A hardened young veteran from the First World War, Ludwig now works for a monument company, selling stone markers to the survivors of deceased loved ones. Though ambivalent about his job, he suspects there's more to life than earning a living off other people's misfortunes.
A self-professed poet, Ludwig soon senses a growing change in his fatherland, a brutality brought upon it by inflation. When he falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Isabelle, Ludwig hopes he has found a soul who will offer him salvation - who will free him from his obsession to find meaning in a war-torn world.
But there comes a time in every man's life when he must choose to live - despite the prevailing thread of history horrifically repeating itself.
What members say
What could endure in hell on earth.
Perhaps in spite of its ample black humour, this book is the most pessimistic of Remarque's work in the sense that he has used the loss of nearly everything as the theme of this literary masterpiece. Yes, nearly everything, because at the end of the book what remains is narrator's kindly remembrance of his friends whom he 'never saw again'. One might complain that the ending is somewhat abrupt, but this is not the only time Remarque ends work in similar fashion.
Remarque is not a writer who tosses nuggets of morality or facts at the reader like a kitchen wench throwing crumbs to a bumnch of hungry hens. No, by Petronius! Every event in the book is a case of decline and decay that results fromm the break-down of social norms however faulty they may have been. We are too much dependent on the norms of our own making, we can break them of course without bothering to replace them with better ones, or worse, replace them with those of the savage and call it revolution. This happened in Germany after the Great War, and it would have happened in any country that lost it whatever its traditions were. But, the victors did rub their hands with moral glee murmuring it could only happen there!
In the midst of this awful disintergration sad, mad and bad are tossed about in a whirl triggered by traders be they legal or illegal racketeers.
In this day-long night of grey streaked with black, few brilliant flashes of civilised humanity light up a few faces, a bit of warmth shown in their own way, old Frau Kroll, the shiny pate of George, Gerda Schneider, but not many more. Perhaps I am not fair to Bodo and Willi, never mind, I'm not a book keeper of goodness!
I recommend this book warmly.
In my view, a reader who speaks with a Middle-European accent would have suited better to the task. Pronunciation of some German words could have been better.