Monday, October 17, 2016

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

The author was drafted at the age eighteen into the German Army. In this fictionalized memoir of the First World War, he describes the lives and endurance of a group of soldiers who were still only teenagers when they experienced the brutality of trench warfare. The battle scenes are gripping and almost intolerably vivid. I think the book is both an anti-war novel and a coming of age story. The youths have not experienced anything in life except school and war so they wonder what they are going to do when the war is over. A lost generation, they worry that they have no skills except soldiering and bear the mental torture of prolonged stress, what Ford Madox Ford called, “immense miles and miles of anguish in darkened minds.”

When this book was released during the Weimar Republic, Germans like Adolph Hitler, for whom the war was an adventure, detested it and sent Remarque hate mail and death threats. After Hitler rose to power, all of Remarque's books were banned in Germany by the Nazi government.  All Quiet on the Western Front was among the works destroyed in public book burnings in 1933.

Mass media tools and hacks accused Remarque of pacifism and defeatism, so he had to flee first to Hollywood with many other German expatriates forced out of their country, such as Peter Lorre, Thomas Mann, Bertoldt Brecht, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder. In 1958, he married actress Paulette Goddard and they stayed together, living in Switzerland, until he passed away in 1970.

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