Ben Hutchinson


Tales from the Underworld


Penguin 305pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

The rediscovery of Hans Fallada in the English-speaking world provides an intriguing case study of retrospective canon formation. After a troubled, unsettled life shaped in turns by morphine, alcohol, prison, suicide attempts and sheer bad luck, Rudolf Ditzen (Hans Fallada was a pen name taken from the Brothers Grimm) died in obscurity in 1947. While he remained an established name in Germany after his death – a ten-volume edition of his selected works began appearing in 1962 – it was with the astonishing international reception of Michael Hofmann’s translation of Alone in Berlin (2009) that Fallada abruptly became fashionable again. Scenting success, Penguin published a version of another novel, A Small Circus, by the same translator in 2012; two years later, they have issued a collection of short stories under the title Tales from the Underworld. Suddenly, Fallada is a ‘modern classic’.

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