More Lives Than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada

Jenny Williams
More Lives Than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada

Philip Oltermann writes:

On Tuesday, 17 October 1911, 18-year-old Rudolf Ditzen, the future Hans Fallada, got up before dawn to meet his schoolfriend Hanns Dietrich von Necker at a tourist spot outside Rudolstadt in Thuringia. Some weeks beforehand, they had agreed to take each other’s lives in a double suicide, though they hadn’t been able to decide how to do it. Fallada was carrying a Tesching gun, Necker a revolver; each of them had fixed a red bow to his lapel, just above the heart, for the other to aim at. According to Fallada, the duel had been Necker’s idea: his mother was the widow of an army major and would find it easier to accept his death if it was the result of a duel. But Necker’s suicide note, written the night before, frames Fallada: ‘He casts a strange spell over me, and was able to make me completely submit myself to his will.’ With their first shots, they missed completely. With their second, Necker’s bullet missed, but Necker himself was hit in the heart, though he remained conscious enough to beg his friend to shoot him again. Fallada, who was short-sighted, fired three more bullets: one for Necker, two for himself. The first entered his lung, the other narrowly missed his heart. Stumbling back down the path to Rudolstadt, he was found by a forester who took him to hospital. His mother’s first reaction to her son attempting suicide and killing his friend in the process was: ‘Thank God, at least nothing sexual.’

(LRB 8 March 2012)

Published by Penguin Books Ltd
02 February 2012
ISBN: 9780241952672

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