Skip to main content
Select Source:

Remarque, Erich Maria

Erich Maria Remarque

Born: July 22, 1898
Osnabrück, Germany
Died: September 25, 1970
Locarno, Switzerland

German-born American author

The German-born American author Erich Maria Remarque was a popular novelist whose All Quiet on the Western Front, describing the soldier's life in World War I (191418; a war involving Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey on one side, and Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United States on the other), was a best-seller.

Early life

Erich Maria Remarque, whose real name was Erich Paul Remark, was born on July 22, 1898, in Osnabrück, Germany, the only son among Peter Franz Remark and Anna Maria Remark's three children. His father worked as a bookbinder. The family was poor and moved at least eleven times during Remarque's childhood. He began writing at age sixteen or seventeen.

Remarque attended the University of Münster and was planning for a career as an elementary school teacher. Toward the end of World War I, which Germany had entered in support of Austria-Hungary, he was drafted into the army. While recovering in a German hospital from wounds suffered during the war, Remarque worked on Die Traumbude (The Dream Room ), his first novel, which was published in 1920. Around this time he switched to the original French spelling of his last name. After the war he worked as a press reader, teacher, salesman, and racing driver, among other professions.

Popular success

The immense success of Im Westen nichts Neues (1929; All Quiet on the Western Front) established Remarque as an author. This novel falls into a class of antiwar and antimilitary fiction that grew rapidly in Germany in the later 1920sArnold Zweig's (18871968) Sergeant Grischa is another famous example. These books are characterized by a matter-of-fact, often conversational style similar to that of a newspaper or magazine report.

Although Remarque conceals little of the horror and bloodiness of life in the trenches, at the same time there is a sentimental streak in the book that is maintained strongly right through to the last pages, in which, following the death of his friend, the hero himself dies two weeks before the end of the war, on a day when all is reported quiet at the front. All Quiet on the Western Front was translated into some twenty-five languages and sold over thirty million copies. The 1930 film version of the book was a huge box-office hit and won several Academy Awards.

Blacklisted in Germany

Remarque's next book was also a war novel, Der Weg zurück (1931; The Road Back). Drei Kameraden (1937; Three Comrades) deals with life in postwar Germany and is also a tragic love story. By 1929 Remarque had left Germany and lived in Switzerland. The pacifism (opposition to war or violence) in his works and their strong sense of sadness and suffering made them very unpopular with the Nazi government (the controlling party in Germany beginning in the 1930s that scorned democracy and considered all non-Germans, and especially Jewish people, as inferior). In 1938, in fact, Remarque was stripped of his German citizenship.

In 1939 Remarque arrived in the United States, and he became an American citizen in 1947. His next novel, Liebe deinen Nächsten (1940), was published in America under the title Flotsam. After World War II (193945), in which Germany, Japan, and Italy were defeated by the Allies (including the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, among others), Remarque's productivity increased, and he turned more and more to the study of personal relationships set against a background of war and social destruction. Arc de Triomphe (1946), the story of a German refugee (someone who is forced to live outside of his or her own country) doctor in Paris, France, just before World War II, returned Remarque's name to the best-seller lists.

Later years

Remarque's later works include Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben (1954; A Time to Love and a Time to Die), Der schwarze Obelisk (1956; The Black Obelisk), Der Funke Leben (1957; Spark of Life), Der Himmel kennt keine Günstlinge (1961; Heaven Has No Favorites), and Die Nacht von Lissabon (1962; The Night in Lisbon). All these novels are gripping and skillful stories of personal crisis, escape, and adventure. Remarque also had one play produced, Die letzte Station (1956; The Last Station). Erich Maria Remarque died in Locarno, Switzerland, on September 25, 1970.

For More Information

Barker, Christine R., and R. W. Last. Erich Maria Remarque. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1979.

Gilbert, Julie Goldsmith. Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard. New York: Pantheon, 1995.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Remarque, Erich Maria." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Remarque, Erich Maria." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/remarque-erich-maria

"Remarque, Erich Maria." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/remarque-erich-maria

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque

The German author Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970) was a popular novelist whose "All Quiet on the Western Front" was the most successful German best seller on the subject of the soldier's life in World War I.

