In 1914 Paul Bäumer and his classmates are marched to the local recruiting office by a sentimentally patriotic form-master. On a calm October day in 1918, only a few weeks before the Armistice, Paul will be the last of them to be killed. In All Quiet on the Western Front he tells their story.
A few years after it was published in 1929 the Nazis would denounce and publicly burn Remarque's novel for insulting the heroic German army - in other words, for 'telling it like it was' for the common soldier on the front line where any notions of glory and national destiny were soon blasted away by the dehumanizing horror of modern warfare.
Remarque has an extraordinary power of describing fear: the appalling tension of being holed up in a dugout under heavy bombardment; the animal instinct to kill or be killed which takes over during hand-to-hand combat. He also has an eye for the grimly comic: the consignment of coffins Paul and his friends pass as they make their way up the line for a new offensive; the young soldiers joyfully tucking into double rations when half their company are unexpectedly wiped out.
Remarque's elegy for a sacrificed generation is all the more devastating for the laconic prose in which his teenaged veteran narrates shocking experiences which for him have become the stuff of daily life. Paul cannot imagine a life after the war and can no longer relate to his family when he returns home on leave. Only the camaraderie of his diminishing circle of friends has any meaning for him. He comes especially to depend on an older comrade, Stanislaus Katczinsky, and one of the most poignant moments in the book is when he carries the wounded Kat on his back under fire to the field dressing station, with starkly tragic outcome.
The saddest and most compelling war story ever written.
From the detention centre on Ellis Island, Ludwig Somner looks across a small stretch of water to the glittering towers of New York, which whisper seductively of freedom after so many years of wandering through a perlious, suffering Europe.
Remarque's final novel, left unfinished at his death, tells of the precarious life of the refugee – life lived in hotel lobbies, on false passports, the strange, ill-assorted refugee community held together by an unspeakable past. For Somner, each new luxury - ice cream served in drugstores, bright shop windows, art, a new suit, a new romance - has a bittersweet edge. Memories of war and inhumanity continue to resurface even in this peaceful promised land.
A haunting snapshot of a unique time, place and predicament, this is another powerful comment from Remarque on the devastating effects of war.
A full-cast dramatisation of one of the greatest war novels of all time.
First published as a novel in 1929, All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of a group of young German soldiers who are enduring, and then coming to terms with, the realities of the First World War.
At the age of 19, following the outbreak of the First World War, Paul Bäumer enlists in the German Army. He is deployed to the Western Front, where the experience of life and death in the trenches has an enormous effect on him. He begins to feel disconnected from his past life: his family, his love of poetry, and his feelings. As the war progresses, Paul becomes increasingly lost in battle.
Haunting yet comic, lyrical yet desperate, the novel became a bestseller on its original publication. It inspired an Oscar-winning film of the same name, and has been adapted for television and stage. This powerful radio dramatisation stars Robert Lonsdale as Paul Bäumer, with a supporting cast including Simon Trinder, Stephen Critchlow, Carolyn Pickles and Malcolm Tierney.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY SEBASTIAN FAULKS
'We are no longer young men. We've lost any desire to conquer the world. We are refugees. We are fleeing from ourselves. From our lives. We were eighteen and had begun to love the world and to love being in it; but we had to shoot at it. The first shell to land went straight for our hearts. We've been cut of from real action, from getting on, from progress. We don't believe in those things any more; we believe in the war.'
Written in memory of a generation of young men who arrived at the front fresh from the schoolroom, a generation utterly devasted by war, because the few that survived were left unfit for peace; at once tender and brutal, immediate and profound - All Quiet on the Western Front is a testament to the pity, horror and waste of the First World War, and a passionate plea to prevent its repetition.
Erich Maria Remarque was a German author and veteran of the First World War. He was born 1898 in Osnabrück, Germany. At the age of 18 he was conscripted into the German army. During his service he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck. Following the war he worked as a primary school teacher, and later as a librarian, a journalist and a technical writer.
Among Remarque’s published novels were All Quiet on the Western Front, The Road Back, Three Comrades and Arch of Triumph. His works were publicly burned by the Nazi German government, and in 1947 he and his first wife became naturalised citizens of the United States. Four years earlier, his sister had been executed at the behest of Hitler’s ‘People’s Court’.
Remarque adapted the book Ten Days to Die, about Hitler’s final days, as a screenplay, and he also wrote for the stage. His last novel was The Night in Lisbon, published in 1962. During his lifetime Remarque married twice and had love affairs with the actresses Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.