Brewer’s Curious Titles: All Quiet on the Western Front

“(German title Im Westen nichts neves). A novel (1929) of the First War by the German writer Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970). Brutally realistic, and written in the first person, it is prefaced by a statement:

‘This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure for those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have accepted its shells, were destroyed by the war.’

In 1933 the book was publicly burned by the Nazis as being ‘defeatist,’ and Remarque was deprived of his citizenship. The title is ironic. It refers to the fact that a whole generation of his countrymen was destroyed while newspapers reported that there was ‘no news from the west.’ The film version (1930), directed by Lewis Milestone, was a landmark of American cinema.

The title, together with that of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (1934), is played on in All Quiet on the Orient Express, a novel (1999) by Magnus Mills (b. 1954) about a man who doesn’t take a train to India.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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