The History Book Club discussion

THE FIRST WORLD WAR > 11. HF - ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT - CHAPTER TEN (231 - 269) (07/11/2011 - 07/17/2011) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Welcome to the continuation of the wonderful book: All Quiet on the Western Front!

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque by Erich Maria Remarque Erich Maria Remarque

Elizabeth S is leading this discussion.

This is a May/June/July discussion so everybody has plenty of time to read this selection.

This week's assigned reading is as follows for Week Eleven:

Week 11, July 11-17: Chapter Ten (pages 231-269)

This is the eighth historical fiction group selected book.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers if you are catching up.

This book was kicked off on May 2nd.

We always enjoy the participation of all group members. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. Usually any book offered as one of our discussion selections can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle or even Audible. You usually can also check out Barnes and Noble or Borders and they have the books in stock in their stores and on line. Audible has a summer sale going on and this book is available for download; oddly - Kindle, Barnes and Noble and Borders do not have this book available as a downloadable version but hardcopies and paperbacks are available as noted above.

This is a non spoiler thread.



Here is a link to the introductory thread:

Here is a link to the Table of Contents and Syllabus:

Here is the link to the glossary which is a spoiler thread so beware if you do not like spoilers of any kind - but the links added here will be very useful in understanding the people discussed, their background, the events and the battles, or the environment itself, etc.

Here is a link to the Military History folder which deals with World War I: (there is a lot here)

Thank you for joining the History Book Club on this journey. And it is never too late to start.

message 2: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Summary of this week's reading:

Baumer and his pals are assigned to guard an abandoned village and the nearby supply depot. Since they are expert foragers, they "set to work to create an idyll--an idyll of eating and sleeping of course" (page 232). They pile matresses in a reinforced basement, eat everything that sounds good, and smoke cigars and cigarettes. After several weeks, the village is completely bombed out and they are sent elsewhere. They pass lines of bent women and children leaving the village they are sent to evacuate.

As Baumer's group marches, they are hit by shells. Baumer and Kropp are both wounded, but they have to run for shelter. They manage to get over tall hedges, wade through water up to their necks, and run some more. When they finally can stop to dress their wounds, they are both so injured they cannot walk. They are picked up by a passing ambulance vehicle. After a few days in the field hospital, they are sent towards home on the train. Kropp developes a fever and Baumer fakes a fever so they are put off the train together to a Catholic Hospital. Baumer tells us of the injuries, the death, the infections, and the agony experienced by everyone in the hospital. Some nurses are such that Baumer says, "we would go through fire for her" (page 256). Others are inexperienced, too busy, and/or frightened.

Times goes by. Baumer gradually gets better, but Kropp's leg is amputated. Kropp would rather shoot himself than spend life as a cripple. In their room, Lewandowski has news that his wife is coming to see him with their baby that he has never seen. When she comes, she is at first shy, but quickly warms up to the group. Kropp holds the baby and a couple of the patients watch the door so Lewandowski and his wife can enjoy some "time" together.

After a few more weeks, Baumer is sent home on convalescent leave, then back to his regiment. It is hard to part from Kropp.

message 3: by Elizabeth S (last edited Jul 11, 2011 12:31PM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments My favorite part in this whole book is when all the wounded soldiers in the room pitch-in to help Lewandowski and his wife have... some time together. (It seems funny to come right out and say "sex" when Remarque so artfully avoids specifics.)

The whole thing is a fun combination of clever and practical. Watch the door, check. Someone hold the baby, check. Everyone else, play a noisy game so the Lewandowskis can pretend they have privacy.

I like that Kropp "gets" to hold the baby. I wonder what he thought of the experience, and if time with a baby made any difference in Kropp's desire for suicide.

message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Elizabeth S for setting up the thread; I am on a train to Zurich right now and luckily have some wifi which is ever so sporadic; but the best that I have had since I left at 5AM on Monday.

This part of the book was actually a welcome relief to some of the very deep segments of the book we have encountered thus far.

message 5: by Baseni (new)

Baseni | 75 comments Bentley wrote: "Thank you Elizabeth S for setting up the thread; I am on a train to Zurich right now and luckily have some wifi which is ever so sporadic; but the best that I have had since I left at 5AM on Monday..."

Hi Bentley, I hope you do not use the German railway. A trip with it is one of the last great adventure. I wish you a good journey.

message 6: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Good luck on your trip, Bentley. Yes, this chapter is something of a relief, at least at first. Kinda back to the good ol' times of camaraderie in the early chapters. Much of the hospital descriptions were somewhat bleak to me. I guess that is similar to the descriptions of Kemmerich and his death.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Baseni, unfortunately I used the French one and it ended up being just that. We had a direct train from Paris to Zurich and ended up (a full train mind you in upper class) being told that there was a break up ahead and we all had to get off with tons of luggage and make our way up and down flights of steps with the luggage and no elevator or escalator - then get on a local train with no air conditioning and had to stand up with our luggage. Then we were dumped off somewhere else and told to wait for a set of buses which did not come very fast so we hailed a taxi and grabbed the next train from Basel to Zurich - we made it. A beautiful city but raining...still very nice. Off to the Alps tomorrow and Jungfraujoch (Bernese Oberland), Interlaken and Grindelwald - so anything can happen.

