Jul 23, 09
Recommended to Daniel by:
Read in July, 2009
I don't know why it took me so long to get to "All Quiet on the Western Front," but I'm glad I finally read it and am grateful to my friend Rose for recommending it. The book, first published in the late 1920s, is an absolutely heartbreaking, wonderfully written novel about the permanent damage done to those who fight in wars. Few anti-war novels written since have matched Erich Maria Remarque's unsettling book, and I doubt any have surpassed it.
Given how famous "All Quiet" is, there's little need for me to say much about it here. (Plus, it's so much easier to write negative reviews than positive ones, and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this book.) There are several heart-rending passages that I expect will stick with me for a long time, though, and that I feel the need to mention: Paul Bäumer's leave, during which he finds it nearly impossible to relate normally to his family after his experiences on the front; Paul's time in a shell hole with French soldier Gérard Duval; the brief interlude Paul and his comrades spend with a group of French girls, and how the gal with whom he'd been paired treats him in the end; and, of course, the scene near the book's end involving Stanislaus Katczinsky, easily "All Quiet"'s most interesting character. (I won't say anything about the scene with Kat so as not to spoil it for those who haven't read the book yet.)
One final thought, which I bring up because of Logan's comment that he didn't like "All Quiet," which he last read in high school. I've talked about this before, most recently in my review of "The Sea Wolf," and I feel the need to bring it up again: Many American readers, it seems, have bad memories of great works of literature they were made to read in school. That they were forced to read the books is, of course, part of the problem, but I also think schoolchildren often are assigned books they're not yet ready for. I don't mean that they're not smart enough to read and understand the books, but rather that they're not mature enough to have the books resonate properly with them. This would definitely be true of "All Quiet." It would be the most unusual of high school students -- one in a hundred, perhaps, if that many -- who could truly appreciate the issues raised in this book.
I would encourage anyone who hasn't read "All Quiet" yet to check it out. And for those who read it in school and were left with a bad taste in their mouths, it's probably time to revisit the book. That means you, Logan.