sunnuntai 7. syyskuuta 2014

Länsirintamalta ei mitään uutta

Kirjoittaja: Erich Maria Remarque
Suomentaja: Armas Hämäläinen
Julkaistu: 1929 (suomennos 1930)
Alkuperäinen nimi: Im Westen nichts neues
Kustantaja: WSOY
Sivumäärä: 223

"Tämä kirja ei ole tarkoitettu syytökseksi eikä tunnustukseksi, se pyrkii vain kertomaan sukupolvesta, jonka sota tuhosi, vaikka tuo sukupolvi olisikin säästynyt kranaateilta."

Paul Bäumer on 18-vuotias nuori sotilas, joka on värvätty suoraan koulunpenkiltä ensimmäiseen maailmansotaan. Myös tämän lähimmät toverit koulusta ovat sodassa: lehtori Kantorek käytännössä pakotti jokaisen oppilaansa ilmoittautumaan vapaaehtoiseksi. Paulin komppaniaan kuuluvat myös Albert Kropp, Haie Westhus, Fredrich Müller, Tjaden sekä isähahmo Stanislaus "Kat" Katczinsky. Yksi toisensa jälkeen Paulin ystävät kohtaavat loppunsa sodassa: viimeisenä heistä Paul.

Erich Maria Remarquen Länsirintamalta ei mitään uutta on kenties yksi maailman tunnetuimmista sotavastaisista romaaneista. Saksalainen, ensimmäisestä maailmansodasta kriittisesti kertova teos myös poltettiin Hitlerin natsihallinnon aikana vaarallisena kirjana.

Länsirintamalta ei mitään uutta on oikeastaan ensimmäinen sotaromaani, jonka luin. Viimeisellä luokalla koulussa luimme tämän sekä kirjoitimme esseen verraten tätä sekä runoa. Oma esseeni käsitteli tätä Remarquen romaania ja Alan Seegerin runoa Champagne.

Poikkeuksellisesti ajattelin laittaa tähän postaukseeni tuolloin nelisen vuotta sitten kirjoittamani esseen, koska tälläkin lukukerralla luin teosta hyvin analyyttisesta näkökulmasta. Essee tiivistää siis edelleen ajatuksiani tästä teoksesta. Toki aina on plagiointivaara laittaessani näinkin koulumaisen esseen, mutta harvempi kouluessee tuskin käsittelee juuri tätä runoa ja tätä vertailua.


Literature of War - All Quiet on the Western Front & Champagne

The literature reflecting the World War One era mirrors the prevailing ideologies and discourses. Two such texts describing the era are the novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by Erich Maria Remarque, and the poem Champagne (1915) by Alan Seeger. Although both of the texts focus on war as a central idea, their approaches differ significantly. Whereas Alan Seeger strongly supports the prevailing pro-war discourse, Erich Maria Remarque rejects this, taking a firm anti-war stance in his novel. The differences between the novel and the poem include the notably different attitudes to the brutality of war, universality of suffering, fate opposed to God’s predestination and the futility of war. Despite these differences, the texts also share some similarities. These include a positive representation of nature as rejuvenation, as well as of patriotism and heroism in war. Using different poetic devices both the author and the poet privilege and foreground themes revolving around war, positioning the reader to regard war as unnecessary and as noble respectively.
 
The rejuvenation of nature is a motif privileged both in Champagne and in All Quiet on the Western Front. In the novel, Erich Maria Remarque foregrounds nature as a rejuvenating and protecting force for the suffering soldiers fighting on the Western Front. This is also shown in the by juxtaposing the mechanical destruction of war with nature. The beauty of nature offers them consolation and hope, as the soldiers occasionally spend time observing flora and fauna.  For example, the narrator in the novel, Private Paul Bäumer, describes that, “The birds are just as carefree as the butterflies… we [the German soldiers] watched them nesting…” (p.92) Through a simile and alliteration, Remarque positions the reader to see the nature as a source of hope and rejuvenation for the soldiers. The idea of nature as a protecting force is further reinforced when the author explains the importance of earth to the soldiers:
 
