Friday, August 19, 2011

Thoughts: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Goodness gracious, was this book intimidating or what? Yes, I am aware that I probably sound like your seventy-five-year-old grandmother who knits you pastel sweaters for Christmas. But I digress. I’m supposed to be talking about Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front which collected dust on my bookshelf, until I finally manned up and read it.

This book is about Paul, a nineteen-going-on-twenty-year-old German solider, and his experiences on the front during World War I. Here’s the back blurb: This is the testament of Paul Baumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army of World War I. they become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of work, duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

I shied away from this book because I view myself as a Jane Austen kind of girl, and All Quiet on the Western Front screams ‘DEPRESSING WAR BOOK’ from ten feet away. Want to know what the funny thing is? I absolutely loved All Quiet on the Western Front, and it just goes to show how classics never fail to surprise me. Yes, it definitely falls under the ‘DEPRESSING WAR BOOK’ category, but it’s also funny, poignant, and so unbelievably BEAUTIFUL at the same time.

This book actually hit me on a personal level. Paul is twenty-years-old, and I just turned twenty earlier this year. He has to worry about surviving, and not getting hit by a stray bullet in the trenches. My biggest worry, on the other hand, is not spending my entire paycheck before the end of the month. Sometimes, I also worry about what I’ll wear the next day (don’t judge me). All Quiet on the Western Front really put things into perspective, and—once again, don’t judge me—I was crying by the time I turned the final page.

In conclusion, GO AND GET A COPY OF THIS BOOK. It is a wonderful commentary on the human experience, and all that other fancy schmancy stuff. Right now, I’m looking at my to-be-read pile, and lamenting the lack of depressing war books, a genre I previously abhorred and stayed away from like the plague.

Rating: 5/5

By the way, have you read this book? If you have, what did you think? Also, how do you pronounce Remarque? LOL.

15 comments:

Tony said...

An absolute classic, and one I've read many times ('Remarque' is pronounced fairly close to 'remark').

By the way, there are two sequels (obviously with different characters!): 'Der Weg Zurück'/'Coming Home', about the problems soldiers had adjusting to life back in Germany post-WW1; and 'Drei Kameraden'/'Three Comrades', which follows a group of ex-soldiers through the late 1920s, into the early days of Nazism. Both very good, I read and reviewed them last year (or maybe the year before!).

Falaise said...

This is one of my favourite books of all time - and don't be ashamed at all of crying!

Jillian said...

This sounds really good. Inspires me to want to read it! I knew it was a novel about the war but didn't realize it was from a German viewpoint. :-)

Zibilee said...

I haven't read this one yet, but have read some reviews that proclaim it as amazing, so it's really something I need to get to soon. I am glad that you loved it, and if you are looking for more depressing war books, you can't go wrong with The Things They Carried. It's not a classic, but I have heard it's amazing nonetheless.

Trisha said...

I had the exact same reaction to the title as you did; unfortunately unlike you I never got over that reaction. :) Maybe I should.

Jo M said...

This is such a wonderful book. I actually read it for the first time a few years ago when we decided to put it on the list for summer reading choices at the school where I taught. As one of my sophomores wrote in his in-class essay, "if you didn't cry at the end of All Quiet on the Western Front, then you're not a real man!" I thought it was a fairly astute comment for a 15-year-old boy!

I would highly recommend Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth. It's her memoir about her experiences as a volunteer nurse during WWI. I keep trying to write my review of it as I finished it several weeks ago, but the book was just so achingly beautiful and sad that the review keeps eluding me. You might want to wait a few weeks before reading it however. It is about WWI, after all.

I'm so glad you're back!!

Biblibio said...

All Quiet on the Western Front was required reading for me in ninth grade and though age twenty seemed really far off (and still kind of does...), I was able to relate to Paul on many levels, to learn and understand his world and his thoughts and his actions. It's a book filled with emotion but not bogged down by it. Even I was significantly moved by the end, haunted by it for several days. Truly a wonderful book.

Sam said...

I adore this book. I read it voluntarily when I was about 16 and really should revisit it. You're right, it's beautiful :)

Allie said...

I have this one on my list, and I have stayed away from it because DEPRESSING WAR BOOK. But, I actually like depressing war books, depressing women books, and depressing books of all shapes and sizes (Case in point: The House of Mirth is one of my favorite books and it makes me bawl like a baby EVERY TIME I read it).

One of the things I love about war novels is what they bring me back to reality. Men and women younger than me fought wars thousands of miles away from home so that I can be where I am today. Sobering thought, but oh so true.

I'm going to have to get to this one soon!

Shelley said...

It's been a while since I read this, but I remember being very moved by it, and I'm pretty sure I watched a classic film version of it, but I can't remember how I felt about it.
A great modern "depressing" war book is Matterhorn. I loved it (as much as you can "love" a book about war).

Teacher/Learner said...

I also tend to shy away from depressing books, especially ones set during a war, though I have recently read two Holocaust-set books and loved both. I think it depends on perspective. For example, Anne Frank strikes me as being more interesting than a soldier because of her age & circumstance. Still, your review makes me reconsider my feelings about "depressing war books" :)

mel u said...

I have wanted to read this book for a good while-your post has only served to increase my interest!

theeclecticreader said...

I'm not a great fan f war books but I may try this one.

Ben said...

From what I can remember, it's pretty compact (I've only saw the book in stores, never read it). It's a good omen when a time-proof book is short. Means you can read it at your rhythm and capture its scope. Good review.

bibliophilica said...

The fact that their "youthful enthusiasm" quickly wanes is something that really struck me about this book. It's the classic "there is the perception and then there is the REALITY" conflict that we all encounter throughout life and also in much good literature. I'm glad to hear you've read this and that you appreciated and liked it.

-Jay

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...