All Quiet on the Western Front is a 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque about one German soldier’s experiences of the conflict as he goes from a carefree young soldier to an embittered man.
Paul Baumer is a young German student who enlists in the first waves of the war under pressure from his patriotic schoolmaster. The war strips away all of his perceptions. He can see that there is nothing heroic about war and has to see the men in his regiment be killed off, until eventually he loses faith. It is a seminal book of German literature and was included in the Nazi book burnings in 1933.
It is good to see a book from the point of view of the Germans because for the past 100 years we have been told that the Germans were evil and in those days vile propaganda was spread; full of lies to make people suspicious of the German troops. Through this, however, we can see that they were just as, if not more, hungry, disheartened and desperate than the French or English.
Remarque gave Paul the voice of an indifferent observer to the carnage going on around him. There are some funny moments, too, such as when the men get their own back on their former schoolmaster who has enlisted, but mostly it is serious and very sad at the end. The book was adapted into a film in 1930. Both should be read and watched by many because they can teach us a lot about war and human nature.
MY RATING: 5 / 5.
“His face wore an expression that was so composed that it looked as if he were almost happy it had turned out that way,”