Erich Maria Remarque whose real name was Erich Paul Remark, was born on July 22, 1898, in Osnabrück. He attended the Teachers' Training College there and afterward the University of Münster. Toward the end of World War I he served in the army. After the war he worked variously as a press reader, clerk, and racing driver. The immense success of Im Westen nichts Neues (1929; All Quiet on the Western Front) established him as an author. This novel falls into a clearly distinguishable class of antiwar and antimilitary fiction that grew rapidly in Germany in the later 1920s—Arnold Zweig's Sergeant Grischa is another famous example. These books belong in general to that school known as neorealism and are characterized by a matter-of-fact, unpretentious, often colloquial style approximating the newspaper or magazine report.

Although Remarque conceals little of the squalor and bloodiness of life in the trenches, at the same time there is in this book an undeniable sentimental vein which is maintained strongly right through to the pathetic last pages, in which, following the death of his friend, the hero himself falls 2 weeks before the armistice, on a day when all is reported quiet at the front. This novel was translated into some 25 languages and has sold over 30 million copies.

Remarque continued in a similar vein with another war novel, Der Weg zurück (1931; The Road Back). Drei Kameraden (1937; Three Comrades) deals with life in post-war Germany at the time of the inflation and is also a tragic love story. By 1929 Remarque had left Germany and from that time lived abroad. The pacifism implicit in his works and their strong sense of pathos and suffering could scarcely endear them to the Nazi government. In 1938, in fact, Remarque was deprived of his German citizenship. In 1939 he arrived in the United States and became an American citizen in 1947. His next novel, Liebe deinen Nächsten (1940), was published in America under the title Flotsam. After World War II Remarque's productivity increased, and he turned more and more to the study of personal relationships set against a topical background of war and social disintegration. Arc de Triomphe (1946), the story of a German refugee surgeon in Paris just before World War II, reestablished his name in the best-seller lists. His later works include Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben (1954; A Time to Love and a Time to Die), Der schwarze Obelisk (1956; The Black Obelisk), Der Funke Leben (1957; Spark of Life), Der Himmel kennt keine Günstlinge (1961; Heaven Has No Favorites), and Die Nacht von Lissabon (1962; The Night in Lisbon). All these novels are competent and gripping narratives and are skillful stories of personal crisis, escape, adventure, and intrigue. Remarque also had one play produced, Die letzte Station (1956; The Last Station). He died in Locarno, Switzerland, on Sept. 25, 1970.

Further Reading

Despite his immense popularity there have been no general studies of Remarque in English or German. His career is briefly summarized in Harry T. Moore, Twentieth-century German Literature (1967). Useful for general background is Ernst Rose, A History of German Literature (1960). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Erich Maria Remarque." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Erich Maria Remarque." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/erich-maria-remarque

"Erich Maria Remarque." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/erich-maria-remarque

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Remarque, Erich Maria

Erich Maria Remarque (ā´rĬkh märē´ä rəmärk´), 1898–1970, German-American novelist, whose original name was Erich Paul Remark. From his experience of trench warfare during World War I, Remarque drew a grimly realistic picture of the horror of battle in his first novel and masterpiece, Im Westen nichts Neues (1929; tr. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929), an immediate international success. When the Nazis came to power they ordered it burned. Remarque's next work was The Way Back (1931, tr. 1931), a sequel describing the attempt of Germans to come to terms with their postwar situation. Remarque lived in Switzerland after 1932 and emigrated to the United States in 1939. His later books include Three Comrades (1937, tr. 1938), Arch of Triumph (tr. 1946), A Time to Love and a Time to Die (tr. 1954), and Shadows in Paradise (1971, tr. 1972).

See biographies by C. Barker and R. W. Last (1979) and C. R. Owen (1984); studies by R. O. Glaser (1972) and J. S. White (1972)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Remarque, Erich Maria." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Remarque, Erich Maria." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/remarque-erich-maria

"Remarque, Erich Maria." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/remarque-erich-maria

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Remarque, Erich Maria

Remarque, Erich Maria (1898–1970) German novelist, b. Erich Paul Remark. A World War I veteran, his best-known novel, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), is a savage indictment of war. The sequel, The Road Back (1931), concerns Germany's post-war collapse and readjustment.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Remarque, Erich Maria." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Remarque, Erich Maria." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/remarque-erich-maria

"Remarque, Erich Maria." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/remarque-erich-maria

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque

Excerpts from All Quiet on the Western Front

Translated by A. W. Wheen
Published in 1929

"To me the front is a mysterious whirlpool. Though I am in still water far away from its centre, I feel the whirl of the vortex sucking me slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into itself."

