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Summary

Berlin, 1940. The city is paralysed by fear. But one man refuses to be scared. 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 into an extraordinary act of resistance and starts to drop anonymous postcards attacking Hitler across the city. If caught, he will be executed.

Soon this silent campaign comes to the attention of ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich, and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse begins. Whoever loses, pays with their life.

Every Man Dies Alone was published in the UK as Alone in Berlin.

English edition copyright 2009 Melville House Publishing; Translation copyright 2009 Michael Hofmann.

©1994 Aufbau-Verlagsgruppe GmbH, Berlin (P)2010 Hachette Digital

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  • judith
  • canary wharf, United Kingdom
  • 03-03-15

A Perfect Novel

What does the lucky reader get?
1. Authenticity. The novel is set in Berlin in the years 1940-1946, Fallada stayed in Berlin throughout the war and wrote the book in 1946. Fallada had first hand experience both of being denounced to the Gestapo and collaborating with the Nazi party. I love that immediate, first hand, recent feel. It is almost what I read novels for.
2. Lessons in Politics. Explains how a tyrannical system works. How fascism can capture a civilized, educated, modern state. It works by giving power to the wrong people - not on merit but to the party faithful. This creates a hell on earth, but also sows the seeds of its own destruction. In the end, power in the hands of imbeciles and sadists is inefficient.
3. Characters. There are goodies, all with credible flaws and limitations; there are baddies with all their faults, self-justifications and weaknesses, penned with the same level of detail and empathy. I have rarely read a novel where the low-lifers are depicted with such subtlety and intimacy.
4. Plot. Exciting, action packed, satisfying.
5. Good taste. Gestapo interrogation is a pretty grim subject, Fallada writes so delicately that you understand what is happening without it becoming overwhelmingly distressing.
6. A happy ending. Er, no. There is a final battle between good and evil (represented by a blond son waving a horse whip at his evil, corrupt father on a rural, spring morning in 1946) where the son prevails. It is the merest glimmer of hope. Fortunately, we can visit Berlin today and see that hope realized. I’m sorry Fallada never lived to see it – he died within weeks of finishing this book.

This book reminded me repeatedly of 1984 – written at about the same time with a similar political message. I cannot understand how this book was only translated into English in 2009. It should have been hugely famous for years. IMHO it is a truly wonderful book.

Narration: excellent.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A mesmerising, life-changing book. Buy it.

First published in 1947 as Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man Dies Alone) and translated beautifully by the poet Michael Hoffman in 2009, this book is a disturbing, visceral, accurate and beautifully realised portrait of a society consuming itself from within seen from the perspective of ordinary people caught up in the nightmare of the Nazi machine. What makes it all the more poignant is that the story is based on a real case from wartime Berlin.

The author, Hans Fallada (or Rudolf Ditzen to give him his real name) is said to have written the book in just 24 days in post war East Berlin, having been handed a Gestapo file detailing the central case by a friend who became a government minister. Sadly the author died from a morphine overdose shortly before the book was published.

The narration is the best I have ever encountered and perfectly captures each character from the lowest, snivelling crook, to the screaming viciousness of the Nazi functionaries. John Telfer is to be applauded for his performance.

The subject matter is dark and deeply thought-provoking but please, please do not let that put you off. Running through this work is the redemptive and triumphant power of the human spirit against almost unimaginable horror.

This is a work of genius, translated perfectly and read sublimely.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • plumley, United Kingdom
  • 29-01-11

Absolutely gripping

this book pulls you further and further into a game of cat and a mouse between one couples fight against the Nazi terror machine.A fascinating listen,hard to believe it was written in 1947! A superbly written book which kept an air of foreboding right to end. the narrator is brilliant too.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A different perspective

This is an engrossing book which on the face of should probably not be when one considers that it is primarily about a person droping cards against the Nazi regime. This may not be seen as an engaging topic. However the characters are superbly brought to life , excellent descriptions and the narration is brilliant.The storyline gives a totally different perspective on life in Berlin during the war with not everyone supporting Adolf Hitlers regime , the consequent terror which these people lived under is dramatically brought out in the book.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible story, masterfully narrated.

This has to be up there with nineteen eighty-four as a masterpiece of dystopian fiction, except this one in based loosely on a true story of a German couple trying to take a principled stand against the Nazi system. The author conveys with utmost clarity the terrible claustrophobia imposed by the totalitarian system and the care with which one had to go about one's daily business right down to the most mundane minutiae of everyday existence. There are no grand characters such as generals or politicians, and no action heroes, just everyday people reacting to events in very different ways: some exploit the system by becoming bullies, petty thugs and thieves, some try their hardest (often in vain) to keep their heads down, and a few do their best to retain their humanity against a system that exerts huge pressure to conform to an inhumane, pitiless normality. Written very soon after the end of the war, this story is a fascinating insight into a horrendous time in recent human history and ultimately shows the fragility of civilisation as we know it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The best Audio Book I've ever listened too

The ease in which John Telfer, transitions into each character is what helps to make this book a true audible masterpiece.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Janusz
  • Capheaton, United Kingdom
  • 27-01-12

