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Tales from the Underworld: Selected Shorter Fiction

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Darkly funny, searingly honest short stories from Hans Fallada, author of bestselling Alone in Berlin In these stories, criminals lament how hard it is to scrape a living by breaking and entering; families measure their daily struggles in marks and pfennigs; a convict makes a desperate leap from a moving train; a ring - and with it a marriage - is lost in a basket of potato Darkly funny, searingly honest short stories from Hans Fallada, author of bestselling Alone in Berlin In these stories, criminals lament how hard it is to scrape a living by breaking and entering; families measure their daily struggles in marks and pfennigs; a convict makes a desperate leap from a moving train; a ring - and with it a marriage - is lost in a basket of potatoes. Here, as in his novels, Fallada is by turns tough, darkly funny, streetwise and effortlessly engaging, writing with acute feeling about ordinary lives shaped by forces larger than themselves: addiction, love, money.


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Darkly funny, searingly honest short stories from Hans Fallada, author of bestselling Alone in Berlin In these stories, criminals lament how hard it is to scrape a living by breaking and entering; families measure their daily struggles in marks and pfennigs; a convict makes a desperate leap from a moving train; a ring - and with it a marriage - is lost in a basket of potato Darkly funny, searingly honest short stories from Hans Fallada, author of bestselling Alone in Berlin In these stories, criminals lament how hard it is to scrape a living by breaking and entering; families measure their daily struggles in marks and pfennigs; a convict makes a desperate leap from a moving train; a ring - and with it a marriage - is lost in a basket of potatoes. Here, as in his novels, Fallada is by turns tough, darkly funny, streetwise and effortlessly engaging, writing with acute feeling about ordinary lives shaped by forces larger than themselves: addiction, love, money.

30 review for Tales from the Underworld: Selected Shorter Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Foreword --The Wedding Ring --Passion --Tales from the Underworld --Farmers in the Revenue Office --Kubsch and His Allotment --Mother Lives on Her Pension --A Burglar's Dreams Are of His Cell --Why Do You Wear a Cheap Watch? --On the Lam --I Get a Job --A Bad Night --The Open Door --War Monument or Urinal? --Happiness and Woe --With Measuring Tape and Watering Can --The Lucky Beggar --Just Like Thirty Years Ago --Fifty Marks and a Merry Christmas --The Good Pasture on the Right --The Missing Greenfinches --Food and Foreword --The Wedding Ring --Passion --Tales from the Underworld --Farmers in the Revenue Office --Kubsch and His Allotment --Mother Lives on Her Pension --A Burglar's Dreams Are of His Cell --Why Do You Wear a Cheap Watch? --On the Lam --I Get a Job --A Bad Night --The Open Door --War Monument or Urinal? --Happiness and Woe --With Measuring Tape and Watering Can --The Lucky Beggar --Just Like Thirty Years Ago --Fifty Marks and a Merry Christmas --The Good Pasture on the Right --The Missing Greenfinches --Food and Grub --The Good Meadow --Calendar Stories --The Returning Soldier --The Old Flame --Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism --Three Years of Life --Svenda, a Dream Fragment; or, My Worries --Looking for My Father Note on Sources

