This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.
All Quiet on the Western Front (German: Im Westen nichts Neues, literal German translation ‘Nothing New In the West’) is a novel by a German war veteran of World War I. The book describes the German Soldiers, extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and their detachment from the civilian life, felt by, many of these soldiers, upon returning home from the front. The novel was first published in November and December 1928 in a German newspaper, Vossische Zeitung and later, in book form in late January 1929. The book and its sequel, “The Road Back” (1930), were among the books banned and burned in Nazi Germany. All Quiet on the Western Front sold 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first 18 months in print.
In 1930, the book was adapted as an Academy-Award-winning film of the same name, directed by Lewis Milestone. It was adapted again in 1979 by Delbert Mann, this time as a television film, starring Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine.
The main characters of the novel are as follows:
Paul Baumer is the main protagonist.
Albert Kropp: A classmate of Paul at school. He is described as the clearest thinker of the group as well as the smallest. Kropp is wounded towards the end of the novel and undergoes a leg amputation.
Haie Westhus: He is described as being tall and strong, and a peat-digger by profession. Overall, his size and behaviour make him seem older than Paul, yet he is, the same age as Paul and his school-friend.
Friedrich Muller: He is 19 and one of Bäumer’s classmates. He too joins the German army as a volunteer, ready to go to war. He carries his old school books to the battlefield that constantly reminds him of the importance of learning and education.
Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky: Kat has the most positive influence on Paul and his comrades on the battlefield. Katczinsky, a recalled reserve militiaman, was a cobbler (shoemaker) in civilian life. He is older than Paul Bäumer and his comrades, say about 40 years old, and serves as their leadership figure. Kit is hit by a shrapnel at the end of the story.
The book tells the story of Paul Baumer, who belongs to a group of German soldiers on the Western Front during World War I. The patriotic speeches of his teacher Kantorek had led the whole class to volunteer for military service shortly after the start of World War I. He didn’t have any experience when going to the war but he still went in with an open mind and a loving heart. Paul otherwise lived with his father, mother and sister in a charming German village, and attended school, where, his class was scattered along the platoons, and amongst Frisian (Germanic) fishermen, peasants, and labourers. Baumer arrives at the Western Front with his friends and schoolmates named Leer, Muller, Kropp and a number of other characters. There they meet Stanialaus Katczinsky, an older soldier, nicknamed Kat, who becomes Paul’s mentor. While in the front, Baumer and his comrades engage in frequent battles and endure the treacherous and filthy conditions of trench warfare.
At the beginning of the book, Remarque writes, “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure for those, who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were destroyed by the war.” The book does not focus on heroic stories of bravery, but rather gives a view of the conditions in which the soldiers find themselves. The monotony between battles, the constant threat of artillery fire and bombardments, the struggle to find food, the lack of training of young recruits with lower chances of survival, and the overarching role of random chance, in the lives and deaths of the soldiers are described in detail.
The battles fought here have no names and seem to have little overall significance, except for the impending possibility of injury or death for Baumer and his comrades. Where, only, insignificant small pieces of land are gained, about the size of a football field, which are also lost again later. Remarque often refers to the living soldiers as old and dead, emotionally drained and shaken. He says, “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”
Paul’s visit to his home highlights the cost of war on his psyche. The town has not changed since he went off to war. However, he finds that he does not belong to here anymore, for it is a foreign world. He feels disconnected from most of the townspeople. His father asks him “stupid and distressing” questions about his war experiences, not understanding “that a man cannot talk of such things.” An old schoolmaster lectures him about strategy and advancing to Paris while insisting that Paul and his friends know only their “own little sector” of the war but nothing of the big picture.
Indeed, the only person he remains connected to is his dying mother, with whom he shares a tender, yet restrained relationship. The night before he is to return from leave, he stays up with her, exchanging small expressions of love and concern for each other. He thinks to himself, “Ah! Mother, Mother! How can it be that I must part from you? Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall never say it.” In the end, he concludes that he “ought never to have come (home) on leave.”
Paul feels glad upon being reunited with his comrades. Soon after, he volunteers to go on a patrol where he kills a man for the first time in a hand-to-hand combat. He watches the man die in pain for hours. He feels remorse and asks forgiveness from the man’s corpse. He is devastated and later confesses to Kat and Albert, who try to comfort him and reassure him that it is only a part of the war. They are then sent on what Paul calls a “good job.” They must guard a supply depot in a village that was evacuated due to heavy shelling. During this time, the men are able to adequately feed themselves, unlike the near-starvation conditions in the German trenches. In addition, the men enjoy themselves living off the spoils of the village and officers’ luxuries, from the supply depot such as fine cigars. While evacuating the villagers, the enemy civilians, Paul and Albert are taken by surprise by the artillery fired at the civilian convoy, when Albert is wounded by a shell. On the train back home, Albert takes a turn for the worse and cannot complete the journey, so he is offloaded from the train and sent to recuperate in a Catholic hospital. Paul uses a combination of bartering and manipulation to stay by Albert’s side. Albert eventually has his leg amputated, while Paul is deemed fit for service and is returned to the front.
By now, the war is nearing its end and the German Army is retreating. In despair, Paul watches as his friends fall one by one. It is the death of Kat that eventually makes Paul careless about living. In the final chapter, he comments that peace is about to come, but he does not see the future to be bright and shining with hope. Paul feels that he has no aims or goals left in life and that their generation will be different and misunderstood.
In October 1918, Paul is finally killed on a remarkably peaceful day. The situation report from the frontline states, a simple phrase: “All quiet on the Western Front.” Paul’s corpse displays a calm expression on its face, “as though almost glad the end had come.”
By Kamlesh Tripathi
Share it if you like it
Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:
NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION
Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)
IFSC code: BKID0006805
GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai and Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida, India)
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)
AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K.)
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN
(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
RHYTHM … in poems
(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories. It is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)
Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June 15 & 20 2020; Indica 15.8.20
(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)