Thanks Elizabeth S. So far - OK. I think that the book gives us some bit of relief here.

message 8: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments The book, this chapter gives some relief but it is overall a bit grim - we begin with the death of Haie in just one unemotional matter of fact sentence - and they note that they have all their almost adulthood, the young ones killing.
There is finally camaraderie in the hospital - when we have a group who seem they will survive - but I don't get the impression these fellow will look each other up after the war.
And the convalesant leave is so skipped over.
The men are coping and adapting but they were surviving and cooperating but I did not see it as a big relief.

message 9: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I would say that the relief is only in comparison with the immediately preceding chapter. But there are certainly some grim and painful parts.

I think the part that got to me the most in this chapter was the brief descriptions of the women and children leaving the village marked for evacuation. Although the disease and death and despair in the hospital was pretty grim as well.

message 10: by Baseni (last edited Jul 14, 2011 11:12AM) (new)

Baseni | 75 comments Hi Bentley, the rail travel in Europe is one of the last great challenges. My great uncle was an engineer, he drove a steam engine. Delays were unthinkable, it was a matter of honor to keep to the timetable. But this is already more than 70 years ago. Today the share price on the stock exchange is important, but not the customer.

Hello Elizabeth S., a few days ago I could look at old field postcards. These, Austrian soldiers had been sent home the postcards from the front in the Alps and in Poland . They all wrote that they would go well. The soldiers thanked for mail from home and hoping that everything is in order at home. The pictures page showed idealized photographs of military combat or the Austrian emperor. The postcards were also sometimes sent from hospitals. There was nothing written about the injury. It may be that this was forbidden. I think everyone has known the reality, but deliberately lied to each other.

message 11: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 03, 2014 08:30PM) (new)

Mary Ellen | 184 comments For me, the bright spot of the chapter was the young man (Peter?) who makes a triumphant return to the ward from the "dying room."

message 12: by Baseni (new)

Baseni | 75 comments The return of Peter is like a resurrection. In this hospital will also Paul's doubts and worries about the future visible. He thinks: "Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?"
This chapter is a mixture of hope and sadness. The carpenter Lewandowski sees his wife and baby, Peter comes back, and the reinforcement-reservist Josef Hamacher takes the bottle throwing up. Bizarre dialogues show the craziness of this time. For example, a doctor described as "What he wants is to experiment with little dogs, so the war is a glorious time for him, as it is for all the surgeons."
On the other side we see the dying. The wounded come and go. This is almost always going to die. The desperation is almost palpable. Somehow one feels that story is coming to an end.

I have a question. Means in the English "shooting license", the same as "Jagdschein" in German? In German, there is even the right to hunt and, secondly, the popular name for a legally accepted madman. Josef Hamacher is a madman.

message 13: by Mary Ellen (new)

Mary Ellen | 184 comments Baseni, I don't know any German. In English, a "hunting license" basically gives someone the right to hunt (usually by shooting!) specific game for a specific period.

message 14: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Yes, Mary Ellen, Peter returning is a nice bright spot. Miraculous feeling, even. I wish there was more time spent on it. What was his injury? What made the difference that he returned? Did he continue to improve?

As it is, so little time is spent on Peter's triumphal return that rather than lifting me, it makes the dark parts even darker. Actually, the whole book seems that way. Which is why, I think, the Lewandowski story tickles me. It is a little triumph, and it has some humor as well, so the positiveness of it seems to last longer for me.

message 15: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Baseni, Mary Ellen has it right about the "hunting license." I appreciate that in the English translation the phrase is explained enough that I can see what is meant by it.

I've been trying to think what would be a closer phrase in American English. I think I would say, "carte blanche." But technically that is French, I think. Maybe we could say that Hamacher has a "re-useable Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card" which would refer to the Monopoly Game. Anyone else have any ideas?

message 16: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments By the way, question for you, Baseni. Do you know how much religious diversity there would have been in Germany at that time? I'm thinking of all these young men in a Catholic hospital and wondering how many of those young men would have been Catholic.

message 17: by Mary Ellen (new)

Mary Ellen | 184 comments Bavaria had a substantial Catholic population, right?

message 18: by Baseni (new)

Baseni | 75 comments Hello Elizabeth S. and Mary Ellen, it is spoken in the German edition of the "Jagdschein" in the English translation shooting license.
Mary Ellen's description is true for the United States. In Germany, the "Jagdschein" is a hunting license similar to a driver's license. It has an education with a state examination. So you allowed to chase after, you have to lease a hunting area. Or you'll be invited to a hunt. I believe that hunting is not regulated in the United States.
In the book is a "re-useable Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card" meant. In colloquial German means "Jagdschein (hunting license)" and "Section § 51" the same thing, namely, non compos mentis

message 19: by Baseni (last edited Jul 18, 2011 01:51AM) (new)

Baseni | 75 comments At that time, Germany was, in few words, in the north Evangelical and in the south Catholic. Germany had in 1914 about 60 million inhabitants, of whom 60% were Protestant, Catholic, less than 40% and 1% Jewish. In Bavaria, about 75% were Catholic.
So there was more Protestant than Catholic soldiers. Therefore knew the soldiers nor the rituals of the nuns in the hospital. Lewandowski e.g. is Catholic. In the German edition, he speaks Polish with his wife.
I've included a link, it shows a map of the empire with the distribution of religions. The reddish area is Protestant, the gray to black Catholics.

German empire map religious diversity

message 20: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Great link, Baseni. Thanks!

In the US, hunting is definitely regulated. You have to have a hunting license, and there are designated "seasons" when you can hunt specific types of animals. Maybe it is just me, but "hunting license" sounds like something you give someone who has shown they are able to control themselves and hunt appropriately. So it doesn't have the "do whatever you want" connotation that was obviously intended. But since it was explained in the translated book, it works okay.

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