Books

Iron Gustav

Hans Fallada

A powerful story of the shattering effects of the First World War on both a family and a country - from Hans Fallada, bestselling author of Alone in Berlin

'This remarkable work, now complete after 76 years, could well be one of the finest novels any of us will ever read' Irish Times

Gustav Hackendahl's will is law. Known as 'Iron Gustav', he runs his family and his Berlin carriage business with stern, unyielding discipline. But his children have wills of their own, and soon they slip from his control - some to better lives, some towards disaster. As war breaks out and Gustav's beloved Germany is devastated by hardship and violence, he finds everything he believes in destroyed. Can the man of iron endure, or even change?

Brutal and moving, written with Hans Fallada's gift for capturing the small tragedies of ordinary lives, Iron Gustav is a heartbreaking family chronicle and an unflinching portrayal of the First World War and its aftermath.

Tales from the Underworld

Hans Fallada

Darkly funny, searingly honest short stories from Hans Fallada, author of bestselling Alone in Berlin

In these stories, criminals lament how hard it is to scrape a living by breaking and entering; families measure their daily struggles in marks and pfennigs; a convict makes a desperate leap from a moving train; a ring - and with it a marriage - is lost in a basket of potatoes.

Here, as in his novels, Fallada is by turns tough, darkly funny, streetwise and effortlessly engaging, writing with acute feeling about ordinary lives shaped by forces larger than themselves: addiction, love, money.

A Small Circus

Hans Fallada

A Small Circus is a powerful 1931 portrayal of a German town on the brink of chaos, from bestselling author Hans Fallada (writer of Alone in Berlin)

It is summer, 1929, and in a small German town a storm is brewing. The shabby reporter Tredup leads a precarious existence working for the Pomeranian Chronicle - until he takes some photographs that offer the chance to make a fortune. In Krüger's bar, the farmers are plotting their revenge on greedy officials. A mysterious travelling salesman from Berlin , Henning, is stirring up trouble - but no one knows why. Meanwhile the Nazis grow stronger and the Communists fight them in the streets. And at the centre of it all, the Mayor, 'Fatty' Gareis, seeks the easy life even as events spiral beyond his control.

As tensions erupt between workers and bosses, town and country, Left and Right, alliances are broken, bribes are taken and plots are hatched, until the tension spills over into violence.

'Uncommonly vivid and original' Robert Musil

'Real love and real humanity' Hermann Hesse

'The best account of small-town Germany ... so terribly genuine, it is frightening' Kurt Tucholsky

'This novel's genius ... lies in Fallada's ability to reveal ... as well as to analyse the macabre game of musical chairs that was the Weimar Republic. Fallada gives us front-row seats to Germany's decade-long quest for a sacrificial scapegoat that culminated in the Nazi takeover ... Two years after Alone in Berlin's runaway success, A Small Circus continues the Fallada revival that owes so much to the efforts of its translator, the poet Michael Hofmann' André Naffis-Sahely, Independent

'Fallada creates characters with Dickensian prodigality, each yokel, hack, pig and pen-pusher brought to life in Michael Hofmann's beautifully judged translation ... a generous, life-affirming treat' Jake Kerridge, Telegraph

'Michael Hofmann ... comes as close as possible to giving us Fallada's work in all its coarse, humorous, immediate, tragic glory' Charlotte Moore, Spectator

'Not for the first time, all praise is due to Michael Hofmann's art and feel for nuance. His translation catches the many voices - some exasperated, others bewildered, a few downright angry - that make this bold, exuberant and candid narrative sizzle with life and the relentlessly shocking reality of it all' Irish Times

'Fallada's own experiences as a regional journalist in north Germany underlie the action, and it is this sense of realism, combined with an ear for dialogue and an acute understanding of human frailty, that make the novel such an authentic portrayal of an imploding era' Ben Hutchinson, Observer

Once a Jailbird

Hans Fallada

For Willi Kufult, prison life means staying out of trouble, keeping his cell clean, snagging a precious piece of tobacco - and dreaming of the day of his release.

Then he gets out.

As Willi tries to make a new life for himself in Hamburg, finding a job and even love, he still cannot escape his past. Gradually he becomes sucked into a world of drink, desperation and deceit, and with one terrible act, he is ensnared in a noose of his own making...

Hans Fallada's dark and moving 1934 novel brilliantly describes a seedy criminal underworld of shabby lives and violent deeds, showing how our actions always catch up with us.

Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism

Hans Fallada

'...I stare at the coffee I poured myself, and I think: caffeine is a poison that stimulates the heart. There are plenty of instances of people killing themselves with coffee, hundreds and thousands of them. Caffeine is a deadly poison, maybe almost as deadly as morphine. Why didn't it ever occur to me before: coffee is my friend!'

Drawing on Hans Fallada's own history of addiction, these two stories and are written with a remarkable, tough, spartan clarity. As a man desperately, haplessly tries to get enough morphine to make it through the day and a drunk embezzler struggles to get himself arrested, they are at one second crushing, the next darkly comic.

This book includes A Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism and Three Years of Life.

Alone in Berlin

Hans Fallada (and others)

Inspired by a true story, Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin is the gripping tale of an ordinary man's determination to defy the tyranny of Nazi rule. This Penguin Classics edition contains an afterword by Geoff Wilkes, as well as facsimiles of the original Gestapo file which inspired the novel.

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks ...

If you enjoyed Alone in Berlin, you might like John Steinbeck's The Moon is Down, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'One of the most extraordinary and compelling novels written about World War II. Ever'
Alan Furst

'Terrific ... a fast-moving, important and astutely deadpan thriller'
Irish Times

'An unrivalled and vivid portrait of life in wartime Berlin'
Philip Kerr

'To read Fallada's testament to the darkest years of the 20th century is to be accompanied by a wise, somber ghost who grips your shoulder and whispers into your ear: "This is how it was. This is what happened"'
The New York Times

Biography

Hans Fallada was born in Germany in 1893. His life was checkered by a failed adolescent suicide pact in which his friend died, addiction to morphine and alcohol, periods of incarceration in prison and mental hospitals, and brushes with the Nazi regime. His most famous novels include Little Man, What Now?, The Drinker and Alone in Berlin, written in 24 days. Fallada died weeks before its publication, in February 1947 in Berlin.