Friday, 4 February 2011
World Book Night Challenge 10/25
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque.
This was another re-read for me but it has been a very long time since I last picked a copy of this up and apart from the bare bones of the story I had forgotten what an incredible piece of literature that it is.
I have read many novels set in the First World War, some for adults and some for children but it is this one that really emphasises for me just how bloody and pointless the conflict was.
Written by a German and focusing on the German experience of the trenches the book really brings home that the PBI really were the same on both sides, that neither side wanted to be there and that very few fighting in the trenches really knew exactly what the war was about and why they were there.
All Quiet follows one class of students who have been encouraged to join up by their class teacher. We learn about their training and the battles they have fought as slowly, one by one, they fall.
Remarque pulls no punches when he is describing both the day to day and combat experience, and it may not be for the faint hearted because of this. For me if I could only keep one novel about the First World War it would have to be this one. There is no glamourising of the conflict, it is brutal, stark and uncompromising. So honest in fact that it was banned in the 1930s in Nazi Germany for being defeatist and anti-German.
Of the 25 on the World Book Night list it was this one that I knew I had to apply for to be my give away. Even now having stretched myself and having tried lots of new styles and authors I don't regret this choice. It is a book that I feel everyone should read as a teenager, and then again as an adult.