Hans Fallada’s Little Man, What Now? is a good novel in good times. In an economic downturn, it’s absolutely chilling.
Pinneberg does the right thing by his pregnant girlfriend, Bunny. His salary as a clerk barely covers his own needs, and setting up housekeeping is far more expensive than either had expected. Pinneberg assures Bunny that a baby is almost no expense in the first year; they’ll manage.
Bunny, a sweet girl with no practical skills, learns to cook, to make do. She finds them an attic apartment, cheap because it’s accessible only by ladder and operating outside the law.
Then Pinneberg loses his job. He finds another selling clothes on commission. When the company imposes quotas, he is out of a job again and on the dole. An acquaintance lets them rent a shed on small country property he owns. They would be destitute except for what Bunny earns doing mending.
Bunny refuses to let Pinneberg steal wood for fuel.
“He must keep his self-respect,” she tells her father-in-law. “It’s our only luxury, we must stick to it.”
Fallada’s matter-of-factness makes the misery and courage of this young couple both inspirational and terrifying.
Put Little Man What Now? on your must-read list.Little Man, What Now? By Hans Fallada Simon and Schuster, 1933 Trans. From the German by Eric Sutton 383 pages 1933 #10 My grade; A
© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni