A Stranger in My Own Country: The 1944 Prison Diary
June 2015, Polity
“I lived the same life as everyone else, the life of ordinary people, the masses.” Sitting in a prison cell in the autumn of 1944, the German author Hans Fallada sums up his life under the National Socialist dictatorship, the time of “inward emigration”. Under conditions of close confinement, in constant fear of discovery, he writes himself free from the nightmare of the Nazi years. He records his thoughts about spying and denunciation, about the threat to his livelihood and his literary work and about the fate of many friends and contemporaries. The confessional mode did not come naturally to Fallada, but in the mental and emotional distress of 1944, self-reflection became a survival strategy.
Fallada’s frank and sometimes provocative memoirs were thought for many years to have been lost. They are published here for the first time.
The 1944 Prison Diary 1
A despatch from the house of the dead. Afterword 219
The genesis of the Prison Diary manuscript 233
Hans Fallada was born in Greifswald, Germany, on 21 July 1893 as Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen; he took his pen name from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. He died of heart failure brought on by the cumulative effects of mental and physical exhaustion on 5 February 1947 in Berlin. Fallada was the author of many bestselling novels including Little Man - What Now? (1932), Wolf among Wolves (1938) and Alone in Berlin (1947)
"This is certainly a revelatory book. As its author intended, it reveals much about the pernicious nature of Nazi rule during the Third Reich; the compromises demanded, the tribulations endured, the lives ruined. At one point Fallada laments: “Oh, how they bled us dry! How they robbed us of every joy and happiness, every smile, every friendship! Yet it also reveals something that its author did not intend, and that is Fallada’s own deeply flawed character."
The Financial Times
"An outspoken memoir of life under the Nazis written from a prison cell... a fascinating document"
"Exquisite and troubling... one of the most powerful accounts of life in the Third Reich."
"This is a remarkable book"
""Colourful and anecdotal reflections of life under Hitler. Fallada's diary turns out to be not a record of quotidian events inside but reminiscences of scrapes, challenges and day-to-day reality outside, from the advent of Nazi misrule to the final stages of the war."
The Sunday Herald
"Fallada, one of Germany's most well-regarded writers of the 20th century, tells the tale of a writer and his friends, and how the swell of Nazism means there's always a listening ear outside the door - except this time he's telling his own story"
South China Morning Post
"A Stranger in My Own Country is an engrossing book that reads more like a novel than a memoir.”
"His prison diary is a heartfelt diatribe against the nazis, revealing a highly compromised man riddled with contradictions and ambiguity. In reading it, the high price Fallada paid for living out the war in his homeland is all too clear."
"A rare account of living close to an edge that you can’t quite locate in the darkness.""A rare account of living close to an edge that you can’t quite locate in the darkness."
Sydney Morning Herald
“Fallada’s strength as a diarist is to convert his unsteady, sometimes ethically questionable existence into disciplined, objective narrative. His life and writings reflect the endless need to challenge authoritarianism in both family and society.”
"This long-awaited publication will... greatly increase our knowledge of an author whose reputation has never been completely eclipsed in Germany, and who is now being rediscovered in Britain, the USA, France, and Italy. All these countries have recently published his last, posthumously published novel [Alone in Berlin], thus demonstrating his rare ability to attract the common and the literary reader alike."
Modern Language Review
"Recording his experiences of Nazi Germany while confined in an asylum in 1944, Hans Fallada wrote in real life what Günter Grass later wrote in fiction. An intriguing literary testament, expertly edited by two leading Fallada scholars, and skilfully translated by Allan Blunden."
Geoff Wilkes, The University of Queensland
‘This wonderful volume, painstakingly transcribed from his microscopic handwriting by his gifted biographer, Jenny Williams, and her fellow Fallada scholar and archivist, the poet Sabine Lange, is a conversational memoir: blunt, whimsical, outrageous, anecdotal and often hilarious. Allan Blunden’s translation conveys the exasperated humour.’
‘An absorbing evocation of a troubled, all-too-human life under an inhuman tyranny.’
Times Literary Supplement