Read All Quiet on the Western Front Online

Authors: Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

2013 Random House Trade Paperbacks Edition

Im Westen Nichts Neues
,” copyright © 1928 by Ullstein A.G
Copyright renewed 1956 by Erich Maria Remarque
Copyright © 1929, 1930 by Little, Brown and Company
Copyright renewed 1957, 1958 by Erich Maria Remarque
Reading group guide copyright © 2013 by Random House, LLC.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Random House Trade Paperbacks, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

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eISBN: 978-0-8129-8553-5

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Cover design: Tom Kluepfel
Cover image: Wilson History & Research Center, Robby Wilson, founder

v3.1

This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to 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 escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.

WE ARE AT REST
five miles behind the front. Yesterday we were relieved, and now our bellies are full of beef and haricot beans. We are satisfied and at peace. Each man has another mess-tin full for the evening; and, what is more, there is a double ration of sausage and bread. That puts a man in fine trim. We have not had such luck as this for a long time. The cook with his carroty head is begging us to eat; he beckons with his ladle to every one that passes, and spoons him out a great dollop. He does not see how he can empty his stew-pot in time for coffee. Tjaden and Müller have produced two washbasins and had them filled up to the brim as a reserve. In Tjaden this is voracity, in Müller it is foresight. Where Tjaden puts it all is a mystery, for he is and always will be as thin as a rake.

What’s more important still is the issue of a double ration of smokes. Ten cigars, twenty cigarettes, and two quids of chew per man; now that is decent. I have exchanged my chewing tobacco with Katczinsky for his cigarettes, which means I have forty altogether. That’s enough for a day.

It is true we have no right to this windfall. The Prussian is not so generous. We have only a miscalculation to thank for it.

Fourteen days ago we had to go up and relieve the front line. It was fairly quiet on our sector, so the quartermaster who remained in the rear had requisitioned the usual quantity of rations and provided for the full company of one hundred and fifty men. But on the last day an astonishing number of English heavies opened up on us with high-explosive, drumming ceaselessly on our position, so that we suffered severely and came back only eighty strong.

Last night we moved back and settled down to get a good sleep for once: Katczinsky is right when he says it would not be such a bad war if only one could get a little more sleep. In the line we have had next to none, and fourteen days is a long time at one stretch.

It was noon before the first of us crawled out of our quarters. Half an hour later every man had his mess-tin and we gathered at the cook-house, which smelt greasy and nourishing. At the head of the queue of course were the hungriest—little Albert Kropp, the clearest thinker among us and therefore only a lance-corporal; Müller, who still carries his school textbooks with him, dreams of examinations, and during a bombardment mutters propositions in physics; Leer, who wears a full beard and has a preference for the girls from officers’ brothels. He swears that they are obliged by an army order to wear silk chemises and to bathe before entertaining guests of the rank of captain and upwards. And as the fourth, myself, Paul Bäumer. All four are nineteen years of age, and all four joined up from the same class as volunteers for the war.

Close behind us were our friends: Tjaden, a skinny locksmith
of our own age, the biggest eater of the company. He sits down to eat as thin as a grasshopper and gets up as big as a bug in the family way; Haie Westhus, of the same age, a peat-digger, who can easily hold a ration-loaf in his hand and say: Guess what I’ve got in my fist; then Detering, a peasant, who thinks of nothing but his farm-yard and his wife; and finally Stanislaus Katczinsky, the leader of our group, shrewd, cunning, and hard-bitten, forty years of age, with a face of the soil, blue eyes, bent shoulders, and a remarkable nose for dirty weather, good food, and soft jobs.

Our gang formed the head of the queue before the cookhouse. We were growing impatient, for the cook paid no attention to us

Finally Katczinsky called to him: “Say, Heinrich, open up the soup-kitchen. Anyone can see the beans are done.”

He shook his head sleepily: “You must all be there first.” Tjaden grinned: “We are all here.”

The sergeant-cook still took no notice. “That may do for you,” he said. “But where are the others?”

“They won’t be fed by you to-day. They’re either in the dressing-station or pushing up daisies.”

The cook was quite disconcerted as the facts dawned on him. He was staggered. “And I have cooked for one hundred and fifty men——”

Kropp poked him in the ribs. “Then for once we’ll have enough. Come on, begin!”