“The earth is more important to the soldier than anybody else. When he presses himself to the earth… with the fear of death upon him, then the earth is his only friend, his brother, his mother, he groans out his terror… the earth absorbs it all and gives him… life… Earth – earth – earth!” (p.39)
 
Through the personification of the earth as the soldier’s protector and only friend, Remarque portrays nature as a significant source of rejuvenation, even as a source of life. Also, the use of repetition further advances this discourse created by the author. The life-giving forces of nature are juxtaposed to the man-made destruction of war. Remarque portrays this through many examples of the horrors of war in the novel, such as; “Wounded horses… …there is a whole world of pain in that sound, creation itself under torture, a wild and horrifying agony.”(p.44) Through the metaphors, the author positions the reader to see the horrific consequences of manmade destruction of war, and hence is juxtaposing these two. By this, the reader is manipulated to see nature as a source of goodness. Similarly, the role of earth as a source of rejuvenation is foregrounded in the poem Champagne. Like Remarque, the poet uses personification of nature to exhibit the importance of nature: “…Nature clothes…” (stanza 12, line 2) This poetic device is used to position the reader to regard nature as a source of rejuvenation and as providing necessities. Moreover, vivid imagery of nature is developed throughout the poem. Using the repetition of the image of wine growing on the same soil where the soldiers fought and died, Seeger positions the reader to see the restorative qualities of nature. For example, this can be seen when the poet describes that the soldiers were “…Amorous of dear Earth as well...” (stanza 17, line 1) Through the personification of earth, the poet portrays nature as having a great significance for the soldier, and therefore privileges the rejuvenation of nature. Therefore it can be seen that both the poet and the author use repetition and personification to position the reader to see nature as a comforting force for the soldier and therefore privileging nature’s life giving forces over the mechanization of man-made destruction.
 
The discourses of heroism, camaraderie and nationalism are privileged both by Alan Seeger and Erich Maria Remarque in their poem and novel respectively. In the novel, the idea of nationalism is only briefly discussed; however, it is still privileged. Remarque portrays the enlisting of the soldiers as an act of nationalism: “We’re [the German soldiers] out here [the Western Front] defending our homeland.” (p.144) This image is further developed when the narrator, Paul Bäumer, states that: “The feeling of nationalism that the… soldier has are expressed in the fact that he is out here [the Western Front].” (p.146) Using the matter of fact tone and foregrounding the idea of defense of homeland, Remarque privileges the theme of patriotism. Similarly, the discourse of heroism is central and is foregrounded in the novel. The author uses different methods to position the reader to see the bravery of soldiers as positive; for example, Remarque uses juxtaposition to privilege heroism. Cowardliness is portrayed as negative, as is seen when the protagonist of the novel treats a soldier who is hiding during an attack with anger, shouting: “…You little shit, you bastard, trying to hide, are you? …You swine…” (p.95) By showing the cowardly actions of this soldier as immoral and wrong, Remarque is by privileging the heroism of the soldier fighting on the front. Remarque portrays Private Stanislaus Katczinsky in a positive way, privileging heroism and camaraderie, as he is described as a, “leader of our group [the narrator’s company], tough.” (p.3) This brave and experienced soldier takes care of the younger recruits. It can be said that Erich Maria Remarque privileges the heroism of the soldiers by portraying brave and heroic soldiers in a positive light while juxtaposing this image with cowardly soldiers shown in a negative manner. Similarly, Alan Seeger privileges heroism and the contemporary nationalistic discourse in his poem Champagne.  In the poem, the sacrifice of the soldiers is seen as heroic deeds, as the poet describes their actions and enlistment as a “…pious duty…” (stanza 2, line 3) Similarly, the bravery of the soldiers is shown when Alan Seeger describes that: “…He [the soldier] made his breast the bulwark and his blood the moat.” (stanza 7, line 4) Using descriptive metaphors and alliteration, the poet positions the reader to see the defending of one’s homeland as nationalistic and heroic. Essentially, this discourse is explored throughout the poem, as the main focus is the motif of honouring the soldiers who valiantly fought for their country, providing a better life for the generations to come. Using the imperative form, “Honor them [the soldiers who died]…” (stanza 15, line 1) Seeger privileges the sacrifice of the soldiers, foregrounding their great courage in a battle. Additionally, the underpinning discourse of camaraderie can be seen when the poet describes the soldiers as “…devoted comrades…” (stanza 3, line 1) Evidently, both the poem and the novel reflect the beliefs of the bravery of the soldiers, and privilege the discourses of nationalism and heroism positioning the reader to see these as positive.
 
