BOOK: All Quiet On The Western Front

AUTHOR: Erich Maria Remarque

GENRE: Historical Fiction/War Novel

ISBN 10: 0449213943

ISBN-13: 978-0449213940

FIRST PUBLISHED: 1929 by Ullstein Verlag

PUBLISHER: Ballantine Books Reissue edition (March 12, 1987)

LANGUAGE: Translated from German to English by A. W. Wheen


The book is set during World War I. This distressing story is narrated in first person until the narrator dies, then switches to third person. The narrator, Paul Baumer shares some characters of his soldier friends. Tjaden is so skinny and has a vast appetite, Albert kropp is the clearest thinker and reasonable, Detering is a peasant and always thinks about his farm and family.  Corporal Himmelstoss, the strictest disciplinarian in the camp, disliked Paul and his friends. Stanislaus Katczinsky, though twice older than Paul, is his best friend. Kat is always resourceful. The two have a kind of father-son relationship during the years they fought in the army together. Himmelstoss always found a fault in what Paul did. The friends had joined the German army voluntarily after their school master, Kantorek, encouraged them.

Through Paul, the reader is taken through events and experiences which took part in military camps in Germany during the first world war. The soldiers fought with all the energy they had, and were willing to do anything for the good of the nation and other citizens. Like any war stories, there had to be losses. Extreme losses. Kemmerich, a friend of Paul had his leg amputated. He later died. This was a great loss to Paul, and he freezes out when he thinks of writing a letter to Kemmerich’s mother to inform her of her son’s death. Joseph Behm’s death was too painful. He was hit in the eye during an attack and was left to die. He was among the first to fall. Behm’s death made Paul and other comrades lose confidence in Kontarek. They were angry that one of their own was no more. They felt like fighting in the war was doing them no good.

Behm’s death was a loss to not only Paul, but other comrades. They had trusted Kontarek and others in places of authority.  They had looked up to them as guides and mediators. They had taught them that one’s country was the greatest thing, but losing soldiers felt like they had been let down. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs.”

The war has disconnected Paul from the normal civilian life. It had really affected  him that even when he went at home for leave, reading books, something he had loved doing prior joining the army, seemed to be a problem. All he thought of was the front-line, and the battles he fought.

“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.” That was Paul’s death. It’s a bit ironic that for a soldier who was used to war and chaos, he died on a quiet day. His face had an expression of calm. From this paragraph onwards, the story is told in third person.

War stories are not tales I can say I enjoy reading or watching. The taking of lives and spilling of blood is not the best thing. This even gets worse when you read a war story, and even though the story could be fiction, the plot is inspired by true events. Paul’s, kat’s Kemmerich and Behm’s death saddened me. This was because they were friends and it was so heartbreaking to see the friends lose one another. I loved Paul and kat’s friendship. Despite the age difference, they respected and loved each other. They worked together, and always had each others’ back.

The book basically tells of the great war from the Germans’ perspective. The action is mostly between the war-front and Paul’s camp. This is a nice historical read. A three out of five stars from me.