Written in an encrypted notebook while incarcerated in a Nazi insane asylum and discovered after his death, The Drinker may be Hans Fallada’s most breathtaking piece of craftsmanship. It is an intense yet absorbing study of the descent into drunkenness by an intelligent man who fears he’s lost it all.
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About the Author
Before WWII , German writer Hans Fallada’s novels were international bestsellers, on a par with those of his countrymen Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse. In America, Hollywood even turned his first big novel, Little Man, What Now? into a major motion picture.
Learning the movie was made by a Jewish producer, however, Hitler decreed Fallada’ s work could no longer be sold outside Germany, and the rising Nazis began to pay him closer attention. When he refused to join the Nazi party he was arrested by the Gestapo—who eventually released him, but thereafter regularly summoned him for “discussions” of his work.
However, unlike Mann, Hesse, and others, Fallada refused to flee to safety, even when his British publisher, George Putnam, sent a private boat to rescue him. The pressure took its toll on Fallada, and he resorted increasingly to drugs and alcohol for relief. After Goebbels ordered him to write an anti-Semitic novel, he snapped and found himself imprisoned in an asylum for the “criminally insane”—considered a death sentence under Nazi rule. To forestall the inevitable, he pretended to write the assignment for Goebbels, while actually composing three encrypted books—including his tour de force novel The Drinker—in such dense code that they were not deciphered until long after his death.
Fallada outlasted the Reich and was freed at war’s end. But he was a shattered man. To help him recover by putting him to work, Fallada’s publisher gave him the Gestapo file of a simple, working-class couple who had resisted the Nazis. Inspired, Fallada completed Every Man Dies Alone in just twenty-four days.
He died in February 1947, just weeks before the book’s publication.
Praise for The Drinker…
“ This is an heroic book, brave, fearless and honest. It is necessary reading.”
—The Sunday Times (London)
“ Genuinely tragic and beautiful...[Fallada’s] perfectly horrifying, horrifyingly perfect novel is the story of himself rejected by society and returning the insult.”
"In a publishing hat trick, Melville House allows English-language readers to sample Fallada's vertiginous variety accompanying the release of Michael Hoffman's splendid translation of Every Man Dies Alone with the simultaneous publication of excellent English versions of Fallada's two best-known novels, Little Man, What Now? (translated by Susan Bennett) and The Drinker (translated by Charlotte and A.L. Lloyd). The Drinker, which Fallada wrote in 1944 while he was locked up in a criminal asylum for attacking his estranged wife, is a memoirish novel in which a country merchant describes his unrepentant, gloating slide into alcoholism and failure."
-- New York Times Book Review