Sunday, February 14, 2016

All Quiet on the Western Front: 100% Complete

I read through this whole book in one and a half days, so no time for an intermediate blog post between beginning and 100%. I very much enjoyed it, certainly feel it deserves a spot on the list. There are two primary themes through the book: the emotional strength that, for better or worse, the soldiers develop in order to cope with the horror they are exposed to every day, and the difficult adjustment they make going from civilian life to military life, then back to civilian when on leave and back to military when leave is over. A sub-theme would be the companionship and comradery shared by the men; on more than one occasion, the narrator, Paul Braumer, compares this relationship to that of lovers.

There were many wonderful quotes in the book: I highlighted so many that I'm disappointed I don't have more blog posts about this book to share them. But I will have to choose a few.

This first one demonstrates the attitude which Paul maintains, sometimes with difficulty, throughout the book:

"I soon found out this much--terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks;--but it kills if a man thinks about it."

Midway through the book Paul goes home on leave for two weeks to visit his parents. Both his parents want to know how it is, out there, at the front, and his responses and their reactions are fascinating. First, his mother,

"Suddenly my mother seizes hold of my hand and asks falteringly: 'Was it very bad out there, Paul?' Mother, what should I answer to that! You would not understand, you could never realize it. And you shall never realize it. And you shall never realize it. Was it bad, you ask.--You, Mother.--I shake my head and say, 'No Mother, not so very. There are always a lot of us together so it isn't so bad.'"

And his father:

"There is nothing he likes more than hearing about it. I realize he does not know that a man cannot talk of such things; I would do it willingly, but it is too dangerous for me to put these things into words. I'm afraid they might then become gigantic and I be no longer able t master them. What would become of us if everything that happens out there were quite clear to us?"

And finally, this quote made me feel lucky to have such a wealth of literature literally at my fingertips. I purchased a new Kindle this week: the Kindle Paperwhite, and having so many books in my hand at one time, access to far more than I could ever read in a lifetime, makes me feel so lucky compared with how it was only a hundred years ago or so.

"I used to live in this room before I was a soldier. The books I bought gradually with the money I earned by coaching. Many of them are secondhand, all the classics for example, one volume in blue cloth boards cost one mark twenty pfenning. I bought them complete because it was thorough-going. I did not trust the editors of selections to choose all the best. So I purchased only 'collected works.' I read most of them with laudable zeal , but few of them really appealed to me. I preferred the other books. The moderns, which were of course much dearer. A few I came by not quite honestly, I borrowed and did not return them because I did not want to part with them."

My plan next is to read a few of the shorter books/short stories on my list, just so I can check a few more off my list (since I've only read TWELVE out of a hundred).

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