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Written in an encrypted notebook while incarcerated in a Nazi insane asylum and discovered after his death, The Drinker may be Hans Fallada’s most breathtaking piece of craftsmanship. It is an intense yet absorbing study of the descent into drunkenness by an intelligent man who fears he’s lost it all.
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aversion, I had dutifully eaten part of the supper which had been brought in—it was quite nice—and afterwards I had drunk heavily. I had lain down on the bed and, in a half-sleep I was awaiting the time for my departure. Then my stomach began to heave. I was obliged to get up and vomit endlessly, in agonising pain. My whole body was covered in sweat, my hands and knees were trembling, my heart beat loudly and uncertainly as if at any moment it would stop. There were tears in my eyes, lights
the delivery of the cordage, but even that could not nearly have accounted for so much. Well anyway, I told myself, suppressing my happy excitement, there was money enough there, enough for the business and above all enough for me and my plans. For the moment I struggled with the temptation to draw out the whole amount, but I conquered myself. I did not want to behave meanly to Magda and the business, however meanly she had behaved to me. Apart from that, such a withdrawal, which would have
for it! So let’s get on. Sommer!” “Herr Schulze,” I pleaded, and I did not stir a step from the square in front of the inn, my last chance. “There’s really not a soul here who knows me. Please do me this one favour! Just one single schnaps! I’ll tell my wife to let you have a hundred marks …” “That’s going too far!” shouted the sergeant, red with rage. “Have you gone raving mad, Sommer? That’s bribery, what you’re trying to do. I ought to charge you on the spot. Come on immediately, or I’ll put
leniently of Magda and the cunning doctor, and I swore to myself once again that next time I would be shrewder and more truthful. I convinced myself that nothing was lost yet, and I imagined long conversations with the doctor, in which I displayed a rare wit and a charming candour. Eventually—an hour or so before unlocking-time—I really fell asleep. In my dream I was in my home town, I went through its streets and alleys, I saw many friends and acquaintances but they did not see me and passed by
able to bring myself to reread a single line in any book of mine once it has appeared’. So he worked in the period between Farmers, Functionaries and Fireworks and The Drinker, the greater part of which was spent in the lake-strewn north German countryside at Carwitz near Feldberg, halfway between Greifswald and Berlin. Here he lived the life of a beekeeper and small landowner, interrupted by occasional newspaper contributions and, once or twice each year, the blindly compulsive writing of a