"WITH FALLADA, NOT ONLY GERMAN LITERATURE BUT THE WORLD HAS LOST A RATHER UNIQUE TALENT"
FALLADA, Hans. The Drinker. London: Putnam, (1952). Octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. $650.
First edition in English of Fallada's Dostoevskian novel, written in code while imprisoned in a Nazi psychiatric hospital and published three years after his death—to find "an American writer closest to Fallada, one would have to invent a mixture of Steinbeck and Faulkner" (New York Times).
Born Rudolph Ditzen and writing under the pen name of Hans Fallada, the mercurial German novelist was addicted to morphine for most of his life. In the 1930s the largely apolitical novelist was jailed "by the Gestapo, for 'anti-Nazi activities'… by 1935, he was declared 'an undesirable author'… In 1938, his British publisher, George Putnam, sent a boat to take Fallada and his family out of Germany," but Fallada refused to leave, convinced he could never write in another language. When Nazi propaganda minster Goebbels decided Fallada was a writer with "real talent," he was commissioned to write several works, including a screenplay. In 1944, after firing a gun during an argument with his wife, Fallada was held in a Nazi psychiatric prison. At that point Goebbels "ordered him to write an anti-Semitic novel. Fallada pretended to do so, in fact using the paper he was given" to instead write a densely coded manuscript that included The Drinker (Alan Furst, Globe and Mail). Three years later Fallada died.
After the coded manuscript was found and deciphered by his publisher, Ernst Rowohl, it was issued posthumously in German as Der Trinker (1950). On publication of this first edition in English in 1952, the New York Times reviewer wrote: "With Fallada, not only German literature but the world has lost a rather unique talent… a quixotic rebel to whom both the world outside and that more complex one inside men's minds were always in crisis. If one were to search for an American writer closest to Fallada, one would have to invent a mixture of Steinbeck and Faulkner." The plot of The Drinker, a Dostoevskian tale of a man's "unrepentant, gloating slide into alcoholism and failure," is paced like "a Hitchcock thriller… Fallada's exquisite knowledge of prison lore, of crooks, cripples and their keepers, of the gruesomely busy world behind bars, brings every incident to life with a precision at the same time clinical and surreal." Fallada remains "one of the most prominent exponents of the realistic style known as Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity)" (Encyclopaedia Britannica). To writer Alan Furst, Fallada should "be seen as a hero, a writer-hero who survived just long enough to strike back at his oppressors." "First printed in Great Britain, 1952" on copyright page. Precedes the first American edition, issued later the same year. With translation by Charlotte and A.L. Lloyd. Dust jacket designed by Klaus Meyer. Williams, More Lives than One, 1985.
Book fine; light embrowning to verso of about-fine dust jacket.