29 January 1929: On this day in Berlin history, German WWI veteran Erich Maria Remarque published his famous novel All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues).
Although first technically serialized in the liberal Berlin newspaper Vossiche Zeitung in late 1928, January 1929 is when it hit stores as a book. Within the first year and a half of its release, All Quiet on the Western Front sold two and a half million copies in 22 languages.
Remarque explicitly states in the beginning of the novel that the story does not come with any political connotations. Nonetheless, this book is touted by many as the exemplar of anti-war literature.
The book details the experiences of protagonist Paul Bäumer (namesake of a real WWI German air ace) along with his school friends and comrades in the trenches of the Western Front from 1914-1918.
He traded in typical glossy heroics for the realness of boredom and random terror that warfare brings. Remarque claimed to have wanted only to tell the story of the typical soldier in the trenches from their own perspective and, by extension, told the story of an entire generation of men, both living and dead, who were destroyed by the war.
The novel was amongst those reduced to ashes by the Nazis during the book burnings of 1933. They saw it as pushing a pacifist, anti-German agenda and even attacked attendees at screenings of the movie adaptation in 1930.
Today, the phrase “all quiet on the western front” has entered colloquial English vernacular to denote something that is stagnant and unchanging – a testament to the book’s influence over 90 years later.