A significant difference between the two texts is their approach to the central discourse of death in war. Alan Seeger foregrounds death as a noble cause and as a temporary state, whereas Erich Maria Remarque strongly rejects this, portraying death as devastating. Through the voice of Paul Bäumer, the narrator of the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, the author describes death as a final occurrence and the end of all existence. Also the idea of no afterlife is conveyed through the book. Throughout the novel, it is implied that the soldiers detest death and regard it as the absolute end. “We’re afraid of death…” (p.100) “…We [the soldiers] knew that the fear of death is even greater [than anything else].” (p.9) Using a matter of fact tone, the author manipulates the reader to see death as the worst possible event. This idea is further advanced when Paul Bäumer states that: “How pointless all human thoughts, words and deeds must be, if things like this are possible… our knowledge of life is limited to death.” (p.186) Through the simple language and stating this using a matter of fact tone, Erich Maria Remarque positions the reader to see death as abhorrent. On the contrary, in the poem Champagne, the poet advances the idea of death being an honorable sacrifice for the happiness of future generations, and privileges death as a temporary state. Alan Seeger does this by using Christian imagery, and foregrounding the religious discourse of resurrection. “Under the little crosses… the soldier rests. …And at night he lies at peace…” (stanza 5, lines 1-4) The euphemisms of ‘resting’ and ‘lying at peace’ are used to describe death, also suggesting that this ‘rest’ is only temporary, and that God will eventually resurrect these soldiers who willingly sacrificed their lives. This use of symbolism is further reinforced as the poet uses words such as ‘crosses’ to support the religious discourse privileged in the poem. The willing sacrifice of the life of the soldiers is privileged, differing significantly from the novel. Seeger states in the poem, that the soldiers “obscurely sacrificed…” (stanza 8, line 1) their lives. Continuing the use of Christian imagery of sacrifice, Alan Seeger manipulates the reader to view the death of the soldiers as a noble sacrifice. The significance of the sacrifice of the soldiers is shown as the happiness of the future generation. This is likened to Christ’s sacrifice, as in Christianity He is the saviour of all of mankind. Similarly, it is implied that the soldiers are the saviours of the future generations. The poet’s perception and representation of death therefore significantly differs from the representation of death in the novel, as Erich Maria Remarque rejects the idea of willing sacrifice and death as a temporary state, whereas Alan Seeger privileges this.
 
There are major differences in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front and in the poem Champagne in regard to their stances concerning the futility and brutality of war. By foregrounding the horrors and atrocities of war, Erich Maria Remarque foregrounds the brutality and futility of war, whereas Alan Seeger does not support this. Instead, he privileges the theme of the soldiers sacrifice and therefore the war being necessary in securing a content life for future generations. In the novel, the author uses vivid visual imagery to describe the horrors of war. “Gas – gaaas – gaaaaas – …Terrible sights… soldiers who have been gassed, choking for days on end as they spew up their burned-out lungs, bit by bit.” (p.48) By describing the suffering of the soldiers affected by the lethal poison gases through colloquial language, ‘spew up’, the horror of this event is reflected in the vulgarity of the terminology used. This positions the reader to see war as causing unnecessary suffering to humans. This stance is further reinforced as the author uses poetic devices such as the repetition of the word ‘gas’ as well as using onomatopoeia by changing the spelling of the word ‘gas’ to reflect the manner in which the agonised soldiers pronounce it. Advancing theme of the brutality of war, Remarque further uses succinct descriptions that vividly describe the horrendous injuries suffered by the soldiers:
 
