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With the recent sad passing of Harry Patch "The last Tommy", who was the last man alive to have fought in the trenches of the Great War, I feel saddened that the last living link with my grandfathers generation has been lost. He will be buried in the village of Monkton Combe a short drive away from where I live, making it doubly poignant. Harry didn't speak about the war until he was a hundred years old, such was the mark it left on him. In his last years he was outspoken against war and its waste. That war to end all wars almost annihilated a generation and left mental scars on the survivors that would never heal.

There were two things that I did with my children out of respect for that generation. I took them all to see the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium with the names of the dead engraved on it. On his first trip out of the country since the war this was the first place Harry Patch visited. If you have not done this, then do it. The second thing I did for my son was to read him Erich Maria Remarque's story "All Quiet on the Western Front". It was a bit too violent for my daughters who are of a more delicate disposition. My son often reminds me that he still has the mental scars from the book. He still asks what sort of father would do that to his son. But he remembers it vividly. I have read it three times now and it is a book that is as powerful today as when it was first published in book form in 1929 when it caused a sensation. It is the daddy of all the anti war books.

We see the war through the eyes of an innocent and naive young soldier Paul Baumer who is fresh from school. After some initial training he is sent to the front where he witnesses the realities of trench warfare. Life becomes very cheap indeed, but Paul adapts and learns how to survive. He sees friends killed and he kills himself, and in so doing becomes dehumanized. The physical and psychological effects of the war on these men are shown graphically. The characters from the novel seem so real. The old veteran Katczinsky who takes the young lads under his wing. Himmelstoss the ex postman turned training corporal who gives the recruits such a hard time in training. A tyrant who is later exposed on the front as a frightened coward. War does that to men. There is no hiding place and the inner soul is exposed. The ending of the story is a blissful release and so very sad.

The words "All Quiet on the Western Front" have so embedded themselves in the national psche that they have become common slang for not much is happening. Remarque was well qualified to write the book as he served as a German soldier in the trenches. The book and its anti war message was hated by Hitler who burnt most copies. Remarque was forced to leave his own country. Sadly his message has been lost on the warmongers. One only has to look at the long list of conflicts since the war. "Only the dead have seen the end of war". Harry Patch and his generation will see no more wars. May they rest in peace. If you do nothing else visit the Menin gate or read this book. Essential reading.
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on 17 September 2011
Having read all 72 previous reviews there were one or two in which the reviewer stated that Remarques book in one way or another did its part to make WWII possible. Being a German born in 1966, with family members - as I found out later (not by being told but by asking unwelcomed questions) - being faithful followers of the impersonated evil during the 1930s and 1940s, in this country's darkest years, I'd like to give a comment and I hope my English is not failing me.

Remarque did not mean to write an anti-war book. As a matter of fact he called it "unpolitical". But the very first lines of the book, placed before the first chapter, do put things into perspective. Yet he still insisted that his novel was not written to convince people to oppose war for he said that "everybody is against going to war anyway." He later corrected this misconception of his. In an interview as late as 1963 he revised his original statement: (translated: "I always believed that everybody was against going to war - until I realized there were some folks who do want to go to war, particularly those who don't need to go themselves."

Remarque himself did not go to war in 1917 voluntarily. He only served in the trenches for a few months until he got wounded by shrapnel and got shot through the neck. He was sent to a military hospital where he listened to (and took notes of) the reports of other soldiers who had seen so much more of the war than he did. What he noted was what became the foundation of his book. And this book, although fictional, became what it is today. It has become an anti-war book by accident because it was received as such. Erich Maria Remarque had no intention of making his fellow Germans more peaceful or more aggressive. It was simply a damn good book that so many veterans could claim to be telling their story - on both sides.

