Book Notes: Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone

In any other circumstances, Otto Quangel, the protagonist of this novel, would be seen as a mean, stupid old bastard. But in Every Man there’s nobody more decent than he is. He, at least, is trying to resist the Nazis, even though his way of doing it is pathetically useless. 

Quangel is not the only person in the novel who tries to remain decent in Nazi Germany yet makes everything even worse. Judge Fromm, for instance, attempts to hide from the Nazis a Jewish woman but does it in such a way that she prefers suicide to his help. People fail to do the right thing because they are so isolated and suspicious of each other. But when they do manage to come together, everything gets worse. 

No matter how much you have read on Nazism, your reading will be incomplete without this novel. It’s very simply written yet extremely complex because it gives no answers. There are subjects where answers are not needed. They should remain an eternal question because they must never be put to rest. 

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Walled Off

The only adults on the playground it’s possible to talk to are immigrants and African Americans. Today, for instance, I talked to a grandma from Gujarat, an African American mother, an African American grandma, and a mom-grandma duo from China. 

Not that I’m a chatty Cathy, but I feel decidedly weird standing shoulder to shoulder with another person next to a swing for 15 minutes and pretending she doesn’t exist. 

Kids are all making eye contact and trying to talk to each other, even when there is a big age difference. It’s only the adults that get scared if you smile at them. I don’t know if it’s region or social class that’s causing this but it’s tiresome.

Cutesy Baby Stories

There haven’t been any cutesy baby stories for a few days, so here goes. 

At the store, I always tell Klara, “We have to pay for our purchases before we leave.” So we come home and I start unloading the stuff I bought. Klara sees me hauling a sack of potatoes, points to it and announces, “Purchase!”

I don’t like baby language, so I always teach her the correct version of words. Today, for instance, she learned the word “laminated” because I needed to explain why her favorite and very tattered cards had suddenly become shiny and smooth. 

Something else that is ridiculously cute is that she always asks my permission before doing anything. On the playground, people are stunned at how she always asks first. She’s a very brave kid and throws herself into all kinds of activities. But only after making sure it’s ok. And the funniest part? I didn’t teach her that. I had no idea it was an option.  

Smart Gym

I go to the gym for older people. Meaning, older than me. I’m one of the very youngest members. The reason this is our gym is that it’s the only place in town with a sauna, and N loves his sauna. 

The gym has a new owner, and finally somebody smart is managing the place. Instead of young and super buff personal trainers, they hired people in their 50s and 60s with normal bodies. They are obviously fit but they don’t look like cartoons promoting steroids. 

The receptionists are also older and mostly quite heavy. It’s actually very motivating to be greeted by a gym receptionist who is 50lbs heavier than you. It’s like, hey, I can do this! I don’t even have that much weight to lose.