Suddenly a vision came over Tjaden. His sharp, mousy features began to shine, his eyes grew small with cunning, his jaws twitched, and he whispered hoarsely: “Man! then you’ve got bread for one hundred and fifty men too, eh?”

The sergeant-cook nodded absent-minded, and bewildered.

Tjaden seized him by the tunic. “And sausage?”

Ginger nodded again.

Tjaden’s chaps quivered. “Tobacco too?”

“Yes, everything.”

Tjaden beamed: “What a bean-feast! That’s all for us! Each man gets—wait a bit—yes, practically two issues.”

Then Ginger stirred himself and said: “That won’t do.”

We got excited and began to crowd around.

“Why won’t that do, you old carrot?” demanded Katczinsky.

“Eighty men can’t have what is meant for a hundred and fifty.”

“We’ll soon show you,” growled Müller.

“I don’t care about the stew, but I can only issue rations for eighty men,” persisted Ginger.

Katczinsky got angry. “You might be generous for once. You haven’t drawn food for eighty men. You’ve drawn it for the Second Company. Good. Let’s have it then. We are the Second Company.”

We began to jostle the fellow. No one felt kindly toward him, for it was his fault that the food often came up to us in the line too late and cold. Under shellfire he wouldn’t bring his kitchen up near enough, so that our soup-carriers had to go much farther than those of the other companies. Now Bulcke of the First Company is a much better fellow. He is as fat as a hamster in winter, but he trundles his pots when it comes to that right up to the very front-line.

We were in just the right mood, and there would certainly have been a dust-up if our company commander had not appeared. He informed himself of the dispute, and only remarked: “Yes, we did have heavy losses yesterday.”

He glanced into the dixie. “The beans look good.”

Ginger nodded. “Cooked with meat and fat.”

The lieutenant looked at us. He knew what we were thinking. And he knew many other things too, because he came to the company as a non-com. and was promoted from the ranks. He lifted the lid from the dixie again and sniffed. Then passing on he said: “Bring me a plate full. Serve out all the rations. We can do with them.”

Ginger looked sheepish as Tjaden danced round him.

It doesn’t cost you anything! Anyone would think the quartermaster’s store belonged to him! And now get on with you, you old blubber-sticker, and don’t you miscount either.”

“You be hanged!” spat out Ginger. When things get beyond him he throws up the sponge altogether; he just goes to pieces. And as if to show that all things were equal to him, of his own free will he issued in addition half a pound of synthetic honey to each man.

To-day is wonderfully good. The mail has come, and almost every man has a few letters and papers. We stroll over to the meadow behind the billets. Kropp has the round lid of a margarine tub under his arm.

On the right side of the meadow a large common latrine has been built, a roofed and durable construction. But that is for recruits who as yet have not learned how to make the most of whatever comes their way. We want something better. Scattered about everywhere there are separate, individual boxes for the same purpose. They are square, neat boxes with wooden sides all round, and have unimpeachably satisfactory seats. On the sides are hand grips enabling one to shift them about.

We move three together in a ring and sit down comfortably. And it will be two hours before we get up again.

I well remember how embarrassed we were as recruits in barracks when we had to use the general latrine. There were no doors and twenty men sat side by side as in a railway carriage, so that they could be reviewed all at one glance, for soldiers must always be under supervision.

Since then we have learned better than to be shy about such trifling immodesties. In time things far worse than that came easy to us.

Here in the open air though, the business is entirely a pleasure. I no longer understand why we should always have shied at these things before. They are, in fact, just as natural as eating and drinking. We might perhaps have paid no particular attention to them had they not figured so large in our experience, nor been such novelties to our minds—to the old hands they had long been a mere matter of course.

The soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three-quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions, and they give an intimate flavour to expressions of his greatest joy as well as of his deepest indignation. It is impossible to express oneself in any other way so clearly and pithily. Our families and our teachers will be shocked when we go home, but here it is the universal language.

Enforced publicity has in our eyes restored the character of complete innocence to all these things. More than that, they are so much a matter of course that their comfortable performance is fully as much enjoyed as the playing of a safe top running flush. Not for nothing was the word “latrine-rumour” invented; these places are the regimental gossip-shop and common-rooms.

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