Remarque's Modern Classic on the Horror of War
The horror of poisoned skin and flesh, mangled arms and legs, whistling shells, hopeless moans, and ubiquitous filth complemented the sterile wall between Paul Baumer and his father and mother and sister when he was on leave. The war had destroyed his youth and any hunger for sunlight, twitter and soft skin. When he turned the schoolbook pages, he realized all the texts’ fragrances sweet or pungent had fled into the misty dawn. His past had fallen away and his future withered, leaving him in a limbo of body parts, scorched earth and bomb fragments. Only when he returned to the trenches could he feel at home. But when he looked into the enemy’s eyes, he would see himself, a soldier fighting for a country that would no longer recognize him, a future that would expel him, and a new generation who could not understand him.
Remarque depicted not just the horror of W.W.I but that of all wars, no matter how noble and inspiring the rhetoric. Whichever side triumphs, the soldiers on both side will lose; he will lose his youth, his innocence and his belief in human decency. All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the, if not the, greatest war novel.