March 1, 2011

"Meeting a ghost.": New letters by Hans Fallada discovered


A newly discovered cache of letters discovered in an Israeli archive describe the loneliness and despair of German author Hans Fallada during the Nazi era.

During this time, Fallada’s writings were censored, his books removed from libraries, his mental health shattered, and his morphine addiction worsened. Near the end of the war he was imprisoned in a Nazi insane asylum. After his release he would write his masterpiece, Every Man Dies Alone, in 24 days, dying shortly thereafter. The book was first translated and published in English in 2009 by Melville House (it would subsequently appear in the UK as Alone in Berlin).

The letters, date between 1934 and 1938, show Fallada’s correspondence with his friend, the Jewish-Austrian writer Carl Ehrenstein, who had fled to London. Haaratz reports on the new discovery, and quotes from one of Fallada’s forlorn letters:

Will I ever reach you? I doubt it. The need for quiet—to neither see nor hear a thing—grows stronger every day. Sometimes I dream of a wall three metres high around my yard. With no humans.

Tel Aviv University’s Professor. Galili Shahar, a scholar of German literature describes the experience of reading the long-lost words.

You open the file and touch the letters and the notes, and you are actually touching time. There is a lot of charm in it, but it is also frightening. It’s like meeting a ghost….The letters reveal the sad friendship between two authors in exile, one in London and one—Fallada—in internal exile in his home.