born: JUNE 22, 1898
died: SEPTEMBER 25, 1970
genre: MODERN REALISM
Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970) was a German novelist and one of the most prominent anti-war writers of the 20th century. His powerful and deeply moving works, which often drew on his own experiences during World War I, explored the devastating physical and psychological effects of war on the lives of ordinary soldiers and civilians. Remarque’s unflinching portrayal of the human cost of conflict and his masterful storytelling skills earned him a lasting place in world literature.
EARLY LIFE AND EXPERIENCES
Erich Paul Remark, who would later adopt the pen name Erich Maria Remarque, was born on June 22, 1898, in Osnabrück, Germany. He was conscripted into the German army at the age of 18 and fought on the Western Front during World War I. Remarque was wounded multiple times and eventually discharged from military service in 1917.
After the war, Remarque worked various jobs, including a teacher, librarian, and journalist, before embarking on his writing career. His experiences during the war would shape his literary themes and become the foundation for his most famous works.
WRITING CAREER AND PERSONAL LIFE
Remarque’s writing career began with the publication of his first novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” in 1929. The book was an immediate success, both critically and commercially, and was soon translated into multiple languages. Its unflinching portrayal of the brutality and futility of war resonated with readers around the world and established Remarque as a powerful literary voice.
In 1933, Remarque’s works were banned and burned in Germany by the rising Nazi regime, which labeled him as a “degenerate” and traitor. He eventually fled Germany in 1939, settling first in Switzerland and later in the United States, where he would live for the remainder of his life.
Remarque married actress Ilse Jutta Zambona in 1938, but the couple divorced and remarried twice, ultimately separating for good in 1957. In 1958, he married the Hollywood actress Paulette Goddard, with whom he remained until his death.
TOP 10 BOOKS BY ERICH MARIA REMARQUE
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
A harrowing and deeply moving account of the experiences of a group of young German soldiers during World War I, exploring themes of disillusionment, despair, and the destruction of a generation.
The Road Back (1931)
A sequel to “All Quiet on the Western Front,” this novel follows the survivors of the war as they struggle to reintegrate into a society that no longer understands or values them.
Arch of Triumph (1945)
Set in pre-World War II Paris, the story revolves around a German refugee doctor, Ravic, and his love affair with an actress, amidst the looming threat of Nazi occupation.
Three Comrades (1936)
Focusing on the lives of three friends and former soldiers in post-World War I Germany, the novel explores themes of love, friendship, and the lasting effects of war on the human psyche.
Heaven Has No Favorites (1961)
Set in the world of auto racing, this novel delves into the lives of drivers and their passions, rivalries, and the dangers they face in their pursuit of victory.
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1954)
A poignant and gripping story of a German soldier on leave from the Eastern Front during World War II, who tries to find love and meaning amidst the chaos and devastation of war.
Shadows in Paradise (1971)
Published posthumously, this novel follows a group of German expatriates in post-World War II New York City as they grapple with their past and try to build new lives in a foreign land.
Black Obelisk (1956)
Set in 1920s Germany, the story revolves around Ludwig, a World War I veteran and former sculptor, as he navigates the challenges of the Weimar Republic and tries to find meaning in a world changed by war.
The Night in Lisbon (1962)
A suspenseful and thrilling tale of two refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, as they embark on a dangerous journey to freedom through Lisbon.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
A play adaptation of Remarque’s classic novel, co-written with American playwright Maxwell Anderson, which brought the harrowing story of World War I to the stage.
- Remarque chose his pen name by reverting to the original spelling of his family name and adding “Maria” in honor of his mother, Anna Maria.
- He owned and raced several sports cars, including a Ferrari and Maserati, reflecting his passion for automobiles and auto racing, which was also a theme in his novel “Heaven Has No Favorites.”
- Remarque’s novels were banned and burned by the Nazis, who considered him a traitor and a corrupting influence on German youth.
- He made several cameo appearances in film adaptations of his novels, including “A Time to Love and a Time to Die” (1958) and “The Night in Lisbon” (1971).
- Remarque maintained a close friendship with actress Marlene Dietrich, who starred in the film adaptation of his novel “Arch of Triumph.”
DEATH AND ENDURING LEGACY
Erich Maria Remarque died on September 25, 1970, at the age of 72 in Locarno, Switzerland. His ashes were later interred in the Ronco Cemetery alongside those of his second wife, Paulette Goddard.
Remarque’s literary legacy continues to resonate with readers worldwide. His powerful and evocative portrayals of the human cost of war have made his works timeless classics, which continue to be studied and admired for their literary craftsmanship and emotional depth. As one of the most influential anti-war writers of the 20th century, Remarque’s novels have contributed to a greater understanding of the personal and societal impacts of war and inspired countless writers and artists to explore similar themes in their own work.
As we reflect on Erich Maria Remarque’s life and works, it is clear that his influence on world literature and his unwavering commitment to exposing the harsh realities of war will continue to inspire and challenge readers for generations to come.