Little Man, What Now?

Hans Fallada

translated from the German by Susan Bennett
Melville House 2009 [1932]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009
When pregnancy ensues after a chance night-time encounter on the dunes, shop clerk Joachim Pinneborg and working class Emma Morschel marry in a registry office. Little Man, What Now? follows their struggle to survive, first in a small provincial town and then in Berlin, in the depths of the Great Depression. They face accommodation shortages, malicious employers, uncaring government bureaucracy, and unemployment, and have to struggle both to balance their budget and to retain their basic decency and self-respect.

The plot is episodic, with the story held together by the characters of Pinneborg and to a lesser extent his wife (who is in many ways stronger than he is and better able to cope with a hostile world). A small number of other characters are also fleshed out, notably Pinneborg's work friend Heilbutt, who is loyal and trustworthy but takes his naturism rather seriously, and his mother's lover Jachmann, a shady operator.

Fallada doesn't try to do much in Little Man, What Now?, offering neither a morality tale nor a political message. The narrative is fast-paced and easy to read and the story is, despite the bleak setting and plot elements, essentially upbeat. It makes an engaging novel, but with its details of everyday life Little Man, What Now? also offers a vivid picture of Germany in the years just before Hitler came to power.

Note: Little Man, What Now? was first published as Kleiner Mann — was nun? in 1932.

August 2009

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%T Little Man, What Now?
%A Fallada, Hans
%M German
%F Bennett, Susan
%I Melville House
%D 2009 [1932]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781933633640
%P 345pp