All Quiet on the Western Front is my first book in the A-Z Book Challenge
I came away after reading All Quiet On the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, with the affirmation that we as a people, over time, have learnt nothing about war and its dreadful consequences. We continue to wage war. To what ends?
All Quiet on the Western Front opens with the lines:
“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”
The book tells of a young man’s experience in World War 1. He is a German soldier, Paul, and he tells it like it is. There is graphic detail of injuries sustained and deprivations survived. He also tells of the mental anguish endured by the soldiers but more than that he tells of the inability to return to normal life after the experience of life in the trenches. Overarching this is the deep comradeship that the soldiers have.
This book, to me, is an anti-war book. The author has endeavoured to let the reader know that it is not the wish of the soldiers to be killing the enemy but the wish of those in power who make the decision to go to war.
After the Kaiser has made a fleeting visit to the troops, Paul and his comrades discuss the cause of the war. The discussion starts with Albert asking if there would have been a war if the Kaiser had said no and ends with the following:
“I think it is more of a kind of fever,” says Albert. “No one in particular wants it, and then all at once there it is. We didn’t want the war, the others say the same thing- and yet half the world is in it all the same.”. . . . . . .“True.” assents Tjaden, “but no war at all would be better still.”
Towards the end of the novel Paul ponders on what has gone before and what will happen in the future.
“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over and abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. . . . . . Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards and what shall become of us?”
I would certainly recommend that you read this novel as it is a war novel that does not glorify war. I felt sad for all those who have gone to war or who are at war presently. This novel shows vividly how pointless war is. The themes in the novel are as relevant today as when the novel was written.