Book Notes: Hans Fallada’s Wolf Among Wolves

Oh. My. God. This novel, people, this novel. It was like somebody stuck electrodes into my mind and was sending pleasurable impulses directly to my brain. 

Fallada is not as well-known as he should be because he was one of the few German writers who didn’t emigrate when the Nazis came. His 750-page novel Wolf Among Wolves offered such a powerful condemnation of the Weimar Republic that Goebbels decided Fallada was all for the Nazis. Goebbels was a very superficial reader and thought that if Fallada was against the Weimar Republic, he must be in favor of whatever came next, namely Hitler. 

Goebbels started pestering Fallada to write an anti-Semitic novel, and Fallada kept promising to write it. But of course he had no intention of doing so. What Fallada really wanted to do was to write an anti-Nazi novel. He ended up having to hide in a lunatic asylum – which was no vacation given how Nazis felt about mentally ill Aryans – to put off Goebbels and gain time. 

Fallada did survive the Nazis and he did write his magnificent anti-Nazi novel Alone in Berlin. I read that novel as a kid back in the USSR. I wasn’t capable of fully understanding it then but I knew I was in the presence of something truly powerful. I’m exotically bad with names, yet I remembered Fallada’s for 30 years because he’d made such an impression. 

Wolf Among Wolves made me understand the Weimar Republic in the way that none of the history books and articles I read managed to do. Goebbels was a total dumbass if he failed to see that this novel shows the terrifying birth pangs of Nazism in a way that one isn’t likely to forget. 

It’s incredible writing, my friends, absolutely incredible. I’m starting another novel by Fallada immediately. 

Fishies

Finally, I was going to spend hours upon hours swimming while N stayed with Klara. We walked into the water and saw bathers stand in a neat row, peering into the water. 

“Weird people,” we thought and kept on marching. 

We noticed large shades moving towards us in the water. 

“Fishies,” we smiled. “How cute.”

And then we finally saw that the multitude of huge “fishies” moving towards us had triangular shapes and long tails. 

When we realized what we were seeing, we cleared out of there in a minute. And thus ended my day of swimming. 

And yes, the exact same thing happened to us 2 years ago and one of us got bit back then. 

How to Make a Mark as a ScholarĀ 

If you want to make your mark as a scholar, you can do what I’m doing. Read, think, analyze, discuss, write, rewrite, rewrite again, submit, publish, read some more, etc. It’s hard, it takes a lot of time, and it’s often painful as hell. 

Or you can skip all this bother and simply do what an aspiring medievalist did. Go to a conference and instead of delivering a talk that will stun everybody with erudition and insight, send out tweets about how the attendees who do give erudite, insightful talks are not diverse enough and must surely be white supremacists. And sexists. And xenophobes. 

And that’s it. You are famous. 

OK, I’m back to my reading now because I’m too old-fashioned for this sort of fame. 

Not Cute

I don’t find this in the least cute:

While Trump enjoys golf, former president Jimmy Carter, 92, is building homes for the poor. Mr Carter returned to work on a building site after being taken to hospital for dehydration, while President Trump kicked back at the US Women’s Open.

Why does Carter have to make a spectacle of himself and place his infirm old body in the way of people at the building site instead of simply donating money to the cause? What good can he possibly be on a site where people actually work?

I detest this kind of fake photo-oppy charity.