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Remarque, Im Westen Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) Tom Send a noteboard - 26/04/2011 06:16:11 PM
I read this book a long, long time ago. I was twelve years old at the time and enjoyed reading war memoirs, novels and military history. Ronald Reagan was our President and the Soviet Union was our primary threat. I had never been outside the United States and I didn't speak any foreign languages.

Perhaps as a result of a combination of all of the factors mentioned above, it seemed I was reading an entirely different book when I picked up Im Westen Nichts Neues in German. This was an entirely different book than the one I read at twelve.

I remembered most of the main ideas and plot of the book, but in other respects the book was entirely foreign. The descriptions were sharper than I remembered them and I was better able to picture the actions of the main characters in the light of the intervening 23 years of travel and exposure to images of the Great War. Not only that, but I wasn't as dismissive of the anti-war message of the book as I had been at twelve. Having stripped away the American propaganda about World War I (all that silliness about "making the world safe for democracy" and what not), it was clear that the Great War, at least, was a senseless slaughter that completely destroyed the society of Europe and, by extension, the world, that had gone before. No event since the French Revolution had so disrupted the order of things, and the world is still coping with the aftermath wrought by that war.

In fairness, much of the cultural background that helps one understand the book in context would not have been something I would have been exposed to. In a pre-Internet American heartland of the 1980s one would not expect an adolescent to understand the whole idea of the Heide in the German psyche. When Remarque talks about it now, I unconsciously think auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein, und das heißt Erika...

To a certain extent, the profound sadness of the book and the sense of loss over the lives needlessly destroyed by the war (even those who, as Remarque says in the preface seinen Granaten entkam) is something that I doubt I could have really appreciated at the age of 12, when I hadn't even experienced a distant relative's death (untimely or not).

The book is certainly a classic. Perhaps for this reason I'm finding it difficult to write a review that is a straightforward and conventional review, or perhaps it's because, having read it so long ago, I am more struck by how foreign and new the book was despite my familiarity with it.

I recommend that anyone who hasn't read this book (regardless of language) read it at the earliest opportunity. Its significance is matched by its readability and it will appeal to a wide audience for a variety of disparate reasons. For those who have read it, if it's been awhile consider a re-read. Not only that, but everyone should take the opportunity to remember books that they've read a long time ago that might deserve a re-read. You never know how something you've already read can surprise you until you give it a try.
Political correctness is the pettiest form of casuistry.

ἡ δὲ κἀκ τριῶν τρυπημάτων ἐργαζομένη ἐνεκάλει τῇ φύσει, δυσφορουμένη, ὅτι δὴ μὴ καὶ τοὺς τιτθοὺς αὐτῇ εὐρύτερον ἢ νῦν εἰσι τρυπώη, ὅπως καὶ ἄλλην ἐνταῦθα μίξιν ἐπιτεχνᾶσθαι δυνατὴ εἴη. – Procopius

Ummaka qinnassa nīk!

This message last edited by Tom on 26/04/2011 at 06:30:54 PM
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Remarque, Im Westen Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) - 26/04/2011 06:16:11 PM 6188 Views
I read it when I was probably too young, too. - 26/04/2011 06:36:07 PM 875 Views
The last chapters really seem rushed to me, even now. - 26/04/2011 06:43:23 PM 760 Views
I want to read it now, so I think this was a good review. - 26/04/2011 08:03:30 PM 914 Views
I find Steinbeck hard to digest. - 27/04/2011 05:05:45 AM 795 Views
Travels with Charley is indeed great. - 27/04/2011 06:06:18 AM 895 Views
He can also be inconsistent, but that makes him interesting to me. - 27/04/2011 06:47:25 AM 1020 Views
Whyever not? - 27/04/2011 07:13:56 PM 887 Views
I was going to say that too - 27/04/2011 08:23:36 PM 706 Views
Be sure to read the two books that immediately follow it - 26/04/2011 11:41:53 PM 895 Views
The latter of the two is already on my "to read" list. - 27/04/2011 05:03:49 AM 754 Views
Love that book - 27/04/2011 04:49:51 PM 719 Views
Wait... - 27/04/2011 04:58:58 PM 757 Views
Wow - 27/04/2011 10:17:55 PM 876 Views
*NM* - 28/04/2011 09:18:26 PM 345 Views

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