Good Reads | Every Man Dies Alone

10.04.2010

Every Man Dies Alone is based on the true story of two courageous yet simple Berliners who scattered postcards advocating civil disobedience during World War II.  After the death of their only son, Otto and Anna Quangel were determined not to sit idly by and watch the Nazi regime destroy their beloved Germany.  Their protest was small and, to some, insignificant - most of the cards were immediately handed over to the Gestapo as soon as they were found.  After all, such acts were treason and meant a hanging if caught. 

Woven between the stories of fellow Berliners and their own struggles with the war, Fallada tells the full tale of Otto and Anna.  What's beautiful about his storytelling is that he doesn't give any more meaning to the postcards than what they deserve.  The cards never achieved their desired affect.  They didn't incite others to rise up against Hitler.  They didn't bring comfort to those who read them.  If anything, the cards induced panic and fear in all who found them.  But for Otto and Anna, the "ridiculously small" act of leaving the cards throughout Berlin allowed them to remain decent, even if doing so would cost them their lives. 

Every Man Dies Alone is an interesting peek at another perspective of World War II - the Germans who did not agree with Hitler but were powerless to stop him.  The book is quietly thrilling and suspenseful, offering a glimpse into the distrust and paranoia that permeated Germany at the time.

Though written in 1947, the book wasn't translated into English until 2009, and the story behind the novel is just as interesting as the novel itself.  During World War II, Hans Fallada was addicted to drugs and alcohol and imprisoned in a Nazi insane asylum.  After his release, he quickly sat down to write Every Man Dies Alone, completing the novel in just 24 days.  He never lived to see its publication.

With a focus on a personal conviction to remain good, Every Man Dies Alone reminds us that no matter how insignificant our actions may seem, they have the potential for a profound and lasting effect.

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