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Diary of a Man in Despair

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  434 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, a Prussian aristocrat, began a secret diary in May 1936, which describes how a psychosis enveloped an entire society, enabling Hitler's rise to power, and the Nazi regime. His insider observations are set down with passion, outrage and almost unbearable sadness.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2000 by Gerald Duckworth & Company (first published 1947)
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This is an interesting book not only from the setting (Germany from 1936-1944), but also from the unique perspective within Germany. The author is a conservative and former monarchist, who sits in his estate and rails against the 'Prussian' character of the new state, but also the dehumanizing effects of money and industrialization, how it will destroy farms to build armaments factories. He also has a snobbish disdain not just for the greedy herds of bourgeoisie which he calls 'mass-men', but al ...more

[This book has been translated into English under the title Diary of a Man in Despair.]

Born into a noble Prussian family down on its luck, Friedrich Percyval Reck-Malleczewen (1884-1945) was a failed officer and a failed medical doctor and so wrote articles for newspapers and books for the mass market in order to keep his head above water. But beginning in May, 1936, he secretly wrote a diary in which he eloquently and dangerously vented his hate for the Nazis and those who helped them to power
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential peri-WWII reading discovered thanks to one of those "readers also enjoyed" recommendations on GR's upper-right margin. I was like, hey, that sounds like a catchy title, an uplifting romp to help me through the recent extreme Arctic freeze. GR was ultimately right: I liked this a good deal, this journal of a country's suicide, a document that every Fox News aficionado and anyone who self-IDs as "deplorable" should have forcibly uploaded into them to debug their corrupted systems of mora ...more
Justin Evans
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, essays
Apparently, there is some disagreement about how 'authentic' Reck's diary is. For instance, he talks like a south-German gentleman, but was actually Prussian. Researchers who care about these things say that he lies a lot. This might dampen your reading experience, but not mine: I don't care if Reck's Diary is false, or a persona, or a character, because the speaker in these diaries is one of the most entertaining, enlightening characters I've ever come across in fiction. Whatever else Reck did ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've never read a book so dark yet so beautiful in my entire life. Diary of a Man in Despair is a book that everybody should read, a powerful story of undying spirit in dire times.
Nicholas During
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Freiderich Reck is a major contemporary critic of the Nazis. His critique, unlike the major ones coming out of Europe after the war, is from the right. He is a conservative prophet of doom, and his prescience is impressive since he never doubts the absolute disaster that was the rise of Nazism. To him Hitler is not very impressive, he often refers to him as something like "that man from rented rooms," but Reck has his own explanation of why he rose to so much power. Firstly he is not a fan of de ...more
Philippe Malzieu
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Harendt considered this book as the best testimony on Nazi Germany. It has just appeared in French. The most striking chapter is the one where he lunches in a brewery with a few meters of Hitler. « I could have killed him ».With what the course of history is due. And we understand that german nazi resistance was done by young romantic people (Sophie Scholl) and old aristocrat who hated the plebs.
Other people prefered exile, even interior exile.
Reck-Malleczewen died in Dachau in 1945.
Jul 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fascism
An interesting document, and worth spending some hours with, despite my 3-stars. The book consists largely of a rant, but a principled and entirely rational arch-conservative, confronted (at first-hand) with the utter madness of the Nazi regime. Reck lived in 'inner emigration', but ended up dying in Dachau.

An honest man, a writer of well-known childrens' books, in a work gone berserk....
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came upon this extraordinary book while browsing in the library, having never heard of it. Reck writes in horrified, apocalyptic tones of Nazi Germany from 1936 to 1944. In almost every other situation, his pronouncements would seem hyperbolic and melodramatic; in context, they seem terribly appropriate. From the beginning of the book, Reck utterly condemns everything about the Nazis and foretells a Second World War which will bring catastrophe to Germany. Indeed, he invites it as the only way ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reck's diary is a moving and heartfelt howl against the Nazis consisting of what might seem to be an incongruous mix of dishy gossip, get-off-my-lawn fist shaking, and escalating tales of haunting atrocity. It's fascinating to view the rise of the Nazis and the parallel Nazification of German society through Reck's socially and politically conservative perspective - where criticism of the regime is just as much aesthetic as it is moral (because, to Reck, aesthetic and moral are pretty much the s ...more
Wes Hazard
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Holy Sheeeet, Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen: This dude is my newest hero. What a book. 200+ pages of the most livid, caustic, perceptive, learned and cultivated dude throwing absolute haymaker roundhouses at Nazis. Glorious.