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Hans Fallada lived through turbulent times, and his own life was often troubled. This seems to have given him great insight into the lives of others, and in this wonderful collection of stories, written between 1925 and 1946, he chronicles the fate of ordinary people living through extraordinary times, doing their best in a period of great upheaval. Fallada’s strength lies in his ability to understand the plight of the ordinary man, the humble, and the poor, those struggling to make their way in Hans Fallada lived through turbulent times, and his own life was often troubled. This seems to have given him great insight into the lives of others, and in this wonderful collection of stories, written between 1925 and 1946, he chronicles the fate of ordinary people living through extraordinary times, doing their best in a period of great upheaval. Fallada’s strength lies in his ability to understand the plight of the ordinary man, the humble, and the poor, those struggling to make their way in an increasingly hostile world, to lead decent lives in spite of the pressures they have to face. In any collection of stories, there are always some better than others, but all the stories here are consistently well told and all have much to offer. They are quiet and measured, with no melodrama, often funny although usually dark, and demonstrate enormous insight into just how hard everyday life became. Since the publication of his novel Alone in Berlin, there has been an increase in interest in Fallada, and this book of stories will surely enhance his reputation. I was moved by many of them, and his acute observation of and sympathy for his characters make this a wonderful portrait of a difficult period in German history. How it affected Germany’s ordinary citizens, particular in the years leading up to World War II, and how Fallada himself faced the challenges, particularly his morphine addiction, are all touched on here to great effect. I’m not a natural short story reader, but these kept my attention, and I very much enjoyed them.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I really like Hans Fallada’s writing and will forever be grateful to the publicists at Scribe who sent me three of his titles at a time when I’d never heard of him. I’ve now read five of his novels: Alone in Berlin, Little Man What Now? The Drinker, Wolf Among Wolves and Nightmare in Berlin and have two titles on my TBR: Why Do You Wear a Cheap Watch? (a Penguin Moderns edition) and A Small Circus. So of course I swooped on Tales from the Underground as soon as I saw it at the library. What I lik I really like Hans Fallada’s writing and will forever be grateful to the publicists at Scribe who sent me three of his titles at a time when I’d never heard of him. I’ve now read five of his novels: Alone in Berlin, Little Man What Now? The Drinker, Wolf Among Wolves and Nightmare in Berlin and have two titles on my TBR: Why Do You Wear a Cheap Watch? (a Penguin Moderns edition) and A Small Circus. So of course I swooped on Tales from the Underground as soon as I saw it at the library. What I like about Fallada’s writing is the way he manages to capture the sepia tones of life in Germany between the wars and during WW2, and how he tells the stories of flawed ordinary people who somehow manage to be engaging characters all the same. He was not living that life in sepia, of course, he was living it as dreary realism, as the introduction to this collection of short stories explains. What Jenny Williams does really well in this introduction is to show how these mostly autobiographical stories mesh with events in Fallada’s turbulent life: periods of unemployment; working as a labourer for the landed gentry, his addictions to alcohol and morphine, marriage and fatherhood and his imprisonment for embezzlement. She also shows how some of these stories reappear in his novels, so it’s an introduction well worth reading. It sounds grim, but there is a jauntiness about some of the stories, and a refusal to give in. I particularly liked the stories about struggles with married life and fatherhood… in ‘Happiness and Woe’ (1932) he depicts the simple games of father and son, and the father’s anxiety about having to leave a small child at home alone. It couldn’t be helped: his wife was at work and he had to go into town to collect his unemployment relief payment so that the rent could be paid. But then there is his terrible failure when his sense of relief takes him to drinking at the bar afterwards… ‘Fifty Marks and A Merry Christmas’ (1932) is about a young couple living close to the breadline and their dreams of spending a Christmas bonus from his work. At the moment The Guardian is running a series about poverty in Australia and Fallada’s story with its Christmas wishlist shows the same melancholy detail. Finding the money for simple things such as a haircut is a struggle, and the purchase of a lottery ticket is not the folly it appears to be but rather a desperate clutch at hope for better things. To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/09/21/t...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Fallada books ranked: 1. Every Man Dies Alone 2. Nightmare in Berlin 3. Wolf Among Wolves 4. A Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism 5. Little Man, What Now? 6. A Stranger in My Own Country: The 1944 Prison Diary 7. Tales from the Underworld 8. Once a Jailbird 9. The Drinker

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna Elliott

    My review for this marvellous selection of short stories is at my blog: www.leftontheshelfbookblog.blogspot.c.... My review for this marvellous selection of short stories is at my blog: www.leftontheshelfbookblog.blogspot.c....

  6. 5 out of 5

    Finlay Duffill

    An excellent anthology of "reel-of-life" stories. This would be in the early phases of cinema, with the notion of a home movie almost unforeseeable, but aside from my preference for a more literal metaphor the stories are imbued with a faulty morality in places that would make sense in the context of a small group of people's private world by proxy of some form of dysfunction. My other forenote is that Fallada is keen that the supporting actor is always Wrede, the same person with a different co An excellent anthology of "reel-of-life" stories. This would be in the early phases of cinema, with the notion of a home movie almost unforeseeable, but aside from my preference for a more literal metaphor the stories are imbued with a faulty morality in places that would make sense in the context of a small group of people's private world by proxy of some form of dysfunction. My other forenote is that Fallada is keen that the supporting actor is always Wrede, the same person with a different complexion each time. On the other hand, maybe it's just a very common name in Germany. In this blogpost I was going to share my reading notes on a handful of the stories. Watering Can () The time of day for a man with hyper-aggressive and childish prospects. "What a joy to be there for that, and while she's eating her bread and milk; then kisses her bedtime, big wavey-wavey, little wavey-wavey" Fallada can be implicated in reforming a very casual language more expressly than Queneau can at the expense of seeming a little region-specific. Einenkel's positive imagination, wrapped in the velvet sheen of a financial occupation, renders his happiness as a small and volatile bubble. Like most of the stories in the book the circumstances surrounding the characters are unfortunate and even damning, but in some sense it's natural to be temporarily dispossessed in this way. It's an emphatic minutiae with a dramatic framing device. The Lucky Beggar (1932) "Everyone thinks that. You're pushing forty, you'll never get another job as long as you live... Think about it, you cost almost twice as much to employ as a nineteen-year-old." A man recently let go from his job past the typical age of redundancy encounters a beggar with wishing-well water in his collection dish. The tragedy of an immobile, functionally useless financial asset mandating the optic-oriented evaluations made by the employers in this man's industry is that it can prevent so much of how the problem is communicable to those in vagrant circumstances, most often not out of a lack of conscientiousness. I like this description of the beggar in the story. "Sometimes, when he goes for a walk, he runs into the big, raw-boned beggar. Herr Mocke walks past him, looking staight ahead. Perhaps the fellow spoiled everything with his absurd demand of one mark, who knows in the world." There's a bit of bitterness to it. Always an inflection of character based on the perspective of an exchange thrown in to the casual language which makes for some excellent coloring. In the residence of the novel a mark is a decadent amount of money to be able to spend, and in many of the stories money becomes a steep breadline coming just before famine and other terrible misfortunes. This is an excellent book I think. Fallada's "Alone in Berlin" seems more essential for a strange sense of utter bleakness that turns the book into a superlative description of the problems with censorship in WW2 Berlin, but the subtlety themes discussed in this book at times would defeat the ability of most inferior writers. Sometimes it can seem to go against the grain of the objectivity, tabloid-reportage approach that is meant to characterize Fallada's body of work, but his prescription of the motives is more often than not in service of believable character studies which could definitely be drawn from life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    One of the things I like about short story collections is the ease of which you can dip in and out, one story at a time as it were, without losing any narrative thread. The problem with short story collections though is that there is no narrative thread, they can jump from tone to tone, first-person to third person narrative and the quality can vary dramatically. You often feel that you're reading a series of sketches - ideas that will later be fleshed out, trimmed down and slipped in in a minor One of the things I like about short story collections is the ease of which you can dip in and out, one story at a time as it were, without losing any narrative thread. The problem with short story collections though is that there is no narrative thread, they can jump from tone to tone, first-person to third person narrative and the quality can vary dramatically. You often feel that you're reading a series of sketches - ideas that will later be fleshed out, trimmed down and slipped in in a minor role or re-worked into a different context in the writer's novels. This is certainly the case, in part, with Tales From The Underworld, a collection of short stories by Hans Fallada. While his novels are rich, tightly bound mines of quality, the short stories here are perhaps too obviously touch-points for his later works to be taken at face-value. References to Altholm (setting for A Small Circus) rub shoulders with portrayals of farmworkers suffering at the hands of the government, characters across different stories share names and petty criminals and criminal acts populate a number of these stories. The struggles to get by, scrape an existence and find succour in the arms of loved ones at the most austere of times form the binding theme between those stories gathered here. That being said, Fallada is a vastly underrated writer and even the lesser of those stories within Tales From The Underworld is only judged so in comparison to his own more-fulfilled writing. A darkly humorous and at times devastatingly moving collection, the short stories here are sequenced chronologically and show Fallada refining his style and themes. The quality tails off toward the end, sadly, but when viewed in line with his own life add up to show an insight into his thinking and writing process.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    With all the empathy but much more immediacy than Fallada's novels, these short stories are snapshots of the ups and downs experienced and the hard choices made by people living their lives during the austerity of Germany in the first half of the 20th century.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Guy Ferguson

    Great! A totally random find, picked off the BCC Central shelf after finding no Dick or Egan - Fallada was right there. The writing is real. I imagine HF as a thirties-era housebreaking junkie. I had thought Burroughs the first to tell us how addiction translated into cities and families - but no, HF did so decades before. Of course de Q and Coleridge covered this also, but HF I relate to in terms of the world he lived in. for the earlier recorders of this grim choice, there was nothing about th Great! A totally random find, picked off the BCC Central shelf after finding no Dick or Egan - Fallada was right there. The writing is real. I imagine HF as a thirties-era housebreaking junkie. I had thought Burroughs the first to tell us how addiction translated into cities and families - but no, HF did so decades before. Of course de Q and Coleridge covered this also, but HF I relate to in terms of the world he lived in. for the earlier recorders of this grim choice, there was nothing about the trouble in tearing a sheet of paper into the exact non-standard size of a prescription.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ciaran Monaghan

    I read this one as I really enjoyed Alone in Berlin but I can't say this one really matched up in terms of quality. None of the stories were amazing but all were short and written in a nice and easy-to-digest style. You could easily dip in and out and read something else in the meantime if you wanted. This might be good if you have a historical interest as all the stories document life in Germany during the Depression but I wouldn't rush out to get it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt Kelly

    Brilliant

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dale Smith

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marko Nikolovski

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nellalou

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  17. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  18. 4 out of 5

    Johnny Bellew

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alessandro Speciale

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dee

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tulseluper

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liliana Muntean

  23. 5 out of 5

    James

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jon Rowe

  25. 5 out of 5

    Richard Bolson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Simon Harvey

  27. 4 out of 5

    William

  28. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

  29. 5 out of 5

    Will Comrie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Johannah

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