man, What Now? was filmed in Hollywood in 1934 by Universal Pictures, with Douglas Montgomery and Margaret Sullivan in the lead roles. The director, Frank Borzage (1893-1962), was known for his unabashed sentimentalism and lyrical tenderness. His other memorable films from the 1930s are A Farewell to Arms (1932), based on Hemingway's novel, and Three Comrades (1938), adapted from the novel by Eric Maria Remarque. Fallada was blacklisted by the Nazis in 1935. Under the pressure of the authorities he rewrote the ending of Der eiserne Gustav (1938). All negative Nazi references were censored. The book was aimed to be the basis of a film project starring Emil Jannings. Fallada's original manuscript has never been found. A restored edition was published in 1962 by the Aufbau-Verlag in East Berlin.

By the early 1940s, Fallada began to drink again, and had an affair with a woman, whom he later married. After a shooting incident when visiting Anna Issel – she took the gun, hit him in the head with it, and called a doctor – Fallada was incarcerated in an asylum near Berlin for four months. Whilst there Fallada set out to write Der Trinker. This almost illegible manuscript, scribbled in a very small hand and filling all empty places that could be filled, was not deciphered and published until 1950.

Der Trinker (1950). A novel written in the form of a diary. "Of course I have not always been a drunkard. Indeed it is not very long since I first too to drink. Formerly I was repelled by alcohol; I might take a glass of beer, but wine tasted sour to me, and the smell of schnaps made me ill. But then the time came when things began to go wrong with me." Erwin Sommer, a provincial merchant, starts to drink when his business is going down. His wife Martha, who had run the shop better, has devoted herself to take care of their home. Erwin has an affair with an other woman. He meets Lobedanz, who is an alcoholic and drinks with him Martha's money and tries to steal her silverware. He is later taken into an institution. Martha wants a divorce. In hospital Erwin infects himself with tuberculosis, hoping to die and to get drunk for the last time.

In February 1945 Fallada married Ursula Losch, herself an alcoholic and morphine addict, whose first husband had been a wealthy businessman. Fallada's relatively short second marriage lasted until his death. At the end of World War II Fallada was appointed mayor of Feldberg, after the Red Army had occupied the town. Later on he claimed, that the local commandant deliberately overworked him, "in order to get his hands on my twenty-four-year-old wife." When he resigned he was taken up by the literary establishment of the German Democratic Republic. He settled in East Berlin, where he was employed by the newspaper Tägliche Rundscauh and contributed to the East German journal Aufbau. With his wife Ursula he bought drugs from the black market and was long periods hospitalized.

Fallada died of an overdose of morphine on February 5, 1947 in Berlin. His last works include Jeder stirbt für sich allein, a story of a working-class couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, in their tragic fight against Gestapo. "The moral question is profound: if an action appears to have no effect, in that it is ignored or unnoticed by those to whom it was directed, then can it be considered to have had an effect in itself? And, if so, how is this effect felt and where is it manifested?" (Helen Dunmore, Guardian, Friday 7 January 2011) The real-life models of the fictional couple were two Berliners, Otto and Elise Hampel, who were executed after conducting an anti-Nazi postcard campaign. As research for the book Fallad looked through the Gestapo files from 1942 concerning the case. The story was suggested by Johannes R. Becher, a German author who served in the Soviet military administration and who provided him with extra rations and a comfortable house in Berlin. Der Alpdruck (1947), which was published posthumously, dealt with the feeling of guilt among survivors after the defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany.

For further reading: More Lives Than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams (1998); Hans Fallada - sein Leben in Bildern und Briefen, ed. by G. Müller-Waldeck, R. Ulrich, U. Ditzen (1997); Es war wie ein Rausch: Fallada und sein Leben by Cecilia von Studnitz (1997); World Authors 1900-1950, ed. Martin Seymor-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996); Hans Fallada: Beitrèage zu Leben und Werk: Materialien der 1. Internationalen Hans-Fallada-Konferenz in Greifswald (1993); Hans Fallada Als Politischer Schriftsteller by Reinhard K. Zachau ( 1990); Techniken der Leselenkung bei Hans Fallada by Angelika Kieser-Reinke (1986); Leben und Tode des Hans Fallada by Tom Crepon (1978); Hans Fallada in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten by J. Manthey (1973); Hans Fallada: Humanist and Social Critic by H.J. Schueler (1970); Hans Fallada by L. Frank (1966). Other writers who gained fame in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s: Bertolt Brecht, Erich Kästner, Joachim Ringelnatz, Carl Zuckmayer, Alfred Döblin, Ernst Glaeser, Hermann Kesten, Erich Maria Remarque, Leonhard Frank, Arnold Zweig, Ernst Wiechert. For further information: Die Hans-Fallada-Gesellschaft

Selected works:

