All Quiet on the Western Front | Study Guide

Erich Maria Remarque

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Erich Maria Remarque | Biography


Erich Maria Remarque was born on June 22, 1898, in in the industrial German city of Osnabrück. He was drafted into the army to fight in World War I at age 18 in late 1916, and he served on the Western Front, where he was wounded repeatedly. After recovering in a hospital from yet another injury, he was discharged from the army in 1918. Like many of his fellow soldiers, Remarque experienced shell shock and felt disillusioned by his time fighting for his country. His experience during the war led him to believe strongly in pacifism and inspired him to write what many consider to be one of the first antiwar novels, All Quiet on the Western Front.

In many ways, the act of writing the novel helped Remarque to process his feelings and thoughts about the war. The drastic psychological impact of battle on soldiers that the novel describes was unfamiliar to most readers at the time, and the novel's realistic depiction of the horrors of war and their effects on soldiers garnered Remarque immediate fame. The novel sold more than one million copies in its first year of publication alone. Originally written and published in Remarque's native German, it was translated into more than 20 languages and became an international bestseller, as well as the basis for an Oscar-winning film of the same name in 1930.

However, the book angered the emerging German Nazi party, and Remarque fled to Switzerland to avoid conflict. Remarque wrote several additional novels, many focusing on the effects of World War I and World War II, including a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front called The Road Back, about Germany's adjustment to peace after the conclusion of World War I. In 1933, the Nazi party subsequently banned and openly burned the book. Though he lived in the United States and became a naturalized American citizen, Remarque returned to Switzerland in 1948 and died there on September 25, 1970.

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