If the truth - even a fictional truth - gets people to oppose the war, then this book is indeed an anti-war book, in its function albeit not in its intention. And to claim that the story told - a story which in its deepest sense is so very much humane, paved a literary way to the rise of the Nazis, is perhaps not ridiculous but at least evidence for a profound lack of historical knowledge. When that man came to power in 1933, one of the first things he ordered was the eradication of anti-war books from the shelves of German readers for he was determined to go to war in the foreseeable future. "Im Westen nichts Neues" was burnt at the stakes (NOT a metaphor), it went up in flames in good company with other great German writers from a more honourable time in German history. The Nazis hated it, for it portrayed the "enemy" as another human being - the same sorrows, same hopes, with families, too, and not really an idea of why this terrible war was fought for in the first place - an equal.

This book was published in 1929. Within the same year, it became translated into 26 foreign languages. By now, there exist translations in more than fifty foreign languages. By 2007 it had sold more than 20,000,000 times worldwide. There is a simple reason for that: It appeals to all humanity or rather to the large part that, as Remarque believed, "is against going to war anyway."

On a more personal note: Just six weeks ago I managed to acquire a copy from 1929 via Abebooks. The ad text read that it was in good condition, so I ordered it. It arrived just three days later. When I unwrapped the book I found that it did not look like the original. The first owner must have had it undergo a sort of special treatment. The original cover of cardboard had been replaced by a half leather cover with fine marbled paper. The original binding had been replaced with real gutters and it was in almost perfect condition. It had been "redone" to extend its originally calculated lifespan. The way it is now, it will survive another two hundred years and by doing so make a mockery of the "1000 years" that Adolf Hitler believed his Reich would prosper (after degrading all others peoples except the Germans that is).

This book will live.

Michael, Germany
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on 21 May 2003
This book is so moving and yet, despite the horrors endured on the frontline during WW1, a sense of humour (however grim) is retained throughout, almost to the last few paragraphs. The story is written in the first person narrative, by a young German soldier, Paul Bauer. He is only eighteen when he is pressured by his family, friends and society in general, to enlist and fight at the front. He enters the army, along with 6 other lads he was at school with, each one filled with fresh, lively, optimistic and patriotic thoughts, but within a few months they are all as old men, in mind if not completely in body. Paul and his friends witness such horrors and endure such severe hardship and suffering, that they are unable to even speak about it to anyone but each other. This is a very moving and poignant novel, and the reader is made even more aware of its poignancy in knowing that its author is writing from experience, having suffered greatly as a young man on the frontline, whilst fighting for the Fatherland.
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on 11 January 2001
Both the title itself and other reviewers' comments provide you with an overview of the subject matter of this novel so I won't dwell on that. What I would say however is that I disagree with the notion expressed by other reviewers that this book is applicable to any war and supports the notion that all conflicts are futile. (Although I appreciate that the latter was the intention of the author.)
The reason I say this is because the Western Front during WWI was arguably (bar Stalingrad) the ultimate manifestation of a war of attrition at the battlefield level. Plainly and simply the winner was the side which could sustain the greatest number of casualties yet still keep going. Shamelessly, both sides pursued this strategy relentlessly which only serves to make the futility of this particular conflict all the more poignant.
The most moving passages for me are the protagonist thinking back to the bravado of his teacher encouraging his pupils to join up having bought the propaganda hool, link and sinker; the little things in life that are so meaningful to Paul given that they may be the last time he gets to experience them; the period of leave when he returns to his family who could not begin to understand what he has experienced, and above all the description of what it was like waiting in the bunkers while the shells rained down on them, knowing that at any moment the next shell could be for them. The last passage and action both during and after the barrage are truly amazing.
It's been six months since I read this book and thinking about it something has become clear to me. Once you're read this book you're more of a person that you were before. Gushing maybe but true. There is no higher praise than that.
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2001
When I read this brilliant book I felt so many emotions, but I suppose the underlying emotion was sadness. In many ways all schoolboys should be made to read this book, for it depicts war as it is, without all the glamour and hero worship that some books and films portray. I thought birdsong was a great book showing how people change from a traumatic experience, such as World War 1. But all quiet on the western front leaves it for dead in this area in my opinion. I will never forget this incredible educational and wonderful book. I am so glad it was written from the German perspective, because it shows us that underneath all our exterior frames we are the same; we have the same fears and dreams. My last words about this book are read it if you dare the experience will live with you forever.
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2010
Not thinking or knowing and with a name like Vintage I heedlessly purchased this edition, believing that I would be reading the original translation - the one closest in time, in sympathies, in a general approach to life - simply the translation most likely to preserve a feeling of the early 20th century.