“We [the soldiers] see men… with the top of their skulls missing… both their feet… shot away… with… guts spilling out… mouths missing… lower jaws missing… faces missing; we [the soldiers] find someone who has gripped the main artery… between his teeth… so that he doesn’t bleed to death. …Life comes to an end.” (p.97)
 
Using repetition and explicit, visual imagery, such as ‘guts spilling out’, of the suffering of the injured soldiers, the author positions the reader to see war as detrimental to the soldiers and terrible. The futility of war is conveyed throughout the novel, as the author describes the battles between the French and the German on the Western Front, during which neither side gained any land despite the huge number of casualties. This same attitude of war taking everything from an individual and giving nothing in return, is reflected when the protagonist of the novel states that: “Let the months come, and the years… they can take nothing more from me [Paul Bäumer].” This statement reflects the hopelessness of the speaker positioning the reader to see war as unnecessary and futile. Seeger, however, rejects this stance, privileging a perspective of war being a necessary element needed to secure content lives for future generations in times of conflict. This is shown as the poet portrays the post-war generation as being happy and glad, holding festivities and enjoying the “…beauty of the world.” (stanza 1, line 4) This is represented as being a sole and direct outcome of the sacrifice of the soldiers. By using vivid visual and auditory imagery, the author describes the happiness of the new generations following the soldiers’ sacrifice:
 
“Honor them [the soldiers] not so much with tears and flowers… rather when music on bright gatherings lays its tender spell, and joy is uppermost, be mindful of the men they [the soldiers] were, and raise your glasses to them [the soldiers] in one silent toast.” (stanzas 15-16, lines 1-4)
 
The poet uses end rhyme to position the reader to see the happiness of the new generations’ life as being directly related to the noble fighting of the soldiers in the war. In this way, the reader is manipulated to regard war as necessary. Similarly, Seeger glorifies war by silencing the brutality of war in the poem.  Therefore the poet glorifies war by vividly describing the results of war in a positive manner and hence positions the reader to see war as necessary and valuable. This is opposed to the view of Erich Maria Remarque, who in his novel All Quiet on the Western Front privileges the idea of war being brutal and futile by describing the horrors of war. Conclusively it can be said that the novel and the poem reflect very different stances regarding the discourse of war, with the poet accepting the prevailing attitudes and beliefs of the era and the author rejecting these.
 
The universality of suffering is a discourse conveyed throughout the novel All Quiet on the Western Front; however, in the poem Champagne, this is silenced; hence it is a difference between these two texts reflecting the values, attitudes and beliefs of the World War One era. In the novel, Remarque concentrates not only on the suffering of the German soldiers, but also gives a voice to the French and Russian soldiers as well as to the civilians, who all suffer as a consequence of war. The narrator comes to realise that all human beings are equal and suffer from war, and he states that:
 
“What we [the French and German soldiers] have in common… that we’re [the French and German soldiers] all just as scared of death, and that we [the French and German soldiers] die the same way and feel the same pain… how could you [the French soldier] be my [the German soldier’s] enemy?” (p.158)
 
By using repetition, inclusive language such as ‘we’, and likening the experiences of the French soldiers to those of the German soldiers, the author positions the reader to see all suffering equally unnecessary, and foregrounds the discourse of universality of suffering to privilege the humanity of all people regardless of race. Moreover, this stance is reinforced further when Erich Maria Remarque describes the Russian prisoners of war, giving a perspective to their suffering. “…How much misery there can be in… their eyes.” (p.135) “…They [the Russian soldiers] are unhappier than we [then German soldiers] are.” (p.136) By using emotional language and using visual descriptions of the Russian soldiers, the author portrays the suffering of the enemies and, therefore, positions the reader to accept the discourse of universality of suffering. The universality of suffering, however, is not only shown amongst the fighting soldiers; the plight of the civilians during time of war is shown. “Oh Mother, Mother… now it is all suffering, for myself [Paul Bäumer], for my mother, for everything…” (p.132) By portraying Bäumer’s mother’s suffering, Remarque is reflecting the suffering of family members, thus all civilians. This is enhanced through the use of repetition of ‘mother’ and emotional tone of the scene. Suffering is universal and not limited to the soldiers of one’s own country, but extending to civilians and enemy soldiers as well. On the contrary, this aspect of war is silenced in the poem Champagne. The suffering of the civilians is not given a voice, as, throughout the poem, only the willing suffering of the soldier is discussed. Similarly, the enemy soldiers are represented as “…the enemies of Beauty…” (stanza 4, line 2) By marginalising the enemy soldiers and not offering a perspective of their suffering, the poet positions the reader to see the country’s soldier as the sole sufferer of war. Alan Seeger rejects the discourse of the universality of suffering, and conveys this through silencing the other suffering groups. Therefore, Remarque and Seeger provide different views to the universality of suffering, as the poet does not support this discourse whereas the author privileges the humanity of all people throughout his novel.
 
