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The Drinker Paperback – March 3, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“ This is an heroic book, brave, fearless and honest. It is necessary reading.”
—The Sunday Times (London)

“ Genuinely tragic and beautiful...[Fallada’s] perfectly horrifying, horrifyingly perfect novel is the story of himself rejected by society and returning the insult.”
—New Statesmen

"In a publishing hat trick, Melville House allows English-language readers to sample Fallada's vertiginous variety accompanying the release of Michael Hoffman's splendid translation of Every Man Dies Alone with the simultaneous publication of excellent English versions of Fallada's two best-known novels, Little Man, What Now? (translated by Susan Bennett) and The Drinker (translated by Charlotte and A.L. Lloyd). The Drinker, which Fallada wrote in 1944 while he was locked up in a criminal asylum for attacking his estranged wife, is a memoirish novel in which a country merchant describes his unrepentant, gloating slide into alcoholism and failure."
-- New York Times Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; 1st Edition Thus edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633654
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633657
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first read Hans Fallada's 'The Drinker' eight years ago and my second reading of it confirms all its macabre power to haunt its readers. Written in just two weeks in a German lunatic asylum in 1944, this hypnotic, compelling story of a respectable businessman's alcohol-induced descent into squalor and psychic collapse will sober its merriest reader. Based on events in Fallada's own life, the novel takes us into the progressively warped worldview of one Erwin Sommer - well off, middle class, insecure; a man who will soon discover all the charm and malignant power of a flight into self-destructice alcoholism. Estrangement, Paranoia and Victimisation are Sommer's travelling companions on this journey with only the passing comfort of the bottle for solace. Despite 'The Drinker' lacking any reference to the events of Germany,1944, the reader will soon find himself wondering to what extent Erwin Sommer's experiences are analogous to the descent of Germany in the years of the Hitler period. 'The Drinker' is not for those seeking a comforting or moral conclusion. For the reader who is fascinated by the extremes of human psychology and experience, this book book will stay etched in your mind.
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Format: Paperback
Hans Fallada penned "The Drinker" as a man fully aware of the evil that was Hitler's Third Reich: he wrote it while a prisoner in a Nazi insane asylum. While I thoroughly enjoyed the literary history of Fallada's tour de force, "Every Man Dies Alone," I found "The Drinker" to be supremely interesting because it so deftly interweaves symbolism with literature.

On its face, it is a tale of alcohol-driven self-destruction. Life for Erwin, the protagonist, progressively becomes worse and worse as he looks to drinking as a cure-all. And the inevitable and inescapable Catch-22 comes to define Erwin: he drinks because he's unhappy, and he's unhappy because he drinks.

And yet, as you progress further into Fallada's tale, wishing to learn more about Erwin's cyclical decline, a wave of horrified understanding moves over you. You realize that "The Drinker" isn't a lone German alcoholic. "The Drinker" is Germany, and "the drink" is Nazism. Erwin's emotions and symptoms--despair, scapegoating, loneliness, escape, and a lack of self-awareness--were shared in spades by depression-era Germany. And so, just as Erwin turns a blind eye toward his problems and welcomes his life-wrecking addiction with open arms, economically-savaged Germany turned to Hitler's Third Reich for answers and continued to worship at the feet of the Nazi Party under the illusion of a thousand years of purity and prosperity.
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Format: Paperback
The "Drinker", Erwin Sommer, experiences drunkenness as euphoria, a deceptive hallucinatory epiphany, a rush of release from reality and responsibility. I've seen such drunkenness in friends and strangers, but I've never felt it, never completely acknowledged its power until reading this book. That, if nothing more, would make `The Drinker' a book profoundly worth reading. Author Hans Fallada, with his insidiously prosaic prose, drags me vicariously into his drunken rapture even more convincingly than such authentic drunkard novelists as Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski.

And his prose is truly prosaic, both in the original German and in English translation. He was prominent in the between-wars German literary movement called the Neue Sachlichkeit - the New Matter-of-Factness - which devalued literary `effects', but no one who relishes poetic sentences should seek them in The Drinker. Fallada has been described as writing in frantic outbursts. He might best be compared to three other writers who had similar psycho-social weakness, including trouble with alcohol: Jack Kerouac, who wrote in similar manic frenzies and who drank himself to death; Joseph Roth, who wrote with journalistic urgency and who drank himself to death; and Robert Walser, who had no chance to drink himself to death because he committed himself to a mental asylum in which he spent the latter share of his life. Fallada was a better writer than Kerouac simply because his material was better. Roth wrote with equally deceptive simplicity but had a much finer poet's ear for language, a brilliant way of turning decription into metaphor. Walser, a generation older than Fallada, is perhaps the closest match-up; both writers knew what `madness' really felt like, and both spent time in asylums and prisons.
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Format: Paperback
This book was difficult for me to read. As a former "drinker" myself, Fallada's story dredged up so many painful memories and emotions that I actually shuddered on several occasions. The story of Erwin Sommer, the small businessman who quickly descends into alcoholic chaos is described only as someone who has lived that life could do it. The euphoria, the despair, the shame, the rage, the twisted rationalization and illogical thinking and the complete degradation and demoralization of Herr Sommer is dead on accurate in my opinion. I've met hundreds of Erwin Sommers, some of whom were fortunate enough to escape the throes of alcoholism, some of whom were not. Even as someone who has had similar experiences, I found myself alternately pitying and scorning our drunken protagonist. And while Sommer was a truly pathetic character, one is also struck by the heartlessness of a system (1930s-1940s Germany) which seems contented to simply lock him up and throw away the key. Sommer is clearly a sick man and not a criminal per se. Some say that this story is some sort of metaphor for the Nazi system that Fallada wrote this in. Personally, I did not sense this, but I cannot say for sure. Either way, this is a devastating look into the world of alcoholism and the bizarre psychology of the human race.
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