Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada [in Booklist]
In early 1940s wartime Berlin, an official letter arrives for Otto and Anna Quangel with the unbearable news that their only son is dead. Anna immediately rejects “‘those common lies … that he died a hero’s death for Führer and Fatherland’” – and in that instant, the Quangels’ lives are changed forever. Their overwhelming grief will eventually manifest into brave acts of civil disobedience that provide the couple a reason to live, but also lead to violent death.
Hans Fallada (a pseudonym for prolific German writer Rudolf Ditzen) learned of Otto and Elise Hampel – the real-life Quangels – from official Gestapo files passed on, post-war, by a well-connected friend. Fallada wrote Every Man in a remarkable 24 days but didn’t live to see the book published in 1947; it was then one of the first anti-Nazi titles ever.
Perennially favorite reader George Guidall’s narration is, as usual, stupendous. He’s gentle with the Quangels’ relationship, capturing their deep connection and unwavering commitment, adding urgency as their tenacious plans become dangerous reality. He practically growls through the German phrasing, emphasizing, even warning, against the impending threats. In this substantial undertaking at over 20 hours, Guidall again proves to be an ideal aural guide.
Published: 1947, 2010 (audio)