Title: All Quiet on the Western Front
Author: Erich Maria Remarque
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 291 pages
Borrowed from my library for RBC discussion
Description from Amazon.com (not necessarily Amazon’s description)
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is probably the most famous anti-war novel ever written. The story is told by a young ‘unknown soldier’ in the trenches of Flanders during the First World War. Through his eyes we see all the realities of war; under fire, on patrol, waiting in the trenches, at home on leave, and in hospitals and dressing stations. Although there are vividly described incidents which remain in mind, there is no sense of adventure here, only the feeling of youth betrayed and a deceptively simple indictment of war – of any war – told for a whole generation of victims.
I cannot even describe my feelings towards this book. I absolutely loved it. I am a person who doesn’t really believe in war and this book completely describes why. The whole novel was beautifully written, in spite of the gruesome scenes that were written.
While reading this book, I felt similar to when I read Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Which is interesting when you think about it–both of these books were written in another language. If I felt the translations were beautiful, I can’t even imagine how the originals were.
One reason I feel I was so into this book was, not only because we were discussing it (and I fell behind :( ), but because I am currently planning my next unit that I will start in January during my student teaching. That just happens to be WWI. If I had more time and/or was more experienced as a teacher, I would have my students read this whole book and center my teaching around it. But that also has to do with the teaching style I have.
In short, All Quiet on the Western Front is definitely a great war story. It is not, what I think is, the normal kind of war book. It shows the real side of war. Not non-stop horror or killing. It is quite clear that the author doesn’t believe that the war he was fighting was a good thing. But I admire him for doing what he felt was his duty. One of the most interesting things about this book is that it was written by a German ex-soldier, a “bad guy” to the country I live in. And the author even addresses the fact that soldiers on both sides of the war had the same experiences, but I really liked thinking about that when I was reading it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in WWI, or wars in general. This book has a spot in my Top 10.
PS- I really hope I get this book for Christmas, like I asked, because I need to give the library’s book back but I want to transfer all of my notes and dog-ears :)
And here is a conversation about war I loved from this novel:
“But what I would like to know,” says Albert, “is whether there would not have been a war if the Kaiser had said No.” “I’m sure there would,” I interject, “he was against it from the first.”
“Well, if not him alone, then perhaps if twenty or thirty people in the world had said No.”
“That’s probable,” I agree, “but they damned well said Yes.”
“It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?” “Perhaps both,” say I without believing it. “Yes, well now,” pursues Albert, and I see that he means to drive me into a corner, “but our professors and parsons and newspapers say that we are the only ones that are right, and let’s hope so;–but the French professors and parsons and newspapers say that the right is on their side, now what about that?”
“That I don’t know,” I say, “but whichever way it is there’s war all the same and every month more countries coming in.”
Tjaden reappears. He is still quite excited and again joins the conversation, wondering just how a war gets started.
“Mostly by one country badly offending another,” answers Albert with a slight air of superiority.
Then Tjaden pretends to be obtuse. “A country? I don’t follow. A mountain in Germany cannot offend a mountain in France. Or a river, or a wood, or a field of wheat.”
“Are you really as stupid as that, or are you just pulling my leg?” growls Kropp, “I don’t mean that at all. One people offends the other–“
“Then I haven’t any business here at all,” replies Tjaden. “I don’t feel myself offended.” (p.110-111)