  • Der junge Goedeschal, 1920
  • Anton und Gerda, 1923
  • Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben, 1931
    - A Small Circus (translated by Michael Hofmann, 2012)
    - Film: TV adaptation 1973 (5 episodes), dir. Egon Monk, prod. Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR)
  • Kleiner Mann – was nun?, 1932
    - Little Man, What Now? (translated by Eric Sutton, 1933; Susan Bennett, afterword by Philip Brady, 2009)
    - Mikä nyt eteen, Pinneberg? (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1933) / Mikä nyt eteen, pikkumies? (suom. 1935)
    - Films: 1933, dir. Fritz Wendhausen, screenplay Herbert Selpin, starring Hermann Thimig, Hertha Thiele, Viktor de Kowa, Ida Wüst; 1934, dir. Frank Borzage, screenplay William Anthony McGuire, starring Margaret Sullivan, Douglass Montgomery, Alan Hale ("Frank Borzage directed this fine, very unusual film that is set in Germany in the early thirties. Adapted from a novel by Hans Fallada, story tells of marriage between young bookkeeper Douglass Montgomery and lovely Margaret Sullivan, who are willing to endure hardships and poverty because of their great love for one another. ... Fine acting, authentic creation of pre-Hitler Germany, a strong argument for love. With Hollywood ignoring the Depression in the U.S., this was one the few films of the era to depict the plight of the indigent lumpen proletariat. Also with: Mae Marsh, Alan Mowbray, Hedda Hopper." Danny Peary in Guide for the Film Fanatic, 1986); TV film 1967, dir. Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, teleplay Klaus Jörn, starring Arno Wyzniewski, Jutta Hoffmann, Inge Keller, Wolf Kaiser; TV film 1973, dir. Peter Zadek, prod. Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)
  • Wer einmal aus dem Blechnapf frißt, 1934
    - The World Outside (translated by E. Sutton, 1934) / Who Once Eats out of the Tin Bowl (U.K. title, 1969)
    - Joka kerran keksitään (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1934)
  • Wir hatten mal ein Kind, 1934
    - Once We Had a Child (translated by E. Sutton, 1936)
    - Oli meilläkin ennen lapsi (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1934)
  • Märchen vom Stadtschreiber, der aufs Land flog, 1935
    - Sparrow Farm: The Tale of the City Clerk Who Flew into the Country for a Holiday (translated by E. Sutton, 1937)
  • Wizzel Kien, der Narr von Schalkemaren, 1935
  • Altes Herz geht auf die Reise, 1936
    - An Old Heart Goes A-Journeying By (tr. 1936)
    - Kummisetä ja Rosemarie (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1936)
    - Films: 1938, dir. Carl Junghans, starring Eugen Klöpfer, Helga Marold, Maly Delschaft, Gerhard Bienert, Carl Kuhlmann; TV film 1987, dir. Hans Knötzsch
  • Hoppelpoppel – wo bist du?, 1936
  • Wolf unter Wölfen, 1937
    - Wolf Among Wolves (translated by P. Owens, 1938; restored, and with additional translations by Thorsten Carstensen and Nicholas Jacobs, 2010)
  • Der eiserne Gustav, 1938
    - Iron Gustav (translated by P. Owens, 1940)
  • Geschichten aus der Murkelei, 1938
  • Dies Herz, das dir gehört, 1939 (film script)
  • Süßmilch spricht. Ein Abenteuer von Murr und Maxe, Erzählung, 1939
  • Kleiner Mann, Großer Mann – alles vertauscht, 1940
    - Ajatella – me perimme linnan: eli rahan murheet ja riemut (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1942)
  • Der ungeliebte Mann, 1940
  • Damals bei uns daheim, 1941 (ed. Lee Chadeayne and Paul Gottwald, 1972)
    - Lapsuudenkodissa: katsottua, koettua, keksittyä (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1944)
  • Die Stunde, eh' du schlafen gehst, 1941
  • Ein Mann will hinauf, 1942
  • Der Jungherr von Strammin, 1943 (ed. Barbara Thron, 1996)
  • Heute bei uns zu Haus, 1943
  • Der Alpdruck, 1947
  • Jeder stirbt für sich allein, 1947
    - Every Man Dies Alone (translated by Michael Hofmann, afterword by Geoff Wilkes, 2009) / Alone in Berlin (U.K. title, 2009)
    - Kukin kuolee itsekseen (suom. V. Arti, 1949)
    - Films: TV film 1962, dir. Falk Harnack, prod. Sender Freies Berlin (SFB); TV mini-series 1970, dir. Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, prod. Deutsche Film (DEFA), cast: Erwin Geschonneck, Elsa Grube-Deister, Wolfgang Kieling, Dieter Franke; 1976, dir. Alfred Vohrer, starring Hildegard Knef, Carl Raddatz, Martin Hirthe, Gerd Böckmann
  • Der Trinker, 1950
    - The Drinker (translated by C. and A.L. Lloyd, introduction by John Willett, 1990)
    - Elinkautinen (suom. Kyllikki Mäntylä, 1953)
    - TV film 1995, dir. Tom Toelle, prod. Artus-Film, cast: Harald Juhnke, Jutta Wachowiak, Deborah Kaufmann, Eberhard Esche, Christian Grashof
  • Zwei zarte Lämmchen weiß wie Schnee, 1953
  • Fridolin, der freche Dachs, 1944
    - That Rascal, Fridolin (translated by R. Michaelis-Jena and R. Ratcliff, 1959)
  • Junger Herr – ganz groß, 1965
  • Gesammelte Erzählungen, 1967
  • Lieschens Sieg und andere Erzählungen, 1973
  • Hoppelpoppel, wo bist du?: Und andere Kindergeschichten, 1989
  • Falladas Früwerk in zwei Bänden, 1993 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Wizzel Kien. Der Narr von Schalkemaren, 1995 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Drei Jahre kein Mensch: Erlebtes, Erfahrenes, Erfundenes : Geschichten aus dem Nachlass, 1929-1944, 1997 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Strafgefangener, Zelle 32: Tagebuch 22. Juni-2. September 1924, 1998 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Pechvogel und Glückskind: Ein Märchen für Kinder und Liebende, 1998
  • Mein Vater und sein Sohn: Briefwechsel, 2004 (ed. Uli Ditzen)
  • Wenn du fort bist, ist alles nur halb: Briefe einer Ehe, 2007 (ed. Uli Ditzen)
  • Ewig auf der Rutschbahn: Briefwechsel mit dem Rowohlt Verlag, 2008 (ed. Michael Töteberg and Sabine Buck)
  • In meinem fremden Land: Gefängnistagebuch 1944, 2009 (ed. Jenny Williams and Sabine Lange)

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