From All Quiet on the Western Front

"We are not youth any longer," writes German novelist Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970). "We don't want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly 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. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in war." When these sentiments, and others like them, appeared in a popular German magazine in 1928, they shocked and thrilled the German reading public; World War I was presented not in the patriotic tones used by politicians but in the weary, resigned words of the common man. In 1929 Remarque (pronounced Ruh-MARK) published his story as Im Westen nichts Neues, a novel better known by its English title, All Quiet on the Western Front. The novel became an immediate international success. It was rapidly acclaimed as the greatest war novel of all time, it was made into a popular Hollywood film, and it made an international celebrity of its author.

All Quiet on the Western Front consists of a series of loosely linked chapters narrated by Paul Bäumer, a young man just out of school who has volunteered to serve in the German army in World War I. Bäumer has joined the army with twenty of his schoolmates; by the time the novel begins, only four of them are still alive. Remarque explores the young soldiers' attitudes toward the war, their experiences in a hospital for the wounded behind the front, and Paul's disastrous visit home to comfort his dying mother. Most dramatically, Remarque details the young men's experiences in battle and their growing sense that the best they can hope for is to survive. In the end, however, not one of the young soldiers survives the war. Even Bäumer is killed in a short epilogue (a section at the end of a book that details what happens to the characters after the main story); he dies a month before the war ends, on a day when all was quiet on the Western Front.

The following excerpts present some of the key moments from the novel. In the first, Bäumer explains the ideals that motivated him and his friends to volunteer for service in the army. In the second and third excerpts, Bäumer describes how being at the battlefront changes the soldiers' attitudes; at the front there is no glory, only the quest for survival. In the next excerpt, Bäumer finds himself stranded in no-man's-land (the strip of land between opposing armies' trenches); there he stabs a French soldier whom he must then sit beside while the soldier dies. Firing a gun at the enemy from a distance made killing soldiers less personal. But this incident brings Bäumer face-to-face with his own responsibility for killing. In the final excerpt, Bäumer matter-of-factly relates the retreat of the German army.

Though these excerpts provide only a brief glimpse into the novel, they offer enough material for thinking about some of the issues that Remarque's novel raises. For example, how do Bäumer's attitudes toward the war change over time? Is war as glorious as he and his classmates believed when they volunteered to serve? What does Bäumer think about the role of the soldier in war? Compare Remarque's attitudes with those of American author Ernest Hemingway (see entry), whose war novel A Farewell to Arms also contemplates the role of the individual in wartime.

Things to remember while reading the excerpts from All Quiet on the Western Front:

  • Remarque offers very detailed and realistic descriptions, but he never mentions specific battles. Critics have suggested that this was an effort to show that the feelings he describes are relevant to all battles.
  • Another great war novel published in the late 1920s was Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. While both novels are critical of the war, their authors propose different solutions to the perils of modern war. Hemingway suggests that the only way a man can survive the brutality of mod ern warfare is to protect himself and his personal values; Remarque holds out the hope that the men of different nations will recognize their common bond and refuse to go to war at the request of political leaders.

All Quiet on the Western Front
Excerpt from Chapter 2

Once it was different. When we went to the district commandant to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts of a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life. We were still crammed full of vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also an ideal and almost romantic character. We were trained in the army for ten weeks and in this time more profoundly influenced than by ten years at school. We learned that a bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer. At first astonished, then embittered, and finally indifferent, we recognized that what matters is not the mind but the boot brush, not intelligence but the system, not freedom but drill. We became soldiers with eagerness and enthusiasm, but they have done everything to knock that out of us. After three weeks it was no longer incomprehensible to us that a braided postman should have more authority over us than had formerly our parents, our teachers, and the whole gamut of culturefrom Plato to Goethe. With our young, awakened eyes we saw that the classical conception of the Fatherland held by our teachers resolved itself here into a renunciation of personality such as one would not ask of the meanest servants—salutes, springing to attention, parade-marches, presenting arms, right wheel, left wheel, clicking the heels, insults, and a thousand pettifogging details. We had fancied our task would be different, only to find we were to be trained for heroism as though we were circus-ponies. But we soon accustomed ourselves to it. We learned in fact that some of these things were necessary, but the rest merely show. Soldiers have a fine nose for such distinctions. [Remarque, pp. 21–22]