The poem Champagne and the novel All Quiet on the Western Front differ in regards to viewing occurrence and events as fate or as God’s predestination. Whereas the pro-war poem strongly conveys that nothing is unnecessary and is predestined by God, Remarque, in his novel, shows the opposite and portrays the soldiers as believing in no greater force, but fate only. The view that chance is the determining force which decides the destiny of the soldiers underpins the novel and, consequently, Erich Maria Remarque privileges this. The author uses simple expression and a matter of fact tone to represent the attitude of the soldiers regarding God and fate. “Every soldier owes the fact that he is still alive to a thousand lucky chances and nothing else. And every soldier believes in and trusts to chance.” (p.72) Through the voice of the narrator, the author positions the reader to see that, in war, survival is solely chance. This view is further advanced as Remarque states through the voice of the narrator that: “Your turn today, mine tomorrow…” (p.160) By word choices, the author manipulates the reader to see all occurrences resulting from fate, and that the soldiers have ‘turns’ regarding death and injury. Additionally, he portrays the death and survival of the soldiers as mere chance. Therefore it can be seen that the author positions the reader to see chance and fate as the governing forces. In contrast to this, Alan Seeger, in his poem, privileges the theme of God’s predestination. By underpinning a religious discourse and using Christian imagery, the poet positions the reader to see the death of the soldiers as predestined by God. This is shown in various quotations, such as: “He marched to that heroic martyrdom.” (stanza 6, line 4) By using ‘heroic martyrdom’ as a metaphor and euphemism of death, the poet advances the idea of death being God’s predestination. By word choices, such as ‘martyrdom’, Seeger also likens the soldiers’ deaths to martyrs, who are people who died for their faith. This use of religiously associated words privileges the idea of the existence of predestination as opposed to mere chance. Therefore it can be seen that the poem and the novel differ in their reflections of fate and God’s predestination, whit Erich Maria Remarque privileging fate and Alan Seeger privileging God’s predestination and thus reflection the dominant Christian ideology of his nation, France.
 
The poem Champagne, by Alan Seeger, and the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, both reflect the values, attitudes and beliefs of the World War One era. However, whereas Alan Seeger acquiesces with the prevailing discourses and glorifies war in his poem, Erich Maria Remarque is critical of the pro-war discourse and strongly privileges the anti-war discourse. This can be seen through the different representations of the poem and the novel offer regarding death, brutality and futility of war, universality of suffering and fate opposed to God’s predestination. Despite these differences, the novel and the poem share similar viewpoints of nature as a rejuvenating force as well as of heroism, nationalism and camaraderie. Both the author and the poet use various poetic devices to position the reader. Therefore it can be said that these texts reflect the ideologies of the World War One era and offer different perspectives to the prevailing values, attitudes and beliefs regarding war.


Länsirintamalta ei mitään uutta on yksi vaikuttavimmista lukukokemuksistani koko elämäni aikana. Romaanin tapahtumat itsessään ovat kuin melkein minkä tahansa sotaromaanin, mutta Remarquen teoksessa on silti jotain niin voimakasta ja henkilökohtaista, että se on tunnelmaltaan aivan erilainen kuin muut sotaromaanit joita olen lukenut. Hieno, upea kirja joka jokaisen pitäisi mielestäni lukea.

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