This was tough, but, unlike the war itself, absolutely worth it.
Normally, I can take a lot of gore and cruelness in books and in movies, but there were days when I just couldn’t read more than a couple of pages, because it was too much. Especially all scenes involving animals deeply upset me, because people killing people is one thing, but people hurting innocent animals, be it horses, geese or rats, is something else entirely.
Remarque does some very straightforward storytelling and he does an amazing job in describing the madness and arbitrariness of war, as well as the ordinary soldier’s helplessness in it. WW1 brought inconceivable terrors I cannot and do not want to imagine even partly. As a text it also demonstrated in an impressive, yet very depressing scene the striking contrast between the intellectual approach to warfare and the actual fighting. While the „smart old men“ sit at home and debate over what areas should be conquered next, in reality the young soldiers are fighting endlessly over a hundred metres in senseless but brutal static battles.
The inevitable transformation that goes on in young men who are sent right from school into the war is shown in an incredibly skilful and touching way. Yet, at the same time this is linked to the only criticism I have on All Quiet on the Western Front – for me the central point of the lost generation is stressed a bit too much and too explicitly – kind of like Orwell in 1984 with his constant rambling about what it means, when the past is always altered.
And as a sidenote: is it just me or did anyone else catch some homoerotic vibes between Paul and Kat?