All Quiet on the Western Front
Excerpt from Chapter 4

Our faces are neither paler nor more flushed than usual; they are not more tense nor more flabby—and yet they are changed. We feel that in our blood a contact has shot home. That is no figure of speech; it is fact. It is the front, the consciousness of the front, that makes this contact. The moment that the first shells whistle over and the air is rent with the explosions there is suddenly in our veins, in our hands, in our eyes a tense waiting, a watching, a heightening alertness, a strange sharpening of the senses. The body with one bound is in full readiness.

It often seems to me as though it were the vibrating, shuddering air that with a noiseless leap springs upon us; or as though the front itself emitted an electric current which awakened unknown nerve-centres….

To me the front is a mysterious whirlpool. Though I am in still water far away from its centre, I feel the whirl of the vortex sucking me slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into itself.

From the earth, from the air, sustaining forces pour into us—mostly from the earth. To no man does the earth mean so much as to the soldier. When he presses himself down upon her long and powerfully, when he buries his face and his limbs deep in her from the fear of death by shell-fire, then she is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her silence and her security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life; receives him again and often for ever.

Earth!—Earth!—Earth!

Earth with thy folds, and hollows, and holes, into which a man may fling himself and crouch down. In the spasm of terror, under the hailing of annihilation, in the bellowing death of the explosions, O Earth, thou grantest us the great resisting surge of new-won life. Our being, almost utterly carried away by the fury of the storm, streams back through our hands from thee, and we, thy redeemed ones, bury ourselves in thee, and through the long minutes in a mute agony of hope bite into thee with our lips!

At the sound of the first droning of the shells we rush back, in one part of our being, a thousand years. By the animal instinct that it awakened in us we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness. One can not explain it. A man is walking along without thought or heed;— suddenly he throws himself down on the ground and a storm of fragments flies harmlessly over him;—yet he cannot remember either to have heard the shell coming or to have thought of flinging himselfdown. But had he not abandoned himself to the impulse he would now be a heap of mangled flesh. It is this other, this second sight in us, that has thrown us to the ground and saved us, without our knowing how. If it were not so, there would not be one man alive from Flanders to the Vosges.

We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers—we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals. [Remarque, pp. 54–56]

All Quiet on the Western Front
Excerpt from Chapter 6

The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen. We lie under the network of arching shells and live in a suspense of uncertainty. Over us, Chance hovers. If a shot comes, we can duck, that is all; we neither know nor can determine where it will fall.

It is this Chance that makes us indifferent. A few months ago I was sitting in a dug-out playing skat; after a while I stood up and went to visit some friends in another dug-out. On my return nothing more was to be seen of the first one, it had been blown to pieces by a direct hit. I went back to the second and arrived just in time to lend a hand digging it out. In the interval it had been buried.

It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit. In a bomb-proof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hours' bombardment unscathed. No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck. [Remarque, p. 101]

All Quiet on the Western Front
Excerpt from Chapter 9

[Paul has gone forward in an attack, but the attack has stopped and most of the other Germans have retreated. Paul is stranded out in no-man's-land, the open ground between the opposing armies, huddling in a shell hole. He lies down, hoping that any enemy soldiers who see him will think he is already dead.]

The crash of the shells bursts in my ears. If our fellows make a counter-raid I will be saved. I press my head against the earth and listen to the muffled thunder, like the explosions of quarrying—and raise it again to listen for the sounds on top.

The machine-guns rattle. I know our barbed wire entanglements are strong and almost undamaged;—parts of them are charged with a powerful electric current. The rifle fire increases. They have not broken through; they have to retreat.

