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Remarque, Erich Maria

REMARQUE, Erich Maria

Nationality: American (originally German: immigrated to Switzerland, 1931; immigrated to the United States, 1939, naturalized citizen, 1947). Born: Osnabrück, 22 June 1898. Education: University of Münster. Military Service: German Army during World War I: wounded. Family: Married 1) Jutta Zambona in 1925 (divorced 1932); 2) Ilsa Intta Zambota in 1938 (divorced); 3) Paulette Goddard in 1958. Career: Substitute teacher, Osnabrück, c. 1919. Worked as a stonecutter, drama critic, salesman for a tombstone company, test driver for a Berlin tire company, organist in an insane asylum, and advertising copywriter for an automobile company. Lived in the United States, 1939-49; moved to Switzerland, 1949. Editor, Sport im Bild magazine, Berlin, 1925. Award: German Grand Cross of Merit, 1967. Member: German Academy of Speech and Poetry. Died: 25 September 1970.



Die Traumbude: Ein Künstlerroman [The Dream Room]. 1920.

Im Westen nichts Neues. 1928; as All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929.

Der Weg zurück. 1931; as The Road Back, 1931.

Drei Kameraden. 1937; as Three Comrades, 1937.

Liebe deinen Nächsten. 1941; as Flotsam, 1941.

Arch of Triumph. 1945; as Arc de Triomphe, 1946.

Der Funke Leben. 1952; as Spark of Life, 1952.

Zeit zu Leben und Zeit zu Sterben. 1954; as A Time to Live and a Time to Die, 1954.

Der schwarze Obelisk: Geschichte einer verspaeteten Ju gend. 1956; as The Black Obelisk, 1957.

Der Himmel kennt keine Günstlinge. 1961; as Heaven Has No Favorites, 1961; as Bobby Deerfield, 1961.

Die Nacht von Lissabon. 1961; as The Night in Lisbon, 1964.

Schatten im Paradies. 1971; as Shadows in Paradise, 1972.


Die lezte Station [The Last Station] (produced 1956). As Full Circle, 1974.


Der letzte Akt [The Last Act] (Ten Days to Die ), adaptation of Ten Days to Die by Michael A. Musmanno, 1955; A Time to Love and a Time to Die, 1957.


Das unbekannte Werk: Fruhe Prosa, Werke aus dem Nachlass, Briefe und Tagebucher. 1998.


Film Adaptations:

All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930, 1979; Arc de Triomphe, 1947; A Time to Love and a Time to Die, 1957.

Critical Studies:

"Autobiographical Elements in the Novels of Erich Maria Remarque," in West Virginia University Philo-logical Papers, 17, 1970, pp. 84-93, and "Humor in the Novels of Erich Maria Remarque, in West Virginia University Philological Papers, 29, 1983, pp. 38-45, both by Harley U. Taylor; E. M. Remarque by Franz Baumer, 1976; Erich Maria Remarque by Chrstine R. Barker and R. W. Last, 1979; Erich Maria Remarque: A Critical Bio-Bibliography by C. R. Owen, 1984; Erich Maria Remarque: A Thematic Analysis of His Novels, 1988, and All Quiet on the Western Front: Literary Analysis and Cultural Context, 1993, both by Richard Arthur Firda; Erich Maria Remarque: A Literary and Film Biography by Harley U. Taylor, Jr., 1989; Understanding Erich Maria Remarque, edited by Hans Wagener and James Hardin, 1991; Opposite Attraction: The Lifes of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard by Julie Goldsmith Gilbert, 1995; Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, edited by Harold Bloom, 2001.

Theatrical Activities: Actor: Film—

A Time to Love and a Time to Die, 1957.

