Hans Fallada, The Drinker (1950)
Absurdity
in The Existential drinker
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This chapter places a lesser-known text into the Existential drinker canon. Written whilst in a Nazi criminal asylum by the once highly popular author Hans Fallada, the protagonist Erwin Sommer takes to drinking for reasons which never seem to fully explain his course of self-destructive behaviour. While not given to much overt philosophical contemplation The Drinker does nevertheless have many characteristics of the Existential-drinker text, in particular its expression of absurdity, the belief that we find ourselves born into a world not of our making and which has no intrinsic meaning or purpose. The novel indicates that being a good citizen – the good businessman, the good husband – is meant to provide Sommer with a reason for living, but ultimately these appear futile and Sommer remains alienated. The chapter places the novel in its historical context, with some consideration given to how we might interpret it with its semi-autobiographical origins and knowing the circumstances of its creation.

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