This week the Second Tuesday Evening Book Club met to discuss Hans Fallada’s novel Alone in Berlin, also published under the title of Every man dies alone. This novel is set in Berlin 1940. Otto, an ordinary German living in a shabby apartment block, tries to stay out of trouble under Nazi rule. But when he discovers his only son has been killed fighting at the front he’s shocked onto an extraordinary act of resistance, and starts to drop anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city. If caught, he will be executed. Excerpt from BACK COVER.
The reading group discussed some questions:
(questions from Novelist Plus)
How are children important in the story?
Children are the basis of the story. Otto Junior, the children of Eva Kluge and the others are the catalyst for the parent’s decisions and actions.
How does Otto Quangel change?
Otto Quangel starts out as a quiet, non-confrontational person who wants a quiet life without political ambition. He changes into a “radical” though still non-confrontational activist against the Party who is willing to take huge risks.
What do Frau Rosenthal and her linens add to the story?
Frau Rosenthal’s linens (and the attempts to steal them) is the meeting ground for several of the main characters in the book.
Are any of the resistance efforts in the story successful?
Otto and Anna Quangel’s resistance efforts did have some success and the fact that they remained people of integrity is a noble outcome. The amount of time and manpower that the Gestapo allocated to tracking down Otto shows how seriously the “dissention” was viewed.
Why does the story begin and end the way it does?
The book begins with post woman delivering the letter telling the Quangel’s that their son has fallen. This is the Catalyst for Otto and Anna to decide to take a stand for justice and to try to shorten the war. Though their notes were not “successful” in achieving that outcome, there was “good seed” sown in Kuno-Dieter who started afresh and was determined to “keep clean”.
What’s the point of Chapter 19 (pp. 153-165) about the actor and the attorney finding one of Otto’s postcards?
Chapter 19 describes the finding of the first postcard and graphically describes the fear and alarm it raises about being “tainted” as anti Nazi and dilemma of how to dispose of it.
The book is remarkable in bringing to life the fear, oppression and suspicion that ordinary “non-Party” German citizens experienced during the Nazi War years.