Friday, 28 February 2014

All quiet on the western front, Erich Maria Remarque

Since this year it will be a hundred years ago World War I broke out, there will be many books about the Great War. I think I will read a fair deal, and to start well I decided to reread this classic.

It is the story of Paul Baumer, a German 18 year old boy who joins the army together with all his classmates when his teacher and the other adults made it clear it was their duty to Kaiser and Fatherland. They undergo the brutal military training, only to find out at the front it taught them nothing. Luckily there are also veteran soldiers like soldier Katczinsky, who teaches the rookies how to survive. One by one Paul sees his mates die. In the end he is the veteran, teaching the new recruits to survive. He gets shot in November 1918, on a day nothing important happened and the official news bulletin read that is had been ‘all quiet on the western front’.

A whole generation, and it does not matter if they were German, French or English, was traumatized by this war. Their heads spinning with slogans and patriotism and ill- advised nationalism, boys joined the army in the idea the war would be over soon. Unfortunately the war did not end soon, it came to a halt and during four years both parties fought each other from the trenches, that were dug from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border.
It is sweet to die for your country? Not really, in the trenches death and brutal injuries could come at all times and in all form. The soldiers in the mud were spared nothing.

Erich Maria Remarque wanted to show with All quiet on the western front how horrible war is, no matter on what side you fight. For him heroism and nationalism are not important, he tells the story of the soldiers who do not know themselves what they are fighting for.
The nazi’s banned this book and Remarque even lost his citizenship.

Movies were made in 1930 and 1979. I saw the 1979 one and even show it in class when we cover WWI. Well, a part of it. The movie is still good, but it does move at a slow pace and I remember a fourth grader’s frustrated outcry when Paul is in a trench with a French soldier en the scene takes about ten minutes ‘Fuck, is he still in there?’ Most students were crying by the way at the end, so it made an impact.

The movie, but most of all the book, is very impressive and beautiful. If you want to read books about WWI this year, All quiet on the western front should be on your list.

Original title: Im Westen nichts Neues (German)
Published in 1929

This is a book I read and a movie I saw for the Book to movie challenge 2014

6 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about reading books published in 1914 this year, but this would be the perfect year to read All Quiet on the Western Front, too. Thanks for the idea! :)

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    1. It is not a classic for nothing, so I really recommend this book!
      I hope you read it this year.
      Kind regards,

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  2. I've been loving WWII books lately but this isn't a classic I've gotten to. I didn't actually know it had been banned. Interesting! Thanks for sharing your review :)

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    1. Thank you for commenting, I can really recommend this classic, it is one you should not miss, especially this year! :-)

      Kind regards,

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  3. I am taking a class about literature in warfare and we are currently reading All Quiet on the Western Front. We were asked to tell how anything has changed from 1914 to 2014 since it has been the start of WWI there has been many changes in military and technology. We were also asked to talk about how death is not an adventure, death has to be endured and survived in WWI. From Paul's narration of the book, the reader gets an idea and a visual of his "adventure" with death.

    From 100 years ago to now there has been constant change in technology and warfare a like. One think that will not change about war is how devastating, raw and necessary it is. The thing that has changed over the past 100 years is the speed of which events of a war can occur. A person can die a lot faster than he could have died in World War I. Meaning, how fast information travels down the chain of command. In WWI waiting for a letter, intelligence or an order could have taken many days. In war today, someone gets the call instantly to bomb a hostile territory as soon as the decision has been made. What 2014 has brought to the table is speed. It can be a good thing, troops on the ground could get an order to evacuate an area if an attack is coming or intelligence can be gathered to prevent an attack as well.

    Remarque wants his readers to know that war is real and it is ugly, it is not some great adventure that one will look back on and share his found memories; as he experienced the hardships himself when he fought for his country. He wants to say that his characters started on young boys not knowing how innocent they were until the faced death on a constant basis. And that war has stripped them of their innocence and took their life and happiness away from them. Remarque tells of how the group of friends tries to decide what they want to do after the war is over, known of them can think of a thing. It is hard for them to even think of how to get a long in the civilian world again, no one would be able to understand their experiences. After seeing war and death it is hard for a person to regain the happiness that they once had.

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    1. You talk about soldiers not being able to lead a civilian life once they return from war, and you make a very good point. Soldiers who have seen combat come back expected to just continue with life like the rest of us. However, PTSD is just as real as it is in the novel. Not enough intervention and aide is given to those that we should be helping with the highest regards. I believe on Wednesday we will have a great and humbling opportunity to meet veterans of our military.

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