All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

This is one of those books I skipped when it was on the school reading list and never picked it up again until now. The thing is, I don't really know why. It's written in an easy to read style. It's quite engaging, even though the subject matter is quite serious. It is also probably a matter of translation. Which makes me wonder how accessible the German original might be.

I guess the main impression of the book is that it reinforces a lot of the anger I try to convey in the previous blog post - Waiting for a War. All the nonsense that turns individuals into mindless cogs of war, anonymous, alone and afraid of death.

But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony--Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?

This is a deeply moving book, oscillating between the realities and atrocities of frontline service, death, the joys of small pleasures - sometimes at the most absurd moments - like roasting a goose during a barrage, to the overwhelming first time experience of killing a man in hand-to-hand combat.

Anger aside, this is a very good next step in my reading of the Great War. So far, most of my focus has been on the second conflict, leaving the first one behind.

Rating: ★★★★★ ?

Tags: #book