25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Tender love story and mirror of the Weimar period,
By A Customer
This review is from: Three Comrades (Paperback)
In this book, the model for Patricia Hollman is quite obviously the woman that Remarque married twice, Ilse Jutta Zambona. At the time Remarque commenced the writing of this novel in early 1932, his relationship with Jutta was in great difficulties. They had divorced two years earlier but had continued to live together sporadically. It was of course, not only the relationship between Remarque and Jutta that was changing. It was the time of the rise of National Socialism and Adolph Hitler's 'grab for power' in 1933. Remarque had been forced to flee Germany and now, in many ways he - like Germany - stood at the edge of the abyss. The relationship between Robbie Lohkamp and Patricia Hollman serves as an analogy not only for the relationship between himself and Jutta but between himself and Germany.
Patricia Hollman is the epitome of femininity and feminine strength: graceful, elegant, soft brown hair, a delicate eggshell suntan. 'She had something then about her of a deer and of a slim panther, and something too of an Amazon before the battle.' In the novel, Patricia hollman stands in complete contrast to the world of Robbie Lohkamp just as Jutta Zambona must have appeared to the young Remarque when they met in 1923.
Robbie Lohkamp's world was the world of cheerless boarding houses, jaded bars and pubs, macho drinking and male camaraderie. He worked in a small car repair workshop, Koester & Co. The owner was Koester, an old war comrade. Robbie and another war colleague, Lenz, formed the & Co.' They were the three comrades of the story. They made their living by repairing, servicing, buying, selling, panel-beating or painting cars. In short, anything remotely connected with automobiles. In flagging economic times, they lived off their wits. It was as important to recognise the right customer coming as to be a competent mechanic. They were not above a little sharp practice. But their war experiences had thrown them together. Their first loyalty was to each other.
Throughout the novel the gritty reality of Weimar Germany is constantly juxtaposed against the beautiful, fragrant, cosy, seemingly secure world of Patricia Hollman. Escape from the the barren economic climate was their motivating force. The Weimar years shade in the background to this urban landscape of 1920's Berlin and Remarque captures the economic depression of the years in deft and sensitive ways.
Many people dubbed 'Three Comrades' as a beautiful, tender love story. There was of course, the usual batch of critics who branded it as 'kitsch' and 'sentimental melodrama' merely. To be lulled into believing that the novel is merely a sentimental love story however, is to decidedly miss the point. It is really a mirror of the times. It is a profoundly pessimistic book. The tragic fate of Lenz and the lingering death of Patricia Hollman are analogous with the demise of Weimar Germany. As Remarque wrote, he realised that a darkness was descending. There was to be no turning back. It was not to be merely an night of darkness, - more like an enduring eclipse. It was to be many years before the light would shine again