Im Westen nichts Neues

Erich Maria Remarque
Painting - Armored Train in Action, Detail by Gino Severini (1915)
Armored Train in Action, Detail · Gino Severini ( 1915)
Oil on canvas · 116 x 88 cm ·Museum of Modern Art, New York

“We have so much to say, and we shall never say it.”

Remarque, wounded five times in battle, confronts disillusionment and irredeemable wounds incurred in his individual experiences with the horrors of World War I. A story which is utterly vivid and potent, and at the same time resounds in hollow and bleak tones.

“Shells, gas clouds, and flotillas of tanks – shattering, corroding, death. Dysentery, influenza, typhus – scalding, choking, death. Trenches, hospitals, the common grave – there are no other possibilities.”

The novel follows Paul Bäumer, a young german soldier sent to the front lines, at only eighteen years old destined to be swept away by the terrifying impressions of combat in the trenches. Seeing, hearing, and feeling the immediate chasm between comrade and enemy, between life and death – he is an inconsequential avatar in a profoundly dehumanizing and senseless conflict, soiling his body, searing his mind, and scorching his spirit.

“We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out…we creep in upon ourselves and with big eyes stare into the night…and thus we wait for morning.”

A powerful, deeply moving, harrowing tale of gigantic rats, empty stomachs, cold rain. Of waning hope, shattered dreams, unescapable destruction – of a lost generation.

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. […] Through the years our business has been killing; it was our first calling in life. Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?”

Small sketch - Book Review - Im Westen nichts Neues
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