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Many critics have hailed Remarque for writing All Quiet on the Western Front so objectively, without a trace of nationalism, political ill will, or even personal feelings. Even when a character's inner world is revealed, it always seems to be that person's inner life-not the author's. In 1929, as noted in this guidebook in The Author and His Times, the Nazis attacked the book not on literary but on political grounds, and a few reviewers accused Remarque of sensationalism. In America, magazine and newspaper reviews immediately hailed Remarque as the new Stephen Crane and his novel as an updated Red Badge of Courage.
Academic critics, however, have paid little attention to All Quiet. German critics were displeased at Remarque's departure from the intellectualism of traditional German fiction, and European and American critics were put off by its being a bestseller-how could anything so popular possibly be worthwhile?
Remarque succeeded in transcending his own personal situation; he touched on a nerve of his time, reflecting the experiences of a whole generation of young men on whom the war had left an indelible mark. Christine R. Barker and R. W. Last, Erich Maria Remarque, 1979.
Im Westen nichts Neues is close to him [Remarque]. It appears to be permeated with sincerity and true compassion. Its tremendous success can hardly be explained otherwise. Wilhelm J. Schwarz, War and the Mind of Germany, I, 1975. ...this book is an accusation of the older generation who let loose this terrible catastrophe, this monstrous war. It is an accusation of the generation that preached that service to the state was the highest aim in life.
Wilhelm J. Schwarz, War and the Mind of Germany, I, 1975. Anyone who was sufficiently in the thick of it for a long period, on one side or the other, might have written this grim, monotonous record, if he had the gift, which the author has, of remembering clearly, and setting down his memories truly, in naked and violent words.
"All Quiet on the Western Front" [book review], New Statesman, vol. 25, no. 5, 1929; quoted in Barker and Last, Erich Maria Remarque, 1979.
This particular scene [the Kantorek incident], told with the malicious glee of an adolescent, is typical of the immature and sophomoric attitude of the heroes. W.K. Pfeiler, quoted in Schwarz, War and the Mind of Germany, I, 1975.
Remarque is proposing the view that human existence can no longer be regarded as having any ultimate meaning. Baumer and his comrades cannot make sense of the world at large for the simple reason that it is no longer possible to do so, not just for this group of ordinary soldiers, but for a substantial proportion of his entire generation. Remarque refuses to lull his reader into a false sense of security, into thinking that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. Christine R. Barker and R. W. Last, Erich Maria Remarque, 1979.
[Lewis Milestone's 1930 film All Quiet on the Western Front] was one of the few serious attempts at a realistic approach to the World War.... The drama was kept within the bounds of its theme: a critical recapitulation of the slaughter of innocents.... Many instances were eloquent and moving indictments of the emotional and physical destructiveness of war: the sequence of the dead boy's cherished boots being taken over by his comrade, and the celebrated closing scene of the hand of the young soldier reaching out from the trenches for a butterfly only to fall limp on being shot." Lewis Jacobs, The Rise of the American Film.