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This never-before-translated masterpiece is based on a true story. It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front.

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Jul 3, 2009

For anyone in the English-speaking world conversant with or interested in the resistance movement in Germany in the dark days of Nazi Germany this book, now available in English, over 60 years after it first appeared in the original German, should be required reading. The translator, Michael Hofmann, has done a marvellous job, as the original is not easy to translate, particularly as it incorporates the Berlin dialect, with which even many Germans outside Berlin are not familiar.

Hans Fallada is not that well known in the English-speaking world but this novel and his earlier work 'Kleiner Mann, was nun?' (Little Man, what now?) are outstanding contributions to German literature. This book, with just over 500 pages, would make an excellent companion on a long-haul flight. The subject matter of the novel may be depressing, but the author's racy journalistic style is not and should keep one glued to the book for hours on a long flight.

Hans Fallada was born Rudolf Ditzen in 1893 and led a colourful early life. He killed a schoolfriend in a duel when he was 18 and subsequently spent many years in psychiatric wards and in prison. Morphine was his weakness and to feed this habit he became a petty criminal. His literary achievements are, therefore, really remarkable. His morphine habit killed him in 1947 when he died of an overdose in the very year this masterpiece was published. Fallada knew Berlin well and knew of the crimes the Nazis had committed better than most. The title of this book could well describe his own situation!

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