I’ve just finished reading this book by Erich Maria Remarque, a German writer, writing about the experiences of seven very young German men (boys) who were sent to fight on the Western front line in the First World War.
It’s not just a beautifully written book, it’s also an insight and perspective I hadn’t seen or read about previously – a view of war from the other side.
I grew up and learned about the world wars but always from ‘our’ side. But when you read this, you realise there are no sides, not on the front line, there are just two groups of scared, frightened young men, fighting for something they didn’t understand. They were all just kids who lived, loved, and laughed just like you and me … but who ultimately sacrificed their lives.
Today we are lucky, yet still we see inequality, unfairness and violence all around us. ‘Im Westen nicht Neues’, written in 1929, is timeless. It’s one of those books that isn’t just beautifully written, it also makes you stop and think just how precious and delicate life is, and how we all need to make the very most of the brief time we have.
If this book tells us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t be fighting anyone else’s wars but our own – to live our lives as honourably and as compassionately as we can.