I sink down again, huddled, strained to the uttermost. The banging, creeping, the clanging becomes audible. One single cry yelling amongst it all. They are raked with fire, the attack is repulsed.

Already it has become somewhat lighter. Steps hasten over me. The first. Gone. Again, another. The rattle of machine-guns becomes an unbroken chain. Just as I am about to turn round a little, something heavy stumbles, and with a crash a body falls over me into the shell-hole, slips down, and lies across me—

I do not think at all, I make no decisions— I strike madly at home, and feel only how the body suddenly convulses, then becomes limp, and collapses. When I recover myself, my hand is sticky and wet.

The man gurgles. It sounds to me as though he bellows, every gasping breath is like a cry, a thunder—but it is not only my heart pounding. I want to stop his mouth, stuff it with earth, stab him again, he must be quiet, he is betraying me; now at last I regain control of myself, but have suddenly become so feeble that I cannot any more lift my hand against him.

So I crawl away to the farthest corner and stay there, my eyes glued on him, my hand grasping the knife—ready, if he stirs, to spring at him again. But he won't do so any more, I can hear that already in his gurgling.

I can see him indistinctly. I have but one desire, to get away. If it is not soon it will be too light; it will be difficult enough now. Then as I try to raise up my head I see it is impossible already. The machine-gunfire so sweeps the ground that I should be shot through and through before I could make one jump….

[Paul huddles in the hole with the wounded French soldier. Time passes, though how much is not clear.]

It is early morning, clear and grey. The gurgling continues, I stop my ears, but soon take my fingers away again, because then I cannot hear the other sounds [of battle].

The figure opposite me moves. I shrink together and involuntarily look at it. Then my eyes remain glued to it. A man with a small pointed beard lies there; his head is fallen to one side, one arm is halfbent, his head rests helplessly upon it. The other hand lies on his chest, it is bloody. He is dead, I say to myself, he must be dead, he doesn't feel any thing any more; it is only the body that is gurgling there. Then the head tries to raise itself, for a moment the groaning becomes louder, his forehead sinks back upon his arm. The man is not dead, he is dying, but he is not dead. I drag myself toward him, hesitate, support myself on my hands, creep a bit farther, wait, again a terrible journey. At last I am beside him.

Then he opens his eyes. He must have heard me, for he gazes at me with a look of utter terror. The body lies still, but in the eyes there is such an extraordinary expression of fright that for a moment I think they have power enough to carry the body off with them. Hundreds of miles away with one bound. The body is still perfectly still, withouta sound, the gurgle has ceased, but the eyes cry out, yell, all the life is gathered together in them for one tremendous effort to flee, gathered together there in a dreadful terror of death, of me.

My legs give way and I drop to my elbows. "No, no," I whisper.

The eyes follow me. I am powerless to move so long as they are there….

[Paul reaches out to the man and sees that he is thirsty.]

His mouth stands half open, it tries to form words. The lips are dry. My water bottle is not there. I have not brought it with me. But there is water in the mud, down at the bottom of the crater. I climb down, take out my handkerchief, spread it out, push it under and scoop up the yellow water that stains through into the hollow of my hand.

He gulps it down. I fetch some more. Then I unbutton his tunic in order to bandage him if it is possible. In any case I must do it, so that if the fellows over there capture me they will see that I wanted to help him, and so will not shoot me. He tries to resist, but his hand is too feeble. The shirt is stuck and will not come away, it is buttoned at the back. So there is nothing for it but to cut it open.

I look for the knife and find it again. But when I begin to cut the shirt the eyes open once more and the cry is in them again and the demented expression, so that I must close them, press them shut and whisper: "I want to help you, Comrade, camerade, camerade, camerade—" eagerly repeating the word, to make him understand.

There are three stabs. My field dressing covers them, the blood runs out under it, I press it tighter; there; he groans.

That is all I can do. Now we must wait, wait.

These hours…. The gurgling starts again—but how slowly aman dies! For this I know—he cannot be saved, I have, indeed, tried to tell myself that he will be, but at noon this pretence breaks down and melts before his groans. If only I had not lost my revolver crawling about, I would shoot him. Stab him I cannot.

