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Words cannot do it justice.
on May 3, 2002
It is a crime that Remarque is only widely known for All Quiet on the Western Front in America. Not that that's a bad book or anything; it's one of the best books of all time. I like it very much indeed. But the fact is that Remarque never wrote a bad book, and that he wrote a great many books after Western Front. All of them are worth reading. Black Obelisk, A Life for a Life, A Time to Live and a Time to Die, Shadows in Paradise...all of them. But above all, there is Three Comrades, very much my favourite book of all time. Have you read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises? What about Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby? Those are always the books one names when talking about literature of the Lost Generation. And they're great books too. But why isn't Three Comrades ever mentioned? It is a mystery!
Three Comrades takes place in Weimar Germany. We see hints of Hitler's rise to power. They help us picture said rise, even if they don't explain it. But the book isn't about politics - like The Sun Also Rises, it's about genuine people caught trying to find love, grace and dignity in a world increasingly devoid of all three. And they succeed, finding strength in love and friendship. And that's what this book is about - human friendship and human love, the two most important and beautiful aspects of life. The works of Remarque always feature an odd dichotomy - a sort of clash between a Romantic, highly idealized worldview and grim, bland, prosaic reality. It is this that makes his works so great - the promise that it's possible for the former to exist surrounded by the latter, hard though it may be. It is this that also allows Remarque to see the humanity present in any individual, no matter how debased or outcast (witness his attitude towards the prostitutes). It is this that makes Pat and Robert's romance the sweetest and most believable one in any book I've read. It is this, all in all, that made me genuinely sad, not only at the ending, but at having to leave the world and the people Remarque created. And no higher praise is possible.
My words can't do it any justice, so I won't go into further detail; you'll just have to read it. Hey, Mr. Publisher: how about releasing a new edition that's priced a little lower so people will actually want to buy a great book? Is that so much to ask?