All Quiet on the Western Front

A Phenomenological Investigation of War

in Volume 16 (2004): Issue 3 (Dec 2004)
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All Quiet on the Western Front, the famed war novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque, has sold more than fifty million copies, been translated into thirty languages and has been made into two English-speaking movies, one of which won an Academy Award for best picture. It has been hailed as ‘the greatest war novel of all time.’ It was banned and burned in Nazi Germany for promoting anti-war sentiment. Publishers in the United States were forced to censor certain sections of the novel deemed too emotionally charged for American audiences, and these sections remained censored until 1975. Remarque himself was considered for the Nobel Prize, but, due to protests over his candidacy, was not awarded the honor. However, regarding literary criticism of the novel, it is safe to say that ‘[d]espite the great and lasting impact of All Quiet, comparatively little has been written about it.’ What little criticism that does exist on All Quiet has been limited to mainly two models: empirical, which seek to explain the novel in terms of its structure and form; and intellectualist, which seek in the novel a universal definition of War. All Quiet on the Western Front has been somewhat of a critical anomaly: almost no critic would disagree that All Quiet is a meaningful work, but, thus far, almost no critic can give a satisfactory answer as to why.

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