Authors: Erich Maria Remarque

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2017

German-born Swiss novelist

June 22, 1898

Osnabrück, Germany

September 25, 1970

Locarno, Switzerland

Biography

Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, an outstanding novel of modern war, was from a Roman Catholic family of French descent. His father was a bookbinder; the family name was Remark. Educated in Osnabrück, where he was born Erich Paul Remark on June 22, 1898, he was drafted into the German Army during World War I when he was eighteen. He was wounded by British shell fragments. After his discharge he received a government-sponsored education for teaching, but a year’s experience convinced him that he was not suited to the academic life. He tried his hand at various occupations: drama critic, salesman for a tombstone company, publicity manager for a rubber company, part-time organist in a hospital for the mentally ill, and assistant editor of Sport im Bild, an illustrated sports magazine in Berlin. Some of his bizarre experiences were later incorporated in his satirical novel The Black Obelisk. In 1925 he married Jutta Ilse (Jeanne) Zambona; they were divorced in 1930.

In his spare time and between jobs, he worked on a war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, which was an immediate success when it was published in 1929, selling more than a million and a half copies internationally during the first year. There have been several successful film versions of the book, and the simplicity and directness of the style have enabled the novel to stand beyond its own time as a memorable portrait of soldiers at war.

Erich Maria Remarque

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(Library of Congress)

In 1931, Remarque bought a villa at Porto Ronco on Lake Maggiore in Switzerland. His novel The Road Back represented an attempt to convey a sense of the overwhelming challenge facing soldiers returning to a defeated country. Three Comrades continued his narrative exposition of the effects of war on Germany, the subject matter that most concerned Remarque. His continued protests against uncivilized force made him one of the targets of Nazi vilification, and early in their rise to power, the Nazis included his books among those that were publicly burned.

Remarque married Jeanne Zambona in 1938 so that she could safely remain in Switzerland rather than be forced to return to Nazi Germany. He moved to Los Angeles in 1939, where she later joined him, but they continued to live apart, finally divorcing in 1951. After three years in Los Angeles, Remarque relocated in New York. In 1947 he became a naturalized citizen, and after 1948 he divided his time between Switzerland, New York, and Rome. He married American movie star Paulette Goddard in 1958.

Although All Quiet on the Western Front is Remarque’s best-known work, Arch of Triumph and The Night in Lisbon were also worldwide best-sellers. The Black Obelisk—although new in method, as it can be characterized as a tragic farce—seemed particularly suited to Remarque, for it allowed him to be humane while desperate, satirical while moral, compassionate while censorious, and sane while commenting on lunacy. The novel aroused considerable attention and intensified an interest in Remarque’s play Die letzte Station (the last station), which had an enthusiastic reception in Berlin and Vienna. In 1967, the West German government awarded Remarque the Distinguished Service Cross of the Order of Merit. He died in 1970 at the age of seventy-two.

Author Works Long Fiction: Die Traumbude, 1920 Station am Horizont, 1927-1928 (serial), 1998 (book) Im Westen nichts Neues, 1929, 1968 (All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929, 1969) Der Weg zurück, 1931 (The Road Back, 1931) Drei Kameraden, 1938 (Three Comrades, 1937) Liebe deinen Nächsten, 1941 (Flotsam, 1941) Arc de Triomphe, 1946 (Arch of Triumph, 1945) Der Funke Leben, 1952 (The Spark of Life, 1952) Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben, 1954 (A Time to Love and a Time to Die, 1954) Der schwarze Obelisk, 1956 (The Black Obelisk, 1957) Der Himmel kennt keine Günstlinge, 1961 (Heaven Has No Favorites, 1961; also known as Bobby Deerfield, 1961) Die Nacht von Lissabon, 1962 (The Night in Lisbon, 1964) Schatten im Paradies, 1971 (Shadows in Paradise, 1972) Drama: Die letzte Station, pr. 1956 (adapted by Peter Stone as Full Circle, 1974) Screenplay: Der letzte Akt, 1955 Bibliography Barker, Christine R., and R. W. Last. Erich Maria Remarque. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1979. An excellent introduction to Remarque’s career, this study covers all of his major fiction. Firda, Richard Arthur. “All Quiet on the Western Front”: Literary Analysis and Cultural Context. New York: Twayne, 1993. One of Twayne’s masterwork studies, this is an excellent tool for students of the novel. Firda, Richard Arthur. Erich Maria Remarque: A Thematic Analysis of His Novels. New York: Peter Lang, 1988. Contains a good deal of helpful biographical material. Useful also for Firda’s interpretation of the later novels. Gilbert, Julie. Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard. New York: Pantheon, 1995. Primarily a biography and love story. Gilbert also provides detailed notes and an excellent bibliography. Murdoch, Brian. The Novels of Erich Maria Remarque: Sparks of Life. Camden House, Rochester, N.Y.: 2006. This examination of the life and writing of Erich Maria Remarque is an excellent resource for anyone interested in his works, but particularly for those who only know him as the author of All Quiet on the Western Front. Murdoch portrays Remarque as an artist, shedding light on his personal life and his reputation as a playboy. His entire body of writing, even his lesser-known novels, fall under close scrutiny as Murdoch examines them individually, paying attention to their recurring themes and motifs. Fans of Remarque as well as those unfamiliar with his writing stand to gain a new understanding of the author through this volume. Owen, C. R. Erich Maria Remarque: A Critical Bio-Bibliography. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1984. An excellent source for finding additional critical commentary on Remarque. Taylor, Harley U., Jr. Erich Maria Remarque: A Literary and Film Biography. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. This detailed study provides excellent background information on Remarque’s family origins, his early years, military service, and the filming of All Quiet on the Western Front. Includes bibliography, chronology, filmography, and index. Wagener, Hans. Understanding Erich Maria Remarque. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991. Separate chapters on all of Remarque’s major work, interweaving biographical background with literary analysis. Includes a chronology, notes, and an annotated bibliography.

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