Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.
November 10th, 1929
All Quiet On The Western Front
This Sunday marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of the great novel All Quiet on The Western Front. Written by Erich Maria Remarque, this novel is based in part on his own experience serving in the German army during World War I. The novel details the tragic experiences of common German soldiers, who are mostly reluctant to fight and quickly disillusioned by the horrors of the Great War. The main character acts as if he is merely a shell of his former self as he goes on day after day in the misery of trench warfare. When his comrades and friends are killed or wounded, it is not a glorious or chivalrous affair but horrific and matter of fact, as if it was bad luck.
All Quiet On the Western Front goes on to show that soldiers returning home on leave or after the war become a lost generation who has seen too much suffering and death. They feel as if they can never fully be themselves again and feel alienated to those back home.
This novel was a landmark success upon publication; it received great acclaim worldwide selling nearly 2.5 million copies. It was translated into 22 languages in a little over its first year in print. Unfortunately, due to its success at portraying the truly horrific nature of the war and its portrayal of the German army, it was deemed offensive to the German State and was one of the first books to be publicly burned in mass when the Nazis began to seize power. The novel was hailed by pacifists around the world as an important testament to the senselessness of war. It would go on to be adapted into a film in 1930, winning the first Oscar for Best Picture for a film that didn’t have a musical number accompanying it.
The film would eventually have a 1979 remake that was also highly praised. There are even plans for yet another updated remake in the works. This is an important piece of literature and film that was among the first to attempt to explain the true gruesomeness of war and the now understood post-traumatic-stress disorder that affects so many soldiers who have seen the devastating effects of war.
If this topic interests you, and you would like to learn more, the Union University Library has this novel and film available in the links below: