Book #26

Why Do You Wear a Cheap Watch? by Hans Fallada

'It was what we call in the trade a potato...'

Tales of low-lifes and grifters trying to make ends meet in pre-War Germany.

Well, I’ve been missing out. Having only gotten round to reading Alone in Berlin a few years ago, this collection of Fallada’s stories has reinforced a love, and prompted me to seek out more of his work.

The titular story, Why Do You Wear a Cheap Watch?, felt as though a lot of emotions were being stirred in me. Comedy, nostalgia, sadness, grief. And yet there was something cheeky in there too, something needling, as though I were being made fun of. It was a strange experience, but enjoyable nonetheless.

War Monument or Urinal didn’t grab me at all, despite the intrigue of the title. Satirical, political, and involving a lot of men talking and self-aggrandising, I wasn’t particularly engaged.

And yet, when I reached Fifty Marks and a Happy Christmas, I was enthralled. Fallada shows us a young, married couple, living in poverty, dreaming of the things they could buy for Christmas. Small things - things I would take for granted - are written down on a list and longed for. Their resolute insistence to have the most wonderful Christmas they can, and the clear love and generosity of those who don’t have much to give, really stayed with me. Gorgeous.