Every Man Dies Alone
By Hans Fallada
The most fascinating book I’ve read about surveillance and its crushing effect on political dissent is Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone. Based on the real story of a working-class German couple who left a trail of anonymous postcards throughout Berlin calling for civil disobedience against the Nazis, the book is a page-turning spy thriller, love story and moving testament to the human capacity for small acts of breathtaking courage in the face of relentless repression. The couple, Otto and Anna Quangel in the book, are tracked by Gestapo agents who come to believe they must represent a vast network of underground resistance. Far from sentimental, the novel shows the Quangels to be unsophisticated and even inept, though no less heroic for their flaws and the futility of their mission. The ending carries the full force of tragedy. Incredibly, Hans Fallada wrote the novel in 24 days after being released from a Nazi insane asylum. Beset with severe alcoholism, he died before it was published.