All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a heartbreaking and bleak novel that conveys the horrors of WWI, and indeed, war in general, to the modern reader. There are many beautifully written passages, some of which I will reproduce here now.
QUOTES FROM CHAPTER FIVE
We are two men, two minute sparks of life; outside is the night and the circle of death. We sit on the edge of it crouching in danger, the grease drips from our hands, in our hearts we are close to one another, and the hour is like the room: flecked over with the lights and shadows of our feelings cast by a quiet fire. What does he know of me or I of him? Formerly we should not have had a single thought in common—now we sit with a goose between us and feel in unison, are so intimate that we do not even speak.
Kropp feels it too: “It will go pretty hard with us all. But nobody at home seems to worry much about it. Two years of shells and bombs—a man won’t peel that off as easy as a sock.”
Albert expresses it: “The war has ruined us for everything.”
NOTE: If anyone wants to get a sense of what it must be like to return to normal life from war should read this book. Again:
We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.