Extra Reading: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
A grim book, All Quite on the Western Front was banned by Adolf Hitler in 1933. It was declared “degenerate” and burned at Nazi rally’s. The reason it was burned was because it is a tragically accurate depiction of the horrors of trench warfare, during World War I. It was an excellent anti-war book cataloging the death of a generation of young men when the Nazis were gearing their nation up for war. I cannot recommend it more highly.
The story follows Paul Bäumer as he and his friends fight in one of the most futile and soul crushing wars ever fought. What sets this book apart from other war books of along the same vein is its accuracy, (Erich Maria Remarque was a veteran) and its universality. While Paul Bäumer might be German, the impact of loss upon the psyche of anyone fighting in the most idiotic conflicts ever fought could apply to any soldier, fighting on any side of the conflict. The book starts with Bäumer and his friends already grim veterans. By the time it ends and (*spoiler*) Bäumer is the only one left, he hasn’t a care in the world an almost welcomes death. The story, therefore, catalogue’s the series of events that strip his humanity from him one slice at a time. The only pleasures him and his fellows find are good food, card games, cigarettes, and women. The only happy scenes are when they have had a feast and aren’t being shot at.
Being a war story of the saddest proportions, there is of course very graphic violence and gore. But it is handled very matter-of-factly. It isn’t over done but it also isn’t pulled back to ease your stomach either. The fights are brutal and dirty. Murphies military law states “if its worth fighting for, its worth fighting dirty for.” Paul Bäumer and his comrades do everything to fight and win as winning means survival. There is no glory or rallying speeches or even a satisfactory (Happy) ending. The men portrayed simply fight for each other.
It is this sense of mindless slaughter for reasons the soldiers don’t understand that makes the story powerful. This book is fantastic and should be read by anyone who likes war or thinks its “cool.” I hope this book disgusts you. I hope you are uncomfortable or horrified. If that is the case, the message worked and you have gained a new appreciation for war in all its “glory.”