Book club met last night and there was a good discussion of this month’s selection: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.
It was written in 1929 and was an instant success—though soon banned in Germany by the Hitler regime.
Remarque relates the experiences of Paul Baumer, a young German recruit in World War I, who along with his school friends, enlists at the encouragement of their teacher. The underlying sad part of the book deals with the lost youth of this generation of young men who went to war–who dealt with mind numbing battles and casualties–and who found their only solace to be the companionship of their comrades.
Even when Paul Baumer goes home on leave, there is no relief from the war, for no one at home understands what it is really like.
Our group had selected this book among a list of books that have been “banned” over the years. This one was on the list as “too political”.
We agreed that instead of the book being banned, it should be required reading!
I wonder how many high schools have this book as suggested reading for their students.
In musing about the war, Paul Baumer wonders if, of those in charge of decision making (of starting the war) , if one had said “no”—would it have made a difference?
There is a similar thought in War and Peace.
The prose is crisp and to the point–graphic, but never maudlin or sensational. Remarque, as Baumer, tells us what it was like. And we feel like we are right there with him.