He was a landowning aristocrat, a veteran, and a writer of popular fiction (mostly for children). He moved in the most influential circles, was a connoisseur of art and lit, and he knew his history. If he had bought in to the ideology of the Third Reich, or even just played alon
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
A fascinating document by a cultured gentleman of Munich, who comes upon Hitler and Company. For one, he is clearly not a fan of the Nazis, and reading his journal is like watching a car accident in the process - but in slow motion. He clearly had an understanding of these guys - who he saw as being uneducated bullies - in fact, there is almost a class resentment on his part against the Nazi world. He really doesn't like their aesthetic or the personality that makes a "Nazi." It pains him that G ...more
Philip Girvan
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
"My life in this pit will soon enter its fifth year. For more than forty-two months, I have thought hate, have laid down with hate in my heart, have dreamt hate and awakened with hate. I suffocate in the knowledge that I am the prisoner of a horde of vicious apes, and I rack my brains over the perpetual riddle of how this same people which so jealously watched over its rights a few years ago can have sunk into this stupor, in which it not only allows itself to be dominated by the street-corner i ...more
Edwin Stratton-Mackay
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Along with Reck-Malleczewen's "Bockelson" (AKA "A History of the Münster Anabaptists..."), this is a vital record of the rise of a totalitarian dictatorship, written with unusual clarity and terror, by a man out of time. An ardent anti-Nazi, Reck was determined to document the criminality of Hitlerism. Although wealthy enough to emigrate, he chose to stay in Germany, where he wrote his diary in secret and buried it each night in the woods.

Reck is perhaps the most eloquent exponent of justified,
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Friedrich Reck was a minor German novelist active in the first half of the twentieth century. He wrote simple stuff, somewhere between airport fiction and Morris West. Not the sort of author I would normally read, but this is not a normal book. Reck was an arch conservative, and an arch-enemy of Hitler. Those two phrases don't seem to sit right together, although he wasn't the only German conservative to hate the Nazis - but he was the only one to write something like this.

This is not a diary in
Andrew Robins
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Freidrich Reck wrote this book between 1936 and 1944, chronicling his feelings as the Nazis tightened their grip on German society. Every night, he would hide his writings, burying them in the grounds of his home, regularly changing the hiding place to increase the chances of them not being found.

The result, this collection, is a pretty remarkable book, and one which merits the description 'unique'. It isn't a diary, as it wasn't written on a day to day basis, and its contents weren't intended t
Antonio Nunez
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen's diary in an English edition some years ago. It was a taut, absorbing read. Reck-Malleczewen was a political conservative, a monarchist, even a snob, a converted Catholic, a noted children's books' author and a ship's doctor. He hated Hitler and Nazism passionately, with a ferociousness that never ebbed. In his diary he recalls having had stopped for lunch at a small tavern after a morning's hunt and having noticed Hitler sitting at a nearby table, talking with ...more
Sam Schulman
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A great book by a true member of German aristocracy: his diary from 1936-1944. Here's a sample from the year 1937.
On the way home I heard the latest scandal. The first year that they came to power, the Nazis proclaimed that duelling belonged to the natural rights of every man - a consistent extension of the philosophy of 1789 - and with much fanfare announced that all classes of society now had state approval for this method of solving differences. Any difference of opinion between master and s
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reck was a great hater. Apparently well-known during his life as a writer of potboilers, "Diary of a Man in Despair" is Reck's secretly written account of life in Nazi Germany. Really more a collection of set pieces or essays than a daily, diaristic account of life Reck mercilessly and hilariously skewers National Socialism, its adherents and bureaucracy, as well as "mass-man," capitalistic materialism, environmental degradation, and pretentiousness in all forms. Hardly a radical leftist, as his ...more
Kobe Bryant
Oct 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is just cool in theory but it's not that great
Mél ☽
I'll be back to review this book, sooner.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I have hated you in every hour that goes by, I hate you so that I would happily give my life for your death, and happily go to my own doom if only I could witness yours, take you with me into the depths.

Very interesting perspective on the National Socialist rule of Germany under Hitler - the author is a self-styled conservative aristocratic reactionary monarchist, a perspective you don't usually get in anti-Hitler writings. According to him, Germany suffers from the rise of the "mass-man", the c
Brian Berrett
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've got to give this book 5 stars. I was captivated by the writing style which was insightful, clever, and at times humorous.