At the beginning Brian Murdoch generously acknowledges his pilfering of A. W. Wheen's poetically translated title 'All Quiet On the Western Front', what Murdoch would otherwise literally translate as 'Nothing New on the Western Front', but then goes on to render the rest of the book himself in a basic style evocative of the 1990s in which it was made. I half expected the boys in the trench to pull a copy of Maxim out.

Unless you need to have the past made modern for you I recommend this instead:

 All Quiet on the Western Front (New Windmills)
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on 3 August 2004
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I had to try and find a novel to do for my english higher and after strugling to find something I could get really into, I came across this. I had done WWI in history and had some background knowlodge however this book gave me atotally new perspective to the war after learning the suffering not just the allies but the germans also suffered. Paul Baumer shows the trajedy and mind numbing monotony of trench warfare, as this war turned in to a mechanised killing machine through the use of poison gas, machine guns etc. Before I read this novel I thought war was just a necessity needed to take out tyrants however now I have seen the horrors a front line soldier has to endure. Remarque brilliantly shows a generation destroyed in the trenches. This novel is simply a must read.
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on 10 June 2002
If today's generation is to be made aware of the sacrifices made by their forebears and put their own problems into a reasonable perspective then this is the book to do it. It effectively evokes both the horror of trench life and the sheer futility of the majority of lives lost during the hostilities. It also captures the spirit of comradeship amongst those in the trenches, the empathy felt toward those on the other side of the barbed wire and the sense of betrayal and alienation felt by the mobilised generation towards their elders back home, fed the untruths of propaganda and so involved in the making of the war, yet so removed from the terrible actualities of life on the Western Front.
Despite this "All Quiet on the Western Front" is much more than any mere history lesson. It is a story of friendship, bereavement and growing up. It should invoke anger, tears and laughter and above all compel you to thank god that you were born into today's Europe rather than that of 1914-18, or indeed any period of mass warfare. In short if this book fails to move you, you may be dead.
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on 17 May 2012
This classic piece of war literature is a novel that I really think *must* become part of the history syllabus in today's schools. Based on Remarque's own experiences at the Front, it is a compelling, yet matter of fact look at the true horrors of war. It is also unquestioningly, one of the most poignant and well-written novels I have ever had the privilege of reading.

Told from the perspective of Paul, a German soldier, it recounts the lives of he and his school friends, who are encouraged to join the army once they come of age, at the goading of one of their teachers. Alternating between past and present tense, we learn of the horror of the battlefield and the lives of the men before they became soldiers. The narrative is utterly compelling and really draws the reader into the events- you learn of not only the turmoil of the front, but can also almost sense the smells and sounds and feel the mud of the trenches. There is also a journey undertaken that the reader experiences fully with Paul and his friends- they start off as fresh-faced eighteen-year-olds, with a strong sense of patriotism for their country, yet as the book progresses they become ultimately jaded with the horrors of war. The reader really feels a sense of empathy with the characters as the plot unfolds, and through their own experiences you are given a sense of what they are thinking and feeling and how pointless war actually is.

At times this novel is poignant, at other times sombre, but the prose is always beautiful and infinitely readable. I know this is a story that I will turn to time and time again. If you only have time to read one book this year, then I urge you to please make it this one.
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on 13 November 2006
Erich Marie Remarque was a truly great writer of his generation. Imagine how fresh this novel was when first published - imagine reading it in the original German language. Notwithstanding the many decades that have passed it remains a masterpiece. I first read 'All Quiet' in the 1960's.

I promise you, it changed my life forever. Few books in my nearly six decades of reading have done that.
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