* * *

Erich Maria Remarque once confessed that nothing worse can happen to a writer than to launch his career with a worldwide success. He was referring, of course, to his novel Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front ), which appeared in 1929 and which overnight rose to the top of the best-seller list and appeared prominently on the Nazis' index as so much pacifist agitprop and as an outrage against the German infantryman. Remarque, in fact, disavowed any political agenda in writing what has been called the most widely read German novel of the twentieth century. (Elsewhere the primacy has been claimed for Lion Feuchtwanger 's Jud Süss ). Remarque's purpose in writing All Quiet was simply to show how young people were herded to death just as they were embarking on adult life. Twenty years later Heinrich Böll was to take up precisely the same subject in some of his greatest stories, such as "Wanderer, When You Come to Spa—" and "Reunion with Drüng," in which the figures are taken directly from school to the front and in which the stretcher takes on an almost iconic function.

On 29 January 1933, a day before Hitler's power seizure, Remarque fled in his Lancia to his villa on Lago Maggiore, which he had purchased the year before and which, with long intermittences, was to remain his home until his death in 1970. The next few years found him shuttling between Paris and Asconia. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, he left the Ticino for the United States, installed himself for the time being in Hollywood, and then, in 1942, settled in New York City. Our own vigilantes, who assumed every refugee writer and intellectual to be a carrier of the Red scare, barely took notice of Remarque, who shunned refugee circles in California and New York, hardly gave interviews, and (in this antagonizing his fellow exiles) remained essentially apolitical. Besides, his lifestyle markedly differed from theirs. Although almost pathologically publicity shy, he could scarcely escape the gossip dredged up about people who divided their passion between fast cars and Marlene Dietrich, frequented the Stork Club and Twenty-One, collected Monets and oriental rugs, and sold six novels to Hollywood studios, F. Scott Fitzgerald tinkering with the script of Three Comrades. Despite bouts of alcoholism and depression and a strenuous three-year affair with Dietrich, Remarque managed to see two of his novels through the press during the 10 years he spent in the United States: Liebe deinen Nächsten (1941; published in English under the title Flotsam ) and the immensely successful Arch of Triumph (1945; the original appeared as Arc de Triomphe a year later). In 1949 he returned to his home in southern Switzerland, where he spent his last 20 years and produced half of the novels in the Remarque canon, including Der Funke Leben (1952; Spark of Life ), Zeit zu Leben und Zeit zu Sterben (1954; A Time to Live and a Time to Die ), and Die Nacht von Lissabon (1961; The Night in Lisbon ).

Leaving aside the question of merit—but leaving the question of popularity very much in the equation—Remarque arguably contributed more to Americans' awareness of the miseries of exile and the horrors of Nazi Germany than did his detractors, whose names are legion. Remarque knew all about the conditions of flight, of statelessness, of commuting between gendarmeries and consulates at a time when a person was fairly lost without a passport, a visa or transit visa, an affidavit, and all of the instruments of survival on paper. Evidently, too, Remarque had no firsthand knowledge of the camps. What needs to be remembered is that Holocaust fiction did not really come into its own until about 1960 and that Spark of Life, published in 1952, presented virtually the first full-length fictional treatment of a death camp. It is perhaps no surprise that in 1952 a book about the Shoah could hardly be sold to the Germans, nor is it a surprise that at the time of Remarque's death Spark of Life was the least read of his novels in Germany, whereas The Night in Lisbon, in which the concentration camp surfaces peripherally but which zeroes in on the adventures of a refugee couple, placed second after All Quiet on the Western Front.

Remarque died rich and, though hardly forgotten—certainly not by the judges of the Book-of-the-Month Club—was dismissed as a second-rater, read by people who enjoyed the productions of James Hilton, Nevil Shute, and Daphne du Maurier. Beyond having a street in Osnabrück named for him, after much wrangling among the city fathers, he died without public tributes or marble monuments. At the time he published All Quiet on the Western Front, he was thought a candidate for the Nobel Prize—for Peace. But a few years after her death the authorities paid Dietrich the ultimate homage of circulating her face on a postage stamp, in the same Famous German Women series in which they featured Hannah Arendt. Exile and second thoughts among Germans produce strange bedfellows.

—Edgar Rosenberg

See the essays on The Night in Lisbon and Spark of Life.

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