Friedrich Reck writes "Diary" and keeps it hidden due to k owing if it were found he would be arrested because of how Diary portrays the Nazi regime and Hitler. Reck states Diary of a Man in Despair is not despair for himself, rather for the German people.

"I am a German, I encircle this land in which I live with my love. Never again can I be torn from here without going
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Who couldn't like a man who drops the bon mot "Nationalism: state of mind in which you do not love your own country as much as you hate somebody else's"?

Diary of a Man in Despair is not a novel, although you get the eerie feeling that it has to be. It was written during the 1930s and ends October 14, 1944, the day the author was arrested by Nazi soldiers. He was killed on February 16 the following year.

Reck-Malleczwen was one of the last true German intellectuals, highly educated, well-traveled
Chris Selin
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Fascinating.

"You, up there [Nazi bombers]: I hate you waking and sleeping. I will hate and curse you in the hour of my death. I will hate and curse you from my grave, and it will be your children and your children's children who will have to bear my curse. I have no other weapon against you but this curse, I know that it withers the heart of him who utters it, I do not know if I will survive your downfall."

"And even if they [Nazis] were to win the war, they would still fail, for the follo
Daniel Polansky
yeah, this was a fun one. Reck was a German arch-conservative and constant, bitter opponent of the Nazis who would end his life tragically shortly before the end of the war. With extraordinary clarity and depth of insight, he identifies the apocalyptic course which German society had embarked on, a madness which he identifies as being the ultimate product of the French revolution and of modernity generally. This is the angriest book you'll ever read, 200-odd pages of burning, lucid hatred for th ...more
Krisette Spangler
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not sure how you give a ranking to someone's journal, but I found this chronicle very compelling. Reck was an upper class German, who was a witness to the rise of Nazi Germany. He writes very candidly about the decline of German civilization and despairs at his people's worship of HItler. It's a sad commentary on what can happen to a people under the rule of a wicked dictator.

Reck wrote this journal at considerable risk to himself and even took to burying it on his property. He was eventuall
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My first read from a member of the German aristocracy during WWII. What a well versed man! He wrote with honesty and insight beyond his age about the follies of "mass-man". His conclusions and philosophy presented in a secret diary tells of a country gripped by a regime that appealed to the basic greed of the middle/ lower classes. It should be required reading for high school and college history classes since it describes a non-Hitlerite German , caught in the whirling waters of evil.
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Knowing that Friedrich Reck-Malleczwen does not survive the war killed me while reading this. I loved reading his words and his perspective is one that is in many cases unheard. I was also glad to learn that we both draw influence from Sophie & Hans Scholl. The Society of the White Rose were some the bravest non-military young people in the war -- most certainly within Germany.
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remarkably moving journal of a conservative, anti-Nazi German writer living under the Nazi regime. Provides not only a glimpse of everyday life under the Nazis but also shows a particular worldview - monarchist, anti-mass society - that did not survive the war (barely survived the first world war).
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NYRB Classics: Diary of a Man in Despair, by Friedrich Reck 1 8 Oct 22, 2013 11:58AM  
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Friedrich Percival Reck-Malleczewen was a German author.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Reck was also a novelist, mainly of children's adventure stories. One book, Bomben auf Monte Carlo, has been filmed twice. Many of his books were banned by the Nazis, and more were not published until years after his death. Today his best known work is Diary Of A Man In Despair (Tagebuch eines Verzweifelten), hi

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“Once, in the South Atlantic, I saw a whaler in the process of killing a female accompanied by one of her offspring. The harpooner, a red-bearded Irishman, kept putting harpoons into the whale. The intestines were hanging out of the mangled body of the huge animal, and nevertheless it continued to swim back and forth in the water made red by its blood, trying with its shattered body to shield the little whale. Since then, and the sight of that harpooner's freckled face as he laughed derisively, and of that poor creature, faithful to the end, I have believed in the existence of Satan as I believe in the existence of God.” 9 likes
“But we must be completely clear...if nationalism is truly the hallmark of a people in the prime of its youth and energies, how does it happen that under its aegis morality decays, ancient customs die out---that men are uprooted, the steadfast derided, the thoughtful branded, the rivers poisoned, and the forests destroyed? Why, if this is a high watermark of our national life, has our speech been vulgarized in this unprecedented way?” 9 likes
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