May 24, 2010

Fallada phenomenon spreads to UK


The Observer‘s Dalya Alberge looks at the Hans Fallada phenomenon as it’s playing out in the UK. As she details in this report, Fallada’s last novel — the UK publisher, Penguin Classics, mysteriously made up a new title for the book Fallada called Every Man Dies Alone, changing it to Alone in Berlin — is a sudden and huge hit: “In the UK alone, Penguin Classics has sold more than 100,000 copies in just three months and is expecting to exceed 250,000 sales within the year — astonishing figures considering that most English novels barely sell a few thousand copies.”

As she also notes, the fabled UK classics house did not originate the project, which went untranslated for over 60 years, until it was discovered and published by “Melville House Publishing, a small independent company from whom Penguin bought the rights ….”

In fact, interest in Fallada’s other titles has grown just as intensely in the UK as it has in the US — as Alberge notes, “Wolf Among Wolves, Fallada’s 1937 novel about the 1920s slump, went on sale last week in Britain through Melville House. It has already gone into its third printing. Fallada’s son considers it is his father’s ‘greatest and best book’. Fallada himself once told his mother that Every Man Dies Alone was a ‘truly great novel —  somewhat along the lines of my Wolf‘.”

Meanwhile, Fallada’s son mentioned above — Ulrich Ditzen, who appeared with Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson on the Charlie Rose Show ( you can watch the segment here) tells Alberge “he was overwhelmed by the latest sales.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives