Portland State University. Department of World Languages and Literatures
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.) in German
1 online resource (3, v, 72 p.)
Remarque, Erich Maria (1898-1970), Im Westen nichts Neues, Politics and literature -- Germany
The novel Im Westen Nichts Neues first appeared in Germany in January 1929 and became an overnight success. Its author, Erich Maria Remarque, was a shy, quiet man who had not anticipated such success. His novel was written to be a fictitious account of the lives of a few students-turned -soldier and their comrades in the front -line trenches of World War I. This was a unique perspective on the war. The earlier books about the war had been mostly the published, factual memoirs of former officers and as such were written from an elitist and nationalist point of view. Remarque's fictional characters, conversely, were young privates doing their duty and suffering through the dehumanizing effects of their military training and life at the front. They lost touch with their past and came to be able to see nothing in their future except war. These soldiers found themselves lost between a past with which they were no longer able to identify and a future in which, because of the terror and daily life-and-death struggle they currently faced, they could not imagine being able to take anything seriously. Coming out in favor of the novel were the critics aligned with the liberal and left -liberal political arenas. This group of critics proclaimed that the novel portrayed the truth about the war in all of its horror. Having been written from the perspective of the unknown German soldier, it, unlike any other heretofore published work about the war, told the story of the every day, non-elitist soldier and his thoughts. The novel was pacifistic in nature and was therefore in line with the current world opinion, following closely on the heels of the international signing of the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact. On the other hand, the Communist left and the entire spectrum of the political right denounced Im Westen Nichts Neues as a lie and Remarque as an anti-German author bent on the degradation of the German national honor. The Communists decried the novel as being arbeiterfeindlich because it did not recognize the political- economic causes of the war and because it contained no call for the oppressed to revolt against the upper classes. They therefore deemed Remarque a member of the sterile-minded bourgeoisie. The rightists, in their denunciation of the novel, took exception to the lack of heroes and glorification of the war in the book. Kameradschaft was given the credit for heroism. This idea was repugnant to the nationalists, and in fact worked as a threat to their reason for existence. With Remarque further depicting the soldiers as acting instinctively to protect themselves from annihilation rather than fighting with thoughts of the glorious renewal of the fatherland, it was too much. They proclaimed the novel to be a lie which had been written by, among other descriptions of Remarque, a tender, pacifistic little soul who had never seen a battlefield in his life.
Cogburn, Richard Jay, "The Political Reception of Erich Maria Remarque's Im Westen Nichts Neues in the Late Weimar Republic" (1993). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4563.