One nice thing about reading so much Hans Fallada (for an upcoming review/profile) is how often I think, “Okay, that sounds a lot worse than right now.” But then there are moments like this exchange, between a former Army officer who now does entry-level labor at a hotel, and his landowner friend:
“Of course we took up the wrong attitude. I’ve discovered that ninety-nine percent of mankind have to torment themselves about money; they think of it day and night, speak of it, spend it, save it, start anew–in short, money is the thing round which the world revolves. It is only inexperience which makes us indifferent to money, not willing to speak about the most important thing which exists.” …“Studmann,” asked von Prackwitz, bewildered and despairing, “Studmann, you haven’t become a Socialist, by any chance?”
The former first lieutenant looked for a moment as perplexed and as startled as if he had been suspected of a murder. “Prackwitz,” he said, “old comrade, the Socialists think about money just as you do. Only they want to take it away from you, so that they can have it. No, Prackwitz, I’m certainly not a Socialist. And won’t become one either.”
“But what are you?” asked von Prackwitz. “You must eventually belong to some group or party.”
“Why?” asked von Studmann. “Why must I?”
“Well, I don’t know,” said von Prackwitz, a little perplexed. “We all eventually belong to something, for the elections if for no other reason. Somehow one has to subordinate oneself, to toe the line. It’s, so to speak, orderly.”
“But if no order exists for me?” asked von Studmann.
–tr. Phillip Owens