Review of A Small Circus by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hoffman.
This novel is set in Altholm, Pomerania, Weimar republic (Pomerania is now split between Poland and Germany) in 1929 the title comes from the prologue where as the visiting circus refused to buy as space in the Altholm chronicle calling it a "fish and chip paper", the newspaper publishes a scathing review calling it a small circus.
The rest of the novel, the circus is not i it in a real sense but a metaphorical sense. The narrative structure is a third person and there is no focal point of a character with various characters in the novel being important. There is the mayor Gareis (though the translation of mayor may be a bit disconcerting as there is also the position of Lord Mayor in the small town). The press is a main focal point too with the Altholm Chronicle editor Stuff and advertising manager Tredup also featuring strongly. We then also the farmers, who form the main crux of the events that spiral in the storyline as two Revenue bailiffs go to confiscate oxen from a farmer who had a crazy estimated tax bill levied against the farmer. (Considering how the topic of the novel comes froma Revenue bill, could I claim the time spent reading it as part of a Continual Professional Development time needed for my annual return? *ponders*)
The novel is split into three section, the first entitled "the farmers", the second "the townies" and the last section is called "judgement day". There is really no character that comes out of the novel looking good but this isn't a bad thing. In the portrayal of the characters there is a darki comedic force (I burst out laughing at a couple of things in it, for example
Fallada was looking at making the going on of the small town in question, based on his own experience as a journalist in the region to be the circus that it was, encapsulating the last days of the Weimar Republic. If it was a new novel now, I'd probably be criticising it for being just based on the benefit of hindsight on the crumblings of the Weimar Republic. Being as it is from around the time it was written, it seems very prescient in the portrayal of the Weimar Republic.
This is not the best book ever written but it is a very good book. Fallada has a great ear for dialogue and this book is very big on dialogue, maybe if Fallada was alive today, he might have been a script writer instead as his novel do tend to be dialogue hevy (though that is only based on reading 2 of his other novels, one which was specifically made for the intention of making a film of it)