By noon I am groping on the outer limits of reason. Hunger devours me, I could almost weep for something to eat, I cannot struggle against it. Again and again I fetch water for the dying man and drink some myself.

This is the first time I have killed with my hand, whom I can see close at hand, whose death is my doing. Kat and Kropp and Müller have experienced it already, when they have hit someone; it happens to many, in hand-to-hand fighting especially—

But every gasp lays my heart bare. This dying man has time with him, he has an invisible dagger with which he stabs me: Time and my thoughts….

In the afternoon, about three, he is dead….

[Trapped in the crater with the dead man, Paul nearly goes mad. Soon he speaks to the dead man.]

The silence spreads. I talk and must talk. So I speak to him and to say to him: "Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if 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? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up—take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now." [Remarque, pp. 215–21, 223]

[Paul grieves for the dead man, promises the man that he will not kill again, opens the man's wallet and sees photographs of the man's family. Then Paul's friends rescue him and tell him that he only did what he had to do.]

All Quiet on the Western Front
Excerpt from Chapter 11

Our lines are falling back. There are too many fresh English and American regiments over there. There's too much corned beef and white wheaten bread. Too many new guns. Too many aeroplanes.

But we are emaciated and starved. Our food is bad and mixed up with so much substitute stuff that it makes us ill. The factory owners in Germany have grown wealthy;— dysentery dissolves our bowels. The latrine poles are always densely crowded; the people at homeought to be shown these grey, yellow, miserable, wasted faces here, these bent figures from whose bodies the colic wrings out the blood, and who with lips trembling and distorted with pain, grin at one another and say:

"It is not much sense pulling up one's trousers again—"

Our artillery is fired out, it has too few shells and the barrels are so worn that they shoot uncertainly, and scatter so widely as even to fall on ourselves. We have too few horses. Our fresh troops are anaemic boys in need of rest, who cannot carry a pack, but merely know how to die. By thousands. They understand nothing about warfare, they simply go on and let themselves be shot down. A single flyer routed two companies of them for a joke, just as they came fresh from the train—before they had ever heard of such a thing as cover. [Remarque, pp. 280–81]

What happened next …

Remarque's war novel had enormous impact when it was published. Many readers loved the novel's realistic, unsentimental view of the alternating monotony and terror of wartime; others appreciated the book's depiction of the wide gulf between civilians and those who served in the war. Pacifists (people opposed to war on principle) praised the book as a powerful antiwar statement. All Quiet on the Western Front sold more than a million copies in Germany in its first year of publication, and millions more when the translated version appeared in England, France, and the United States. It was made into a film in 1930 and won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. Not surprisingly, All Quiet on the Western Front also brought its author great fame and wealth.

While Remarque was a hero to many for so clearly depicting the futility (hopelessness) of war, he also angered many within Germany. Some said that his novel was not literature and that he had merely given the public what it wanted. Others accused him of outright treachery (betrayal) toward his nation. Such critics said that the novel made light of the great sacrifices made by German soldiers and citizens; these critics felt that the book was intended "to sap the energies of the German nation at a time when it [had] to assert itself in the face of a hostile world if it [was] to survive," according to Christine R. Barker and R. W. Last, authors of Erich Maria Remarque. The National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party was openly opposed to the book, citing as heresy (a belief that goes against official policy) Remarque's suggestion that German soldiers did not believe fully in fighting for the glory of the nation. The Nazis burned Remarque's book and protested the showing of the film in Germany. (Nazi opposition to the book only made it more attractive to citizens who feared the rise of the Nazi Party.)

The violent opposition to his book soon forced Remarque to flee Germany. It also raised the status of the book greatly, for now both the novel and its author stood as a living protest to the warlike tendencies of the modern state. Remarque lived first in Switzerland and later settled in the United States. He wrote more novels, several of which are considered quite good, but none quite so famous as his first.

Did you know …

  • Though Remarque served in World War I, he never saw action on the front lines. His accounts of battle are products of his imagination, though they have been praised for their accuracy.
  • The film version of All Quiet on the Western Front was one of the first movies to use sound; previous movies had been silent. The film proved to many critics that sound could help make a movie better.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front is the first in a trilogy of books Remarque wrote about World War I. The other two books are The Road Back (1931) and The Three Comrades (1937).

