The authors of these two posthumously-published works both died alcoholic. Roth’s book was written during the first four months of 1939 in a Paris bar where he was dying. Fallada’s semi-autobiographical novel was written during a fortnight of the Autumn of 1944 in an asylum for the criminally insane, where he was held pending charges for the attempted murder of his estranged wife.
Both stories deal with protagonists who hit bottom, who have slumped beyond hope. Both, as Fallada’s hero terms himself, are great sufferers. They may be saved only by the intervention of a series of mercies, or little miracles, leading to death