All quiet on the blogging front

February 7, 2007

I have been reading “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the famous semi-autobiographical (anti-) war novel set in WWI which needs no introduction from me but which seems to have got one anyway.

Better lit crits than me will long ago have written pretty much all there is to be said about this book, but I will record one or two thoughts.

First, it is beautifully written. I’m not sure if English is the original language of the book or if I’m reading a translation. There’s no mention of a translator so I presume the former, in which case I doff my cap to the author whose first language, it would appear from the biog in the book, was not English. As one who aspires to write something worth reading one day, I am filled with awe at the seeming effortlessness of those who can.

Second, I like the different perspectives. There’s plenty of description of the horrors of the front, to be sure, but the fact that there are different horrors to be faced when he goes home on leave (the perpetual question, spoken or unspoken,”How is it going at the front?”), and his despair at ever being able to lead a normal life after his experiences are very powerful.

Third, this kind of thing should be required reading so that we who have never lived through war can know what it means and do our utmost to avoid it in future.

Fourth, it’s odd how certain phrases can strike through text and grab the reader. I read about the terrors of a bombardment without, if I’m honest, really feeling or comprehending it because it is so far outside my experience, but then I read (my paraphrase): “Shells hardly ever land in the same place twice, so when a hole was torn open in front of me I jumped into it.” What volumes that speaks about the lessons a twenty-year-old has had to learn in order to survive, never mind fight, in those conditions.

I need some light relief now I think. But I’ll try not to forget about this book. I think I will register it with BookCrossing and take it back to the charity shop for someone else.

Update: I am informed that A.W. Wheen translated the book from the German. I say it’s a shame he didn’t get a mention in this edition. Thanks for the info Steve.


4 Responses to “All quiet on the blogging front”

  1. Since you liked that book, checkout Slaughterhouse Five, another great read based on the firebombing of Dresden.

  2. steve Says:

    The book was first published in German in January 1929 with the title “Im Westen nichts Neues” (literal translation – “Nothing new in the west”). It was translated into English the same year by A.W. Wheen.

    A closer match than Slaughterhouse Five would be “Le Feu” by Henri Barbusse – a novel which is said to have inspired Remarque to write All Quiet on the Western Front

  3. Thank you both for your suggestions. I’m taking a break from the harrows of war and reading “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”, but I will follow up your ideas when I feel stronger.

  4. Night is also another great read, this one is more journalistic approach than Anne Frank but from a view of a Holocaust survivor in the southern part of Europe. I forget if like Hungary or Yugoslavia.

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