Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A group of German boys are pressured by their schoolmaster, as well as nearly everyone else around them, to join the army and fight in World War I. Not even sure what it is they are fighting for, they experience death and horror drawn directly from author Remarque's WWI experiences, where he was wounded on five seperate occasions. You often see this book called the "greatest war novel of all time", but really it is one of the greatest anti-war novels ever written.
P. 204 - "Tjaden reappears. He is still quite excited and again joins the conversation, wondering just how a war gets started. 'Mostly by one country badly offending another', answers Albert with a slight air of superiority. Tjaden pretends to be obtuse. 'A country? I don't follow. A mountain in Germany cannot offend a mountain in France. Or a river, or a wood, or a field of wheat.' 'Are you really as stupid as all that, or just pulling my leg?' growls Kropp. 'I don't mean that at all. One people offends the other -' 'Then I haven't any business here at all' replies Tjaden. 'I don't feel myself offended'. 'Well let me tell you' says Albert sourly, 'it doesn't apply to tramps like you'. 'Then I can be going home right away' says Tjaden, and we all laugh. 'Ach, man! He means the people as a whole, the State -' exclaims Muller. 'State, State' - Tjaden snaps his fingers contemptuously. 'Gendarmes, police, taxes, that's your State; - if that's what you are talking about, no, thank you.'"
P. 205 - "True, but just you consider, almost all of us are simple folk. And in France, too, the majority of men are labourers, workmen, or poor clerks. Now just why would a French blacksmith or a French shoemaker want to attack us? No, it is merely the rulers."
P. 223 - "The silence spreads. I talk and must talk. So I speak to him and say to him: 'Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if only you would be sensible too. But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony - Forgive me, comrade, how could you be my enemy?"