Review : Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Categories 3 Literature

Whatever the struggles, failures and compromises in Fallada’s personal life, and even in the circumstances of his writing this book, `Alone in Berlin’ poses the huge moral question of the value and virtue of the pursuit of idealistic conviction in the face of apparent pragmatic irrelevance.

Fallada frequently cites moral challenges from the Bible, and his story itself borrows from the Christ narrative. Otto Quangel is a carpenter by trade, who determines to challenge the Nazi regime by the weak means of dropping opposition postcards, nearly all of which are handed in to the police.

After his capture, in his interview with the Gestapo inspector Escherich, Quangel turns the tables and makes Escherich the subject of the moral challenge, in a way which is very reminiscent of Christ in his interrogation by Pontius Pilate. Mikhail Bulgakov in `The Master and Margarita’ deploys the same comparison in his account of the persecution of the artist by the Stalinist regime, but more explicitly. Escherich then commits suicide as did Judas Iscariot in the Christ narrative, thus somewhat mixing the metaphor. The pages describing this interview are great moral literature, at the same time moving and penetrating.

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