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 the 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.
©1929 The estate of the late Paulette Remarque (P)2010 Hachette Digital
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front is beautiful, moving, and appalling, setting forth so clearly and cogently so many awful truths about war, patriotism, youth, maturity, human nature, love, and life. It is as apt today as it was when it was written, and despite being set in the First World War applies to any war fought before or after.
Remarque's purpose: "To give an account of a generation destroyed by the war." If not directly maiming and killing young soldiers, war--no adventure--severs their psychological connections to life, turning them into kill or be killed animals and abandoned children who are also old men. The real enemy is not the French (or any country) but death and war itself, as well, perhaps, as the "morally bankrupt" authority figures (politicians, teachers, preachers, parents, and newspapers) who should know better but who mismanage everything so as to let war happen and then brainwash or browbeat innocent young men full of life into entering the war. The truth of war, Paul says, is found in military hospitals, in which are found examples of every possible way to harm a human body, and which render pointless all human thoughts, words, and deeds.
The novel begins in medias res with the first person narrator Paul Baumer telling in present tense how he and his young-old veteran friends in Company B are ecstatic because their company of 150 men was just unexpectedly attacked and lost 70 men, so that the food and tobacco that had been ordered for 150 will now go to only 80, so they will finally get enough to eat. "Because of that, everything is new and full of life, the red poppies, the good food, the cigarettes, the summer breeze." They then visit one of their friends who is dying from an infected wound. "It's still him, but it isn't really him anymore. His image has faded, become blurred, like a photographic plate that has had too many copies made from it. Even his voice sounds like ashes." Another friend really wants to get the dying guy's boots, and this is perfectly natural. In the second chapter Paul flashbacks to how the boys were persuaded to volunteer by their schoolmaster (a man they now scorn), and how they were bullied through basic training by a sadistic drill corporal till they'd become hard and suspicious.
Through Paul, Remarque vividly depicts trench warfare: latrines, rations, and cigarettes; hunger and thirst; "corpse rats" and lice; dysentery, influenza, and typhus; barbed wire, trenches, dugouts, and craters; revolvers, rifles, machine guns, tracer bullets, bayonets, trench spades, flame throwers, trench mortars, rockets, shells, daisy cutters, shrapnel, hand grenades, and gas; observation balloons, airplanes, trucks, trains, and tanks; continuous fire, defensive fire, and curtain fire; attacks and counter-attacks back and forth across the lunar no-man's land; shattered bones, fragments of flesh, decapitations, disembowelings, torn off faces, blown off limbs, bodies blown out of uniforms and into trees, blue-faced gas corpses, and hissing and belching corpses. All of that becomes more and more hellish as the war drags on and the German supplies and troops dwindle.
Paul has a poet's mind for metaphor. Sitting in their dugout in the trenches is like "Sitting in our own grave waiting to be buried," or "as if we were sitting inside a massive echoing metal boiler that is being pounded on every side." Paul and his friends watch fountains of mud and iron rising up all around them, and mist rising up from the shell holes "like ghostly secrets." He says, "No man's land is outside us and inside us." And "Our hands are earth, our bodies mud, and our eyes puddles of rain." Paul's memories from before the war are dangerous, because to dwell in their lost quietness would render him unable to deal with the reality of the present moment at the front. "We are dead. Our memories come to haunt us. We have been consumed by the fires of reality." Here and there he utters brief lyrical and poignant descriptions: "The wind plays with our hair, and with our words and our thoughts." And "Days are like angels in blue and gold, untouchable."
The only good thing about the war (and it's a very sad good thing) is the bonding it forges between Paul and his friends, comrades in arms. At one point Paul and his mentor Kat are eating a goose they've organized, and Paul feels that "We are brothers… two tiny sparks of life; outside there is just the night, and all around us, death." When he gets two weeks of leave, he is painfully uncomfortable at home, feeling no point of contact with his pre-war self or with his family members or former teachers, etc., because they have not the remotest conception of the front. When he returns to his friends at the front he thinks a devastating truth: "This is where I belong."
This is Brian Murdoch's 1994 translation, not A. W. Wheen's 1929 one. Here is a brief comparison:
Murdoch: "The front is a cage, and you have to wait nervously in it for whatever will happen to you."
Wheen: "The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen."
Tom Lawrence reads Murdoch's translation so well--his youthful, British voice, perfect clarity and pacing, and sensitive and sad manner all so appealing--that I found it fine.
People who are fascinated by vivid accounts of the horror of war, or who are interested in World War I as seen from the German point of view, or who like well-written, beautiful, awful, and sad books should read All Quiet on the Western Front.
"Right Down to the Dirt under the Fingernails"
the very best
at no point did we suffer the glory, the pomp, or the hollywood endings
the very end ... I had set myself up for disappointment or a lack of closure, but found it as a reader, which is necessary with such moving and disturbing subject matter
this book is shock and awe in the face for the glory hunters, the fantasists and the myth-makers ... a breath-taking truth cutter ... why was this not on my school curriculum?
"Powerful and Moving Book, very well read."
A book that demonstrates the effects of war on a person from the view of a world war one soldier. It reveals war in its terror and shows how people learn to live with it as best they can. The futility of WW1 is explored and it has many parts that leave you with the aching sorrow of loss. Not the most light hearted of books but one that should not be missed.
"All Quiet on the Western Front"
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the 20th century was profoundly influenzed by the story in the book. It continues to exhert an influence on humanity today. War is no longer to be seen as "Glorious" but as themost squalid pointless activity of which humanity is guilty The pawns of the lie, the ones who suffer are not blameworthy but the hypocrites who urge the unsuspecting to greater pointless efforts to support the dreams of the delusional dreams of those who have the power.This book still changes war-hungry humanity.
A watched the movie years ago and recently decided to give the book a go. I was truly glad I did. The book illustrates the true horror of the trench warfare of WWI through the eyes of a young German soldier. His innocence and naivety are steadily stripped away as one by one his comrades in arms are slaughtered until only he remains. A great listen.
There are no listener reviews for this title yet.
Report Inappropriate Content