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The Lesser Evil

The Lesser Evil

The third and final volume of the diaries of Victor Klemperer, a Jew in Dresden who survived the war and whose diaries have been hailed as one of the 20th century’s most important chronicles.

This volume opens in June 1945. The immediate postwar period produces many shocks and revelations – some people have behaved better than Klemperer had believed, others much worse. His sharp observations are now turned on the East German Communist Party, which he himself joins, and he notes many similarities between Nazi and Communist behaviour. Politics, he comes to believe, is above all the choice of the “lesser evil”. He is made a professor in Greifswald, then in Berlin and Halle. His wife Eva dies in 1951 but within a year at the age of 70 he marries one of his students, an unlikely but successful love-match. He serves in the GDR’s People’s Chamber and represents East German scholarship abroad. But it is the details of everyday life, and the honesty and directness, that make these diaries so fascinating.

‘Klemperer was a shrewd judge of human nature and unsparing of his own. As a diarist he is in the Pepys class…’ (Norman Lebrecht, Spectator)
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Reviews

Klemperer's diary deserves to rank alongside that of Anne Frank
SUNDAY TIMES
These diaries constitute one of the most vital historical and human documents of their age. Packed with vivid observation, profound reflection ... they find hope, dignity and even tart humour in the jaws of hell
INDEPENDENT
One of the greatest diarists - perhaps the greatest - in the German language
NEW YORK TIMES
Compulsive reading ... Klemperer's diary also offers a superb window on life in Soviet-occupied Germany in 1945-9 and the early years of the German Democratic Republic
LITERARY REVIEW
Klemperer's acute eye for the corruption of his contemporaries and his sharp ear for the corruption of language make these diaries an inexhaustible mine of information and insight for anybody interested in the German catastrophe ... In the hands of a master, the ephemeral is perennial
DAILY TELEGRAPH
The diary juxtaposes the profound and the mundane, rather like life itself. That is what makes it such a vivid and powerful account of a remarkable life
SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
Deeply engrossing ... he has the supreme gifts of honesty and scepticism ... He doesn't exaggerate, he doesn't fantasize ... one of the supreme chroniclers of the 20th century
SPECTATOR
No other testimony remotely as truthful exists of the locked-in half of Germany. The voice of Victor Klemperer is simply indispensable
EVENING STANDARD
Puts tears and blood into a political era that is otherwise difficult to dramatise and so to imagine
SCOTSMAN
The enhance Victor Klemperer's rare standing as a truth-teller
IRISH TIMES
The triumph of these diaries ... is precisely this: not for one moment does Klemperer lose his essential humanity. The diaries testify to the integrity of private space and truth to self ... This is the epic of a self-confessedly commonplace mortal with extraordinary qualities of intellect, wit and self-knowledge - recording his insights with unswerving fidelity to the truth
GUARDIAN