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Anti-war literature as a bestseller: Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Erich Maria Remarque was called up for war service at the age of eighteen and shortly afterwards was wounded by a piece of shrapnel from a grenade. Marked by his experience of war, he developed an anti-militarist attitude, which finds expression in his novel All Quiet on the Western Front This novel, which is claimed to be the most read book in the world after the Bible, reached a total print run of at least 20,, copies in some fifty translations. An extraordinarily intensive and expensive advertising campaign by Ullstein, the publishers, led rapidly to the biggest ever success for a book in the history of German literature — by one million copies had already been sold. This led the publishing house to print 1, copies in braille and distribute them free-of-charge to ex-soldiers who had been blinded in the war. The great effect the novel had on the outside world provoked contradictory responses to its content and to the person of Remarque.
In , he was drafted into the German army to fight in World War I, in which he was badly wounded. Ten years after the war ended, he published Im Westen Nichts Neues, translated into English a year later as All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel about the experiences of ordinary German soldiers during the war. The novel instantly became an international, critically acclaimed success.
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From the SparkNotes Blog
Its refusal to take an explicit stance on war was in shocking contrast to the patriotic rhetoric typical of the time, especially in Germany. The book was an immediate international success, though it had many critics. All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of a group of young Germans who enlist in World War I after being captivated by slogans of patriotism and honour. It is narrated by the protagonist, Paul Baumer, who is 20 years old. The young men soon learn that the romanticized version of war that was described to them is nothing like the battlefields they encounter. The novel opens with the group having just been relieved from their position on the front lines.
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Both novel and film greatly influenced the way that World War I has been commemorated internationally. As early as Erich Maria Remarque began to write a novel about the war, relying on his six-week front experience at the Somme and in Flanders. He finished the novel in and in the summer of the democratic Ullstein Verlag Ullstein Publishing House accepted it for publication. The serialization in the Berlin Vossische Zeitung started in November , and the book version was published in January Accompanied by a modern marketing campaign, by publishing Im Westen nichts Neues Ullstein aimed to establish an anti-war image of disillusionment about the First World War. The publishing house hoped to regain control over the interpretation of the war from the nationalist and National-Socialists, whose pro-war and revanchist image of the war prevailed at the time.