erich-maria-remarque

But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?
—  Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque, just…Erich Maria Remarque.

…Okay, where do I start? I read All Quiet On the Western Front during my sophomore year of high school, and it is fair to say that no piece of literature I have read since then has moved me in such a way.

Remarque was conscripted into the German army during World War I. On July 31, 1917, he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm, and neck, and spent the rest of the war in a hospital.

All Quiet on the Western Front earned him the ire of the Nazis, who burned copies of his work, and led a smear campaign against him, claiming that he was Jewish, and that he also never saw active duty in World War I. Remarque’s German citizenship was revoked by the Nazis in 1938, and his sister was murdered by them in 1943. He did not become a naturalized American citizen until 1947. As such, much of Remarque’s life was marked by loneliness, and lack of belonging.

He was also quite the romantic, whether it be in his literature, or in his storied life of relationships. He certainly had excellent taste in women, given that two of them were Hedy Lamarr and Greta Garbo. Plus, he was a dog person, and I love dogs, as well.

When it comes to Erich, I wish for two things, one that is possible, and the other that is not. The first is to visit his grave in the future, and place a bouquet of flowers. The second is to somehow travel to the past, and have a glass of wine with him.

I knew too well that all love has the desire for eternity and that therein lies its eternal torment. Nothing lasts. Nothing.
—  Erich Maria Remarque, Three Comrades
I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.
—  Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
I love you more than I ever knew. It is like a wind that rises, and you think it is only a playful breeze and suddenly your heart bows down before it like a willow tree in a storm. I love you, heart of my heart, single quietude in all this confusion. I love you, you who can hear when the flowers are thirsty and when time is weary like a hunting dog in the evening. I love you and love streams out of me as though through the just-opened gate of an unknown garden. I do not altogether understand it and I am amazed at it and am still a little ashamed of my big words, but they tumble out of me and resound and do not ask my leave; someone whom I do not know is speaking out of me, and I do not know whether it is a fourth-class melodramatist or my heart, which is no longer afraid—
—  Erich Maria Remarque, from The Black Obelisk