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All Quiet on the Western Front was written by Erich Maria Remarque.
I read this story for my A Level German Coursework, alongside the German version, I would definetly recommend you to read it.
This story is about a group of school boys, who are persuaded by Kantorek, their class teacher, to go to war, and fight for Germany. Without even thinking about how their lives would be changed the schoolboys all decided to go to war, fearing that if they didn't they would be called cowards by they society that they lived in. Ironically, one young schoolboy Josef Behm was hesistant about the opportunity to fight in the war, he reallt didn't want to fight, but he allowed himself to be persuaded and unfortunatly was the first soldiers from their class to be killed. This had a really bad affect on the soldiers, who until then had trusted their teacher, and everyone with authority.
The Soldiers are refered to as being the lost generation, the generation who at just 20 years old, have only their parents, Paul Bäumer and his friends struggle to imagine how they will ever lead a
normal life after the war has finished, they have no hobbies, interests, jobs, nothing. Its is OK for the older soldiers though, who have everything to live for after the war.
Also important in this book, is the friendship between the soldiers. The soldiers care for each other a lot, they feel lost when they are not with their friends. The best camerad has to be Katzinsky, who is like a father figure to the soldiers, he is always looking after them, and ensuring that they find food, he is described as having a sixth sense, because he is very resourceful, and can find anything. He also has more respect than the teachers and officers.
The narrater Paul Bäumer is very much against anyone who has authority, this is shown through the description of each character. The soldiers experience some pretty terrible misuses of authority, particularly by Himmelstoß, who makes them clean the same pair of boots for 20 hours, and carry out many other pointless jobs.
What I particularly liked was the way that the reader always knows what is happening, we know what the soldiers are doing, and through the reflections of the Soldiers we learn what they are thinking about too. The reader knows what is happening as soon as they start reading the book, in the first few chapters there are descriptions of characters, therefore it is easier to understand what is happening.
Quite saddening is when the soldiers die, we experience one of the most gruesame deaths in the beginning of the book, the death of Kemmerich, which is quite sad, because it is one of the first deaths that the soldiers have to come to terms with, the death of one of their closest friends from their school class. Throughout the book, the soldiers experience many deaths of their freinds, which they have to come to terms with very quickly.
At the end of the story in a short chapter, we learn that the soldiers think the war will come to an end soon. I felt really sorry for Paul Baumer when at the end of the book, he himself dies, just a few months before the end of the war. The German version of this book called "Im Westen nichts Neues" which translates as "Nothing new in the "West" makes this ending very ironic. The death of Baumer is nothing new, because of the tragic deaths of all of the other soldiers, who unfortunatly lost their lives, in this book his death is not important, but it is very significant to the reader, who has experienced what he has gone through with the war and his friends.
We learn that life on the front is very different to civil life, e.g. on the front the system, drill and polished buttons are important, whereas in civil life the school and thoughts are important. The soldiers also question why there is a war at all, just because someone said "yes" to war, there is one, which destroys the lives of those who fight.
I would definetly recommend this book to everyone aged 15 +, because it is very informative in telling us about the experiences of the soldiers, both good experiences and bad. I will definetly read this book again, as it is one of the best books I have ever read!
This book not only shows us what happened during the war, it shows us the effects of it on those who fought for their country, in a war that was supposed to end all wars.