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on 28 April 2016
I have said often that this book should be compulsory reading in all schools in every country in the world. The change in Paul from 'new boy' to hardened veteran was, in itself, a warning to us all. One by one he saw his 'pals' killed or incurably wounded. He realises that he and his contemporaries will have great difficulty in integrating into the new Germany when the war is over. This feeling is only intensified when he returns home on leave. The people back home have no concept of what is happening on the front line. They have strategic plans for how it ought to be fought, but they have not sat in the trenches, in the mud, watching the rats getting fatter every day. A German viewpoint but a worldwide concern.
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on 28 September 2017
All Quiet on the Western Front is what I would call a quiet masterpiece. The language is elegant and understated yet the impact is so profound. It exposes the horror of war and calls out the senseless loss of life on both sides.

I would not only recommend people read this book, I would actively encourage it.
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on 30 August 2015
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

Brian Murdoch, the translator, has given us in his Afterword an excellent starting point for discussing this book. I refer to it as a ‘book’ because to call it a novel suggests something less horrific in terms of subject matter than what we find in All Quiet on the Western Front.

Brian Murdoch affirms that the key structure of the book is the contrast between terror and death set against the irrepressible ‘spark of life’. There is a secondary thematic idea in the novel, namely the opposition between youth and age as shown in the references to Kantorek, the boys’ teacher and to other older people Paul Baumer meets when on leave. They regard the soldiers as heroes who are sure to win. We are also shown the contrast between experienced older soldiers and the younger raw recruits at the front line.

These thematic points bring the book into focus as a novel as opposed to a documentary or historical account. Nevertheless it contains features of documentary in that its realism is so vivid. This is due, of course, to the fact that Remarque drew on his own experiences in the trenches. The horrors he describes give the book a strong degree of polemicism or implied denunciation of war itself. But the book’s novelistic qualities are further based round its varied characters, their qualities, idiosyncrasies, and actions, as in any novel.

It is also, of course a tragic novel on several levels: all the main characters die, almost all of terrible wounds and their after effects. The tragic features spread from the battlefield to the families at home and to the sacrifices forced on the population by hunger and the futility of the war itself. It is reflected, too, in the degradation of human relations as shown in the soldiers’ visit to the brothel in the village, though this is presented partly in terms of comic adventure.

One scene in particular encapsulates the ideas of futility, life and death, heroism that arises from fear, and pity. This is the scene that shows the one scene of hand-to-hand fighting when Paul, in his terror of death stabs one of ‘the others’ (we are deliberately not told directly of his nationality) and then tries to save his life, while the man dies a slow and agonising death in spite of these efforts. The near anonymity of the ‘others’ who are seldom referred to as enemies or by nationality, is another implied idea to show that the futility of war is not restricted to one side or the other.

Overall, this book, while making gripping, if depressing reading, is, nevertheless, virtually a ‘must read’ if we are to understand and ultimately abandon war.

R Barton 19th August 2015
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on 16 January 2015
I loved this book when I first read it many years ago. So long ago, in fact, that I had forgotten I'd read it but within just a few pages I remembered it well. It was once said that every young man ought to read this book to become fully informed as to the truths of war. I would certainly subscribe to that view. In these days when much is made of the hero element of the 1st world war this book puts the whole matter into real perspective. Without the need to resort to foul language or use exaggerated graphic detail to describe the scenes of death, the simple horror of the whole affair is well considered. Through the mind of the lead character the reader is helped to see the pure hypocrisy of all who could opinion-ate about the war without having to take a part in it. Even the role of the church is touched upon as he considers how followers on both sides praying to the same god could all possibly be right ! A great read not just for young men but for all young people today.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 5 April 2014
If you want to read what it was like in the first world war, this and Goodbye to All That are usually recommended. I have just read them both and, although this is fiction and the other is autobiography, all Quiet on the Western Front gives a better feel. It is full of what seems to be authentic detail and is a much more interesting read (though the Graves book is also good). It gives a good understanding of just how desolate the soldiers felt, how terribly they were changed by their experiences.

