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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque
Age Range: 14+
`The war has ruined us for everything …… we’re no longer young men. We’ve lost any desire to conquer the world ….. We were eighteen-years-old, and we had just begun to love the world and to love being in it; but we had to shoot at it. The first shell went straight for our hearts’. These lines from the narrator in All Quiet on the Western Front evokes the sense of tragedy and waste that war is.
Paul Baumer is eighteen-years-old when he joins the German army at the beginning of the First World War. Sent to the Western Front, his descriptions of life in the trenches, the comradeship, fear, horror and destruction of the war make it sometimes unbearable to read. Through it all, the narrator maintains a commentary of the futility of war and how the ordinary fighting soldiers have no say in the decisions that are taken by the politicians and yet, have to pay the ultimate price with their lives.
There are some books that should be read by everyone and, although not a children’s book, this is certainly one that should feature prominently in any study of war.