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The Idiocy of War
...every expression of life must serve only the preservation of existence, and is absolutely focused on that. All else is banished... in the quiet hours when the puzzling reflection of former days like a blurred mirror, projects beyond me the figure of my present existence, I often sit over against myself, as before a stranger, and wonder how the unnamable active principle that calls itself to life has adapted itself even to this form... life is simply one continual watch against the menace of death;--it has transformed us into unthinking animals in order to give us the weapon of instinct--it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror, which would overwhelm us if we had clear, conscious thought... we are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out. Then the muffled roar of the battle becomes a ring that encircles us, we creep in upon ourselves, and with big eyes stare into the night.
...if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless and without hope. We will not be able to find our way any more. And men will not understand us--for the generation that grew up before us, though it has passed these years with us already had a home and a calling; now it will return to its old occupations, and the war will be forgotten--and the generations that grew up after us will be strange to us and push us aside. We will be superfluous even to ourselves...
Excerpts from the novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque
Posted September 18, 2004
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