All Quiet on the Western Front Author/Context
Erich Maria Remarque was born June 22nd, 1898, in the northwestern German city of Osnabruck. His parents named him Erich Paul Remark. His family was very poor, and they moved often. At a young age, Erich was forced to earn money to buy his own clothes by giving piano lessons. He was a lover of art, writing, music, and nature.
At the age of 18, while at teacher's college, he was drafted to fight in World War I. He was trained and placed in a battalion. Unlike his character Paul, he was frequently granted leave to care for his dying mother. While a solider, he fought bravely, but became extremely disheartened with the war when a friend whom he had rescued died in the hospital from grenade splinters in his head that no one had noticed. Erich spent some time in the hospital himself, and then more had training. His mother died while he was in the hospital. In a tribute to her, he replaced his middle name, Paul, with hers, Maria. By the war's end, he had become a strong opponent of back-line patriots who did not understand the evils of war, and frequently came into conflict with leaders in his town about the war's outcome.
He began a career as a teacher and writer, but his work was not well received. His first novel was such an embarrassment that he changed the spelling of his last name from Remark to Remarque. In 1929, he published All Quiet On The Western Front, which was an effort to rid himself of the depression that his war experiences gave him. It became one of the highest-selling books in Europe.
It is important to note that All Quiet On The Western Front's important moments are all autobiographical, but the novel is not pure autobiography. The sick mother, the time in the hospital, and the loss of a friend due to unnoticed splinters in the head, all point to an author who was trying to rid himself of the memories of war that haunted him. In writing it, he made a statement about his hatred of war by showing the reader the experiences that led him to his anti-war beliefs.
All Quiet On The Western Front was banned by the German government. Erich himself was persecuted by the Nazis and then forced into exile, first in Switzerland, and then America, where he became friends with famous actors, actresses, and writers, including Charlie Chaplin and Ernest Hemingway. He wrote several more books over the next few years. He died in Switzerland in 1970.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Trans. by A.W. Wheen. New York. Fawcett Crest, 1929.
Firda, Richard Arthur. All Quiet on the Western Front: Literary Analysis and Cultural Context. New York. Twayne, 1993.
Gilbert, Julie Goldsmith. Opposite Attraction: Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard. New York. Pantheon Press, 1995.