Tales from the Underworld: Selected Shorter Fiction
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Darkly funny, searingly honest short stories from Hans Fallada, author of bestselling Alone in Berlin
In these stories, criminals lament how hard it is to scrape a living by breaking and entering; families measure their daily struggles in marks and pfennigs; a convict makes a desperate leap from a moving train; a ring - and with it a marriage - is lost in a basket of potatoes.
Here, as in his novels, Fallada is by turns tough, darkly funny, streetwise and effortlessly engaging, writing with acute feeling about ordinary lives shaped by forces larger than themselves: addiction, love, money.
of which are collected in Tales from the Underworld. Fallada died in Berlin in 1947. Iron Gustav, Once a Jailbird, A Small Circus and Alone in Berlin are all published in Penguin Modern Classics. Michael Hofmann is the author of several books of poems and the translator of many modern and contemporary German authors. Penguin publishes his translations of Fallada’s Alone in Berlin and A Small Circus, Kafka’s Amerika and Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel, Irmgard
you’re doing it. Because I smiled at one of your girls. You want to make all the pretty ones cry, because you haven’t got a man.’ We got into a shouting match, Sergeant Schmidt didn’t understand what it was about, but he hauled me off to the station just in case. As I sat there on the bunk, I sobered up quickly enough. I regretted that I’d got so heated. My job was recruiting subscribers, not smiling at girls, and the Kehding woman was more right than wrong. 7 After the police had made a few
stood there looking at me. But I didn’t dare look up at her till she asked me: ‘I suppose you’re thinking about Martha?’ With that, I had to look at her, and I saw she wasn’t looking at me angrily or hungrily, but just unhappily that she had done something to hurt me. And so what I replied was: ‘No, I’m not.’ But I didn’t feel really sorry for her either. ‘Do you think you’ll ever be really fond of me?’ she asked, then. I thought of pretending I hadn’t heard, because she did ask in a very
account of her husband’s progress. She sometimes saw her father and brother in town; to begin with she would ask eagerly how things were at home, but over time she stopped asking, because the replies didn’t sound good, rather they sounded like an accusation in her ears. In fact, the little farm never quite got over the haemorrhage that the wedding had brought about. The meadow was gone, the animals one by one came under the hammer, and while the old man and his son slaved away, there was no
maid was on the scene. She begged him not to do anything to me. She freely admitted she had smuggled me into the manor house as her lover. She was only human, and it wouldn’t happen again. Just so long as he didn’t do anything to me, I would leave immediately … I must admit, she was a remarkable old creature, unhesitatingly taking the fall for her mistress. She had to push her sentences into the short intervals of his yelling, but she did it very deftly. Very canny too was her repeated