• Hans Fallada

I spent the holidays in Berlin, arriving on Christmas Day. One of my presents, from my friends Sabine and Jens, was a book. (I could tell by feeling through the wrapping and shaking it.) When I opened it I was pleased. “Hans Fallada!” I said. The title was Alone in Berlin. Sabine was quick to say, “It does not mean that you are alone in Berlin. You have friends here!”

I do have friends there. And I was happy to have a new Fallada novel, having been in thrall of his writing since I first read his brilliant and devastating autobiographical novel The Drinker, which was composed by Fallada while he was incarcerated in a Nazi insane asylum. It haunted my dreams.