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.