Hans Fallada, born Rudolf Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen in Greifswald, was one of the most famous German writers of the 20th century. His novel, LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW? is generally considered his most famous work and is a classic of German literature. Fallada's pseudonym derives from a combination of characters found in the Grimm fairy tales: The protagonist of Lucky Hans and a horse named Falada in The Goose Girl.
He was the child of a magistrate on his way to becoming a supreme court judge and a mother from a middle-class background, both of whom shared an enthusiasm for music and to a lesser extent, literature. Jenny Williams notes in her biography, MORE LIVES THAN ONE that Fallada's father would often read aloud to his children the works authors including Shakespeare and Schiller (Williams, 5).
In 1899 when Fallada was 6, his father relocated the family to Berlin following the first of several promotions he would receive. Fallada had a very difficult time upon first entering school in 1901. As a result, he immersed himself in books, eschewing literature more in line with his age for authors including Flaubert, Dostoevsky, and Dickens. In 1909 the family relocated to Leipzig following his father's appointment to the Imperial Supreme Court.
A rather severe road accident in 1909 (he was run over by a horse-drawn cart, then kicked in the face by the horse) and the contraction of typhoid in 1910 seem to mark a turning point in Fallada's life and the end of his relatively care-free youth. His adolescent years were characterized by increasing isolation and self-doubt, compounded by the lingering effects of these ailments. In addition, his life-long drug problems were born of the pain-killing medications he was taking as the result of his injuries. These issues manifested themselves in multiple suicide attempts. In 1911 he made a pact with his close friend, Hanns Dietrich, to stage a duel to mask their suicides, feeling that the duel would be seen as more honorable. Because of both boys' inexperience with weapons, it was a bungled affair. Dietrich missed Fallada, but Fallada did not miss Dietrich, killing him. Fallada was so distraught that he picked up Dietrich's gun and shot himself in the chest, but miraculously survived. Nonetheless, the death of his friend ensured his status as an outcast from society. Although he was found innocent of murder by way of insanity, from this point on he would serve multiple stints in mental institutions. At one of these institutions, he was assigned to work in a farmyard, thus beginning his lifelong affinity for farm culture.
While in a sanatorium, Fallada took to translation and poetry, albeit unsuccessfully, before finally breaking ground as a novelist in 1920 with the publication of his first book Young Goedeschal. During this period he also struggled with morphine addiction, and the death of his younger brother in the first World War.
In the wake of the war, Fallada worked several farmhand and other agricultural jobs in order to support himself and finance his growing drug addictions. Before the war Fallada relied on his father for financial support while writing; after the German defeat he was no longer able, nor willing, to depend on his father's assistance. Shortly after the publication of Anton and Gerda Fallada reported to prison in Greiswald to serve a 6-month sentence for stealing grain from his employer and selling it to support his drug habit. Less than 3 years later in 1926 Fallada again found himself imprisoned as a result of a drug and alcohol-fueled string of thefts from employers. In February 1928 he finally emerged free of addiction.
Fallada married Suse Issel in 1929 and maintained a string of respectable jobs in journalism, working for newspapers and eventually for the publisher of his novels, Rowohlt. It is around this time that his novels became noticeably political and started to comment on the social and economic woes of Germany. His breakthrough success came in 1930
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