I am very quiet.
Let the months and years come; they cannot take anything from me, nor can they take anything more. I am so alone and without hope that I can confront them without fear. The life that has carried me through these years is still in my hands. Whether I have subdued it, I do not know. But as long as it is there, it will seek its own way out, heedless of my will. These are the thoughts of Paul Baumer, a young veteran of World War I.
It is a testament for all of the lost generation” – a generation of war-ravaged youth trying to come to terms with the reality of life and the hatred that took the lives of so many of their comrades. Before they had a chance to live, the war engulfed their youthful aspirations to conquer the world. They were torn apart by war, yet unified by the noble cause of defending their country in all its glory.
On the threshold of life, they faced an abyss of death.” Among the many new recruits, Paul Baumer and his classmates enlist with youthful enthusiasm in the German army of World War I. As soldiers, they do not know what awaits them on the battlefield. Many of their comrades will die before their very eyes. And for what? They do not know what they are fighting against. They are fighting a war that is not their own, but rather the war of the political leaders of several countries whose arrogance cost the lives of so many young men.
A war can never be fully justified. How do you justify the loss of human life? They know nothing of life but despair, death, and superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. The war has destroyed them before they had a chance to live. We loved our country as much as they did. We went courageously into every action, but we also distinguished the false from the true. We had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone, and alone we must see it through.”
It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like for these young men to face the hardships that war brings. The loss of their comrades and fear – what it all boils down to is death, a word that is synonymous with war. One by one, they all die, and in the end, Paul is left to face the war alone. Kemmerich is the first to die, and he is a sign of the things to come.
When he dies, they all see themselves and the uncertainty that lies ahead. A friend has died, yet he remains only a face in their imagination, someone they once knew. One by one, Kemmerich, Muller, Kropp, Tjaden, Detering, Haie, Katczinsky, Leer, and Ginger are all dead. Yet Paul remains, to live his life in the silence the war brings. Erich Maria Remarque brings his own experience of such matters to All Quiet on the Western Front.”
He was in combat during World War I and was wounded several times during the course of his service. He brings you the personal side of what war is, and with those who participated in this (fictitious) war. The emotion is real, though the characters are not. It is said to be the greatest war novel of all time. After reading All Quiet on the Western Front, tell me if you don’t see war in a whole new perspective, one that in all its chaos eluded you before.