Forbidden to return to his own country and dodging the everyday dangers of jail and deportation, Ravic manages to hang on, all the while searching for the Nazi who tortured him back in Germany. And though he's given up on the possibility of love, life has a curious way of taking a turn for the romantic, even during the worst of times.
©1945 Erich Maria Remarque, renewed 1972 by Paulette Goddard Remarque; (P)2004 Blackstone Audiobooks, published by arrangement with the Estate of Paulette Goddard Remarque
"A great writer....[Remarque] is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend his language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure." (The New York Times Book Review)
Remarque is known for the classic All Quiet on the Western Front, which is one of the greatest war stories ever told. I liked this one as much as All Quiet.
A German doctor, Ravitch, escapes from Nazi Germany and is living illegally in Paris. He earns a living as a ghost surgeon for French doctors who are not as talented as he is. One night he meets a woman on the street in Paris, and the story takes off from there.
The characters are the best part of this novel because each one comes across as a distinct individual. You can almost visualize Ravitch, the girl he meets, the French doctor who tries to cheat him and another who defends him, his Russian emigre friend who works as a doorman at a nightclub...each one has a real face. And the narration brings this out.
And, by the way, they drink Calvados throughout the story. It's French apple Brandy with a bit of a kick to it.
Elderly (1932), retired university professor, degrees in engineering and economics.
I could recommend Erich Maria Remarque just for the beauty of his prose. It is as if he has a love affair with the English language even though it is not his native tongue. But, he offers much more than the selection of perfect words. He uses character development and the Paris scene to weave the story of a young Jewish German doctor who survived prison and torture in W.W.I and wonders why.
The setting is in Paris during those shaky, tense years between the Versailles Treaty and Hitler’s March on Poland. Remarque presents a world still recovering from W.W. I and listening to Neville Chamberlin’s denial of reality as he talked of the hope for a world without war. He conveys the mood of unrest, fear and tension of the large communities of displaced immigrants, expatriates and working people on the streets of Paris; the hotel doormen, maids. barmen, brothel madams, whores, etc.
At the personal level, the protagonist is a person without legal papers after escaping from the camps and prohibited from practicing medicine because of his German medical degree. He lives in Paris hotels under changing aliases and illegal passports as he journeys from one European country to another and is deported from one to the next, sometimes with fines and short incarcerations, back to the streets of Paris where he develops friends and acceptance due to his surgical skills.
Here he meets survive-at-any-cost, Joan, and he recognizes his major torturer from the prison camps. Thus, he pursues love and plans revenge. His journeys are filled with suspense and melancholy as he searches for the meaning of life for himself and mankind. A powerful novel.
"Not his best"
While the story is sometimes interesting I found it uphill work after halfway through where it becomes endlessly repetitious and full of wearisome wrangling between the two mismatched lovers. It is also far too long. Not a patch on this author's wonderful books about soldiering at the front line. The reader sounded flat and I don't blame him.
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