EVERY MAN DIES ALONE, by Hans Fallada, p. 118

The book self is currently reading is very bleak. It’s set in World War II Berlin and tracks the lives of ordinary Berliners, all of them residents of one apartment building. The people have lived there since before Hitler, so naturally the population includes some Jews.

The very title of the book should serve as a warning. For a while self debated the wisdom of reading a book like this just before Thanksgiving. For a while she worried that the book would make her feel depressed, isolated, alienated. But the sobering reality is: reading this book makes self feel — paradoxically cheerful.

Reading a book like Every Man Dies Alone (The translation from the German is by Michael Hofmann, the publisher is Melville House) is tremendously eye-opening, even therapeutic. It makes self question every single complaint she’s made in the past week/month/year/decade.

Self can’t help thanking her lucky stars that she lives in California. Safeway is less than a mile away, which means it is very walkable, Hallelujah! As an American living in California, she is surrounded by a plethora of pleasurable distractions. Like animated movies (“Penguins of Madagascar” was great). Like fan fiction. Like “Gotham” which shows every Monday night. Consumerism does tend to dull the senses.

SPOILER ALERT

In the section self is on, a Jewish woman whose apartment has just been ransacked by her neighbors is given refuge by a retired judge. He gives her strict instructions not to go out, blah blah blah.

After spending a day in utter loneliness and mental anguish (Her husband is in prison, she has no one to talk to, etc etc), she decides to go out. Next thing you know, she runs into some brownshirts, tells them her name (Frau Rosenthal), tells them her husband is incarcerated somewhere, and that she has two sons.

What? What? What?

Oh boy, self can hardly wait to see what happens next. She is really worried for that retired judge!

Stay tuned.

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