Holiday Reading…All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Maria Remarque
As books go, this one took a little longer to read than I would have liked, and expected. Although for those of you who follow my literary rants, I will point out that the three Asterix books previously reviewed also contributed to downtime.
So, to the book. How is it a war novel, a favourite genre of myself comes to be read at the leisurely pace of a mormon on door knocking duty? No simple answer. No, it wasn’t a bad book by any stretch, in fact was a book like no other I have read, and it was well written in parts which probably was the one issue I had with it. It went through long rambling chapters that seemed irrelevant and led nowhere, and were so humdrum in comparison to what was a key time in history…but then again that may have also been its strong point. War is not all glory (which we all well know), nor is it fly by the seat of your pants, knife-edge thriller. There are periods of boredom, nothingness, inane thoughts and feelings, and it is only as you get towards the end of the book that this hits home.
Following a group of young “conscripts” (I use this term as they were coerced into it by their school master) in the Prussian Army, and narrated by one of them, it takes you on a journey of young boys, barely out of adolescence shooting at an unseen enemy without knowing why or how, nor the ultimate goal. It captures quite poignantly how politics is understood by those charged with enforcing them, and the mixed emotions and lack of understanding anything other than their comrades are their only friends and family, and their ability to learn survival on the go is their saviour.
This was written sometime in the late 20s/early 30s and the writing is fresh enough to give you a real sense of what had happened a decade earlier, but was soon to be overshadowed by world events barely a decade later. I think as far as real literature goes, while it may not be a ‘true classic’, it should be compulsory reading in senior schools.