Even better, In my view, is The Ice-cream War by William Boyd (which I reviewed separately).
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on 13 June 2014
This book somehow manages to be harrowing and humdrum at the same time. The style of the writing captures the horror and stress of war but also how such a dreadful experience as trench warfare can become 'normal'. The literal translation of the original German title would be "there was nothing new to report on the Western Front" and that is exactly what the story is about; the relentless awfulness of trench warfare, never changing and seemingly achieving nothing. The narrator of the story, Paul Bäumer, who is little more than a boy at the beginning of the book, takes us in close to the action and lets us watch it slowly destroy him.
As an English reader, this is how the war looked 'from the other side' and I think that makes it more poignant. As the book progresses and the reader becomes increasingly involved with the characters in it, the knowledge that it was British troops inflicting misery on Paul and his friends that was equal to anything our own troops suffered is significant. There really were no winners.
EVERYBODY should read this book.
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on 4 May 2014
Clever writing as it switches perspectives and moods. You read it at one level, but often there is a more subtle message behind the words. Just when you think that Paul and his friends are having some respite from the horrors of the trenches, you realise that actually it is superficial, and that underneath they are still desperately holding on to the hope that they will survive. He worries that he will not fit in to society when the war is over, because it seems that he has known nothing else, and often the best he can hope for is a good night's sleep. It doesn't have the level of graphic fighting content that a more modern book may have, but the book still conveys the horror of trench warfare in WW1. Its not the battles that count, its the effect on ordinary people forced to do whatever it takes to survive. It is not too long, and should be on everybody's reading list at school.
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on 25 February 2012
I have just finished reading All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, and what an amazing book this is. For those who don't know what it is about it tells the story of the front line during the 1914-1918 first world war from a German soldier's viewpoint. It tells of the horrors of the fighting and the total desolation that must have been experienced by all involved. It also tells of the comradeship experienced by those involved and what this meant to them. There is a great sense of humour running through the book.
I felt it was so well written by Erich Maria Remarque (he apparently changed his middle name from Paul to Maria in memory of his mother) and at times it seemed as if I was reading poetry. I don't think I have ever read a book so beautifully written. I have read other reviews of this book and they say that this book should be read by all. I personally think it should be compulsory reading for all, certainly at school.
I know this is an old story and not everyones 'cup of tea'. I started reading it with a bit of an open mind but I am so glad I read it. It is a very sad book but at the same time I think very uplifting to think what people have had to endure and how they coped. The author seemingly did spend some time on the front line from 1917 to 1918 so he obviously wrote from experience. If this book is on your TBR list I recommend you put it to the top. If it isn't on your TBR list I recommend you add it to it, you will not be sorry.
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on 30 November 2011
World War I in this novel is seen through the eyes of a young German solider called Paul Baumer. Paul naively joins up along with a band of school friends with the encouragement of their teacher. He is sent to the front where he is quickly confronted with the realities of warfare in the trenches. His hardships are all detailed and include the lack of food, the filth and his friends joining the casualties as the war goes on. Paul hates and resents his situation but he copes, he copes with having to kill people, he copes seeing his friends die and in doing so he begins to change in himself. He eventually comes to the conclusion that he has essentially died inside.

This novel is devoid of politics and the bigger picture is never revealed, even the enemy themselves are often referred to as 'the ones over there' . The novel instead focuses solely on the humanity and the solider giving a honest vivid account on the torrents of war.

Don't run away with the idea that his book is depressing. Certainty its moving and dark in places, but the overall writing is very matter of fact and to the point leaving you with images or scenes that you are unlikely to ever forget.
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on 2 January 2012
The great strength of this book is that there are no histrionics, no jingoism, no hatred, just the author Paul telling his story of the War in a low-key matter-of-fact way, a way that stretches our emotions to the limit. The horror (and stupidity) of war can never have been portrayed in a more convincing way: war dehumanises; kill or be killed; life is cheap.

And, yet, basic human instincts remain, as is exemplified by Paul's various reactions to his killing of the French compositor, Gerard Duval-writing which will remain in my mind for some time.

Particularly poignant is the fact that Paul's horrible experiences at the front are not believed or recognised by family or friends at home when he is on leave. The civilian population is still gung-ho, perhaps an early example of the triumph of propaganda over reality. Shades of Blair's "weapons of mass destruction"?

This book preaches a powerful anti-war message, but is anyone listening? Today's politicians have no experience of the horrors of war and show little sign of having learned from the past. Surely no survivor of Ypres would have thought invading Iraq was worthwhile.

A must-read and an easy read.
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