For More Information

Books

Barker, Christine R., and R. W. Last. Erich Maria Remarque. London: Oswald Wolff, 1979.

Holmes, Richard. The Western Front. New York: TV Books, 2000.

Hoobler, Dorothy, and Thomas Hoobler. The Trenches: Fighting on the Western Front in World War I. New York: Putnam, 1978.

Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Trans. A. W. Wheen. 1929. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1987.

Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970)

German novelist Erich Maria Remarque's reputation rests almost entirely on one novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, a depiction of two years of World War I service seen through the eyes of a German private. Remarque based the novel on his personal experiences in the war. Like the novel's narrator, Remarque served in the German army as a youth of eighteen; many of the characters in the novel are based on his school friends who served alongside him. However, All Quiet on the Western Front is not autobiography; most of the novel is fiction.

The author was born Erich Paul Remark on June 22, 1898, in the village of Osnabrück in Lower Saxony, Germany. His relatively poor family moved frequently during his youth, but he was an intelligent boy who did well at school. During high school he took courses to prepare him to be a teacher, and it was from high school, in 1916, that he was drafted to serve in World War I. Remarque never saw action at the front, but he was injured slightly when a British shell exploded behind the lines. He spent most of the war recovering from his wounds in a hospital and was sent back into service just days before the war ended. Following the war, Remarque often appeared with war medals on his fancy clothes (he loved to dress well); many of his acquaintances questioned whether he had earned the medals.

Remarque taught school for a time after the war, but he was not happy in this profession. He held a series of jobs before becoming a writer with the magazine Sport im Bild in 1925. It was while working at the magazine that he wrote All Quiet on the Western Front. The novel was written in just six weeks. Remarque insisted that it was his first novel, though in truth he had written a novel in 1920 called Die Traumbude. Remarque was so ashamed of this first effort that he changed the spelling of his last name to avoid connection with the novel. The great, immediate success of All Quiet on the Western Front changed Remarque's life dramatically: He earned enough money to indulge his love of fine clothes and fast cars, but the opposition to his novel by German Nazis forced him to leave his country in 1931. Remarque settled first in Switzerland and then in the United States.

After the publication of All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque was a celebrity. When he moved to the United States in 1938, he quickly became a major figure in Hollywood; he married film star Paulette Goddard (1911–1990) and was linked romantically to screen idols Marlene Dietrich (c. 1901–1992) and Greta Garbo (1905–1990). He also befriended American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) and Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961). Remarque was considered one of the most handsome and dashing men in Hollywood, and he even appeared in a film made from one of his novels.

Remarque continued to publish novels, many of which had themes similar to those in his most famous book, but none reached the popularity of All Quiet on the Western Front. Remarque never again felt welcome in his native Germany and his work—while esteemed throughout the world—is not so highly thought of in his own country, not only because he was so critical of German leaders and common people but also because his book shaped the way the rest of the world saw Germany. Remarque died in a hospital in Locarno, Switzerland, on September 25, 1970.

A bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer: Remarque is referring to the importance placed on a proper uniform in the military; he is complaining that, in the military, how one looks is more important than what one knows. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) was a German philosopher.

Braided: Refers to the postman's uniform.

Plato to Goethe:

Philosophers typically studied in school; Greek philosopher Plato (c. 428–348 b.c.) and German philosopher and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).

Meanest: Lowliest, poorest.

Pettifogging: Insignificant.

Skat: A card game for three players.

I strike madly at home: He strikes wildly at the soldier who has fallen into the hole; earlier Paul had decided that he must kill anyone he faces.

Kat and Kropp and Müller: Paul's friends in the army

Dysentery: An intestinal disease accompanied by high fever and severe diarrhea.

Latrine poles: Long poles on which soldiers would sit while relieving themselves into a trench dug in the ground.

Single flyer routed two companies: An enemy pilot flew over and shot two groups of soldiers.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Erich Maria Remarque." World War I Reference Library. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Erich Maria Remarque." World War I Reference Library. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/educational-magazines/erich-maria-remarque

"Erich Maria Remarque." World War I Reference Library. . Retrieved August 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/educational-magazines/erich-maria-remarque

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.