The German Home Front

"Alone in Berlin" is beautifully read by John Telfer, the characterization he offers builds distinct mental images of each personality that populates this story. The story itself overturns the stereotypical portrayal of Germans in the 1940s and examines the seldom visited theme of native resistance to Hitler's regime. Unexpectedly there is even a Gestapo inspector who develops a modicum of humanity! More than anything the book shows how living in fear of sadistic tyranny can destroy all common decency but also that the tyranny sows the seeds of its own destruction with the fear it creates. Of course we all know that Nazism was destroyed from the ouside but even without that the Third Reich would never have lasted a thousand years. The narration is well done and the book touches on ideas that require some extra chewing. Highly recommended.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Chilling but couldnt put my ipod down

This book gripped me from the first to the last. It is narrated superbly. The writing is wonderful. He paints a vivid picture but without getting bogged down with descriptions, The characters simply come alive. It's an incredibly moving, gripping story based around an ordinary couple in their twilight years who, after the death of their only son at the front, decide to resist the Nazi regime for their own sake. It holds no punches. An amazing book.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Abi
  • Sandbach, Cheshire, United Kingdom
  • 17-11-10

A different perspective on the war

I have enjoyed listening to this book, if enjoyed is the right word! It is very grim in places and many of the characters are nasty. Don't let that put you off though because it is possible to empathize with some of the characters even the nasty ones. It is a really good, fascinating description of Nazi Germany. We hear a lot about the allies experiences of the war but things were very different in Germany.
The narration is excellent.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Arlene
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 02-06-11

Really well readd

John Telfer has really done a brilliant job. He manages to make the different voices totally recognisable and he conveys the brutality of the Gestapo with great energy. The book is well worth reading and sharply contrasts the faces of good and evil. Fallada manages to show us that there is a streak of good in many who are able to withstand torture and humiliation. I felt that the last few chapters did not work really well and not wishing to give too much away suffice it to say that it woud have been better had he ended it sooner. Some of the minor characters in the book were resurrected at times with rather slight stories and did not add greatly to the novel. I would recommend it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle
  • 10-04-18

Screeching voice acting ruined the story.

I struggled to finish this book. The story itself was okay, though perhaps some of the finesse was lost in translation. I hated many of the characters due to the vocal performance. Way to much wailing, screeching, stunted word by word shouting and over the top character acting. The normal reading voice was good. I wonder if I would have liked it more if I'd read the book rather than listened to it.

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  • Neil Robinson
  • 16-10-17

A remarkable tale

A compelling book, based on a true story, and very well read. I recommend it.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-02-17

What was the point?

I have tried to see the deeper meaning of this book. Tried to look for the message or lesson. But there is nothing there. It's just a sad, never ending tale of hopelessness. With no feeling of understanding why these people all went through this endless trauma

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • smaller
  • 09-02-14

so very well written!!

Would you listen to Alone in Berlin again? Why?

yes! the characters are so interesting, complex, more real than you think at first, one gets involved in their lives...

What was one of the most memorable moments of Alone in Berlin?

The Krangles determenation and success in keeping their dignity to the very end!!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Pierre Verwey
  • 22-03-13

Excellent story, masterful narration

Where does Alone in Berlin rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best.

What did you like best about this story?

Its authenticity.

What about John Telfer’s performance did you like?

His voices.

If you could take any character from Alone in Berlin out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Probably the judge, Fromm.

Any additional comments?

A fascinating insight into the workings of Weimar Germany in all its facets of good and evil.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tove
  • 18-12-12

What would I have done?

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I have already recommended this book to several friends.

What other book might you compare Alone in Berlin to and why?

Like Markus Zusaks The Book Thief it let's you know how germans experienced the second world war. Which is a refreshing perspective.

Any additional comments?

This is a chilling tale where you soon realize that everybody is keeping an eye on each other (neighbours, friends, colleagues, relatives) and the risk of being reported to the Gestapo is always there. And if the Gestapo has got a good look at you they will always find something missing, no matter who you are.
So I kept thinking when I read the book: What would I have done? And the sad thing is, I think the answere might be: Nothing. The whole atmospere is so scary, I suppose most people would just lower their head, hope to sneak under the radar and wish for the whole thing to be over as soon as possible so everybody could start living.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Charmaine
  • 20-10-12

A LONG HARD STRUGGLE

I persisted, I hoped, I was disappointed. I'm amazed that so little in the way of a story could have stretched into so many HOURS of words. Maybe that was the point - to show the helpless hopelessness of people influenced by power hungry governments. If so this book succeeded. I'm not sure that I needed to devote such a large chunk of my life to this slow, tedious, journey to death, death and more death. My single laugh was when our heroine was asked how many men she had slept with before marrying Otto....83 she said. Why so many she was asked. Because that is all there were........

As for the performance, the narration was good. However, when we are doing Berlin, Germany, the war shouldn't we be doing German accents rather than dreary English ones. The fact that we have German accented and German names kind of jars with the flat English rendition.

This book will not make it onto the list of re-reads before I die. Never again Thanks

0 of 1 people found this review helpful