Monday, 26 November 2012

Hans Fallada

Hans Fallad's Alone in Berlin was only translated into English a couple of years ago, as noted in this Guardian article.

I've just read it, and can confirm that its much-delayed success is entirely well deserved. 

The edition I bought has the author's biography at the end.  I was fascinated to discover the details of Fallada's troubled life, including his drug addiction, long-term imprisonment and mental health issues. As noted on

"It has been said that writers draw their creativity from their own pain and experiences. In the case of Hans Fallada, this may well be true. After being deeply affected by the changes in his life, pain was still to come. During 1910, when Hans Fallada contracted typhoid, he somehow decided that this life was not for him. So, in boarding school, he was able to find a friend whose thoughts were along the same lines as Hans Fallada. In an attempt to disguise their suicides, both boys decided to on a duel. Unfortunately, like most duels, only one person falls down. This person was in the person of Hanns Dietrich, Hans Fallada’s friend and boarding schoolmate.

Hans Fallada went through a lot of tragedies and heartaches. After shooting his friend, he decided to take the gun into his own hands and extinguish his life. However, this plan did not go according to his plans. After surviving the shot he himself instigated, Hans Fallada was sent to trial. Yet again, he was able to avoid a bleak future. Unfortunately, the story does not end here. Because after Hans Fallada was declared innocent of all charges due to insanity, the mental institution he was sent to was just the beginning of a long string of failures, addiction, theft, political fears and fascism."

I've never paid much attention to author biographies but I'm tempted to read Jenny Williams's book, More Lives Than One.   
Sometimes writers draw their creativity through the lives of other writers.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

New ebook - Things That Don't Exist: a Manifesto

Having previously published  flash fiction, short stories, poetry, humour, sci fi, horror, experimentalism, literary fiction, Philistine Press have a new genre to add to our ever-expanding list: the manifesto.  

And what an astounding piece of work this manifesto is. 

In the words of the anonymous authors: 

"The world at it’s currently run relies on the assumption that each and every member of the earth’s population believe in three fundamental ideas: money, nationality and status. These three concepts have one thing in common: they only exist in our imaginations. Not everyone recognises these concepts as valid, but officially we all do.

As far as the media are concerned, the non-existence of these three works of fiction is the greatest taboo of our time. They’re taken for granted in the same way volcanoes are taken for granted. They’re part of our world, and out of our control.

Now is the time for questions. Where did these beliefs come from? Why are they here? And how do we get rid of them?"  

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

National Short Story Week: whoops, I missed it...

As is the way with these things, I realised it was National Short Story Week a week after it happened. 

As a bit of belated support, here are a bunch of short-story related websites that are worth investigating:

National Short Story Week website
Thresholds Short Story Forum
The Short Review
The European Short Story Network
Short Story Radio
Comma Press

I could go on and on and on, but it would take me a couple more weeks, by which time I'd be far too late. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012


This Hungarian film set on the Budapest subway system is an absolute classic.  It's available to view in full online via You Tube...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - a one word review

As previously mentioned on this blog, I recently finished reading War and Peace. (I'm just bragging, really.) I'll be the first to admit that my one word review serves no real purpose, but there's no other way of summing up Tolstoy's masterpiece in a single word:


Of course, I'm pointing out the obvious. The one thing everyone knows about War and Peace is that it's the size of a breezeblock.

In my view, it could've been the size of a house. In the hands of Dickens, for example, War and Peace would've been several times its length. The economy of Tolstoy's prose could almost be called minimalist. (Indeed, I'm sure it has been, several times. I'm joining the conversation a little late.)

Editing the book would take some doing. I'm tempted to argue that every single word needs to be there. The only way to shorten it would be to remove some of its sub plots.

The trouble is, there aren't really any sub plots. There are hundreds of characters, but arguably they all need to be there for the story to make sense.

Of course, you could say the same about any novel. Edit bits out and the book loses a percentage of its power. That being said, there are plenty of long, rambling epics that would benefit from shedding a couple of hundred pages. (Would it be sacrilege to suggest that certain classics would work better in abridgement form? Oh well, I've said it now. My delete key doesn't work. Maybe that was Tolstoy's problem.)

Anyway, despite its length, complexity and relentless misery (which at times makes the book an uphill struggle), War and Peace is highly recommended. If I'd written a four word review, I'd've said 'Long, but worth it.'

And now that I've said it, Tolstoy can rest easy in his grave.

Nice one, Leo.