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Iron Gustav


A powerful story of the shattering effects of the First World War on both a family and a country - from Hans Fallada, bestselling author of Alone in Berlin

'This remarkable work, now complete after 76 years, could well be one of the finest novels any of us will ever read' Irish Times

Gustav Hackendahl's will is law. Known as 'Iron Gustav', he runs his family and his Berlin carriage business with stern, unyielding discipline. But his children have wills of their own, and soon they slip from his control - some to better lives, some towards disaster. As war breaks out and Gustav's beloved Germany is devastated by hardship and violence, he finds everything he believes in destroyed. Can the man of iron endure, or even change?

Brutal and moving, written with Hans Fallada's gift for capturing the small tragedies of ordinary lives, Iron Gustav is a heartbreaking family chronicle and an unflinching portrayal of the First World War and its aftermath.

Every so often you come across a book so finely wrought that you have no doubt about its status as a literary classic. Iron Gustav is one ... The writing is visual, vivid and visceral, the irony delicate, and even when it is cynical the novel doesn't sneer ... Fallada's descriptions of material degradation and squalor equal those of Dickens and Dostoyevsky. He has the gift for complex narrative of Thomas Mann combined with the page-turning powers of great thriller writers such as Raymond Chandler, and the structural control of a great painter or composer ... This [Penguin Modern Classics edition] is the first authentic version of not just a classic, but a masterpiece of world literature -- Paul Levy ― Wall Street Journal

A powerful portrayal of the devastating effects of the first world war on a family and a country ... The project went through a tortuous journey, with rewrites ordered by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, which have been taken out of the new edition ... this new edition is as close as possible to Fallada's original ― Observer

Fallada captures the small tragedies of family life, the loss of dignity caused by unemployment, squalid housing and the misery of seeing civilized values destroyed. This anti-war book, censored by Goebbels in the Thirties, is a gripping addition to modern German history ― Daily Mail

There is a serious cause for celebration: one of the finest German-language works of the 20th century is now available as it was intended to be read ... A vivid, atmospheric portrait of Berlin ... Fallada's literary genius rests not only in how he can sustain a multithreaded narrative but in how he, apparently effortlessly, develops characters through chronicling their actions ... the book triumphs as a study of ordinary Berliners faced with dire adversity; Fallada celebrates them repeatedly, their wariness, their humour, their toughness, their blunt kindness and, above all, their conversation ... This remarkable work, now complete after 76 years, could well be one of the finest novels any of us will ever read. Hans Fallada really was that most rare creature, a born novelist who was also a witness ― Irish Times

The 'hundreds of deep rifts' that tear defeated Germany apart play out in microcosm within [Iron Gustav's] family ... Fallada shuffles melodrama, farce and documentary realism ... This, as even Dr Goebbels must have seen, is laughter in the dark -- Boyd Tonkin ― Independent

A powerful novel ... this new version is something of a publishing coup as it is the first time we have the novel in its entirety in English ... Iron Gustav acutely highlights the chequered fortunes of the ordinary 'little man' against the larger picture of Germany's moral and economic breakdown ... [this is] a saga with the same reach and depth as Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks ... a chronicle of Berlin in those turbulent early decades of the 20th century. Key events appear like milestones: war, Versailles, lawless street-fighting, hyperinflation, Weimar hedonism and the first dark shoots of Nazism ... This is a social history writ large and mercifully free of sanctimonious preaching or soft-focus distortions ... Fallada's voice is as beguilingly lucid as ever, his images clear to the point of stark, his blighted and resilient Berliners ringing astoundingly true ― National

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