Sixty-nine years ago, a middle-aged German couple committed a courageous act of resistance: leaving handwritten cards with anti-Nazi messages all around Berlin. Seven years later, the German novelist Hans Fallada made their real-life actions the subject of an extraordinary novel, Every Man Dies Alone, which has only now been translated into English.
Fallada’s description of the couple’s stand against the Nazi machine read like a thriller, but it was also a fine-grained portrait of wartime Berlin and a moral tour de force. Primo Levi called it “the greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis.” But Fallada, who was a best-selling author before the war (and ended up living in and out of psychiatric hospitals after it), never saw it in print: He died of a morphine overdose in 1947, a few months before the novel was published.
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