Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Happy New Year with Erich Maria Remarque and Three Comrades

What was it? New Year - new luck? New Year - new resolutions? I would say - New Year - a new blog and a new book!

I feel extremely guilty for abandoning reading and writing whatsoever for the past two months, but whoever said that when you go through a break-up or any sort of emotional breakdown, you find consolation in your most favorite activities, obviously never went through a break-up. Any form of social activity, movies, reading, or in other words any form of enjoyable act was totally foreign to me for the past few months. I dug into studying and feeling sorry for myself (God, I miss that time, it was awesome), of crying and looking into the mirror (and I actually look sort of pretty when I cry), and into eating tons of sweet stuff (one can totally see the result). Gladly, this period is over, I am back to my normal (weird?) self and I will prove it the only way I can - with a book.

Fourth book by Erich Maria Remarque I read. To be honest, it is going to be the last for quite a long time. Not that I do not enjoy Remarque and not that I in any way undermine his talent. It is just that he is too difficult and too overwhelming at some points.

Three Comrades doesn't deviate from Remarque's traditional style I already saw in The Black Obelisk, A Time to Love and a Time to Die, and The Night in Lisbon. Our disillusioned and depressed character is present again. Of course, Robert (or how they call him Robbie) has participated in WWI and now has to deal with the damages of post-war time in poor and collapsing Germany. He lives a somewhat lonely life, accompanied mostly by his two comrades from the war. Life is difficult, challenging, and depressing. Money is worthless, people are worthless, and love is fleeting and unstable. In that time of despair and loneliness, the only end to a suffering and the only source of enjoyment are the little things. Boring and predictable, you would say. Well, when you have nothing else to hold on, when you work for an auto-repair store, when you barely find money to eat and drink, and when love somehow eludes, you, you stick to your comrades and you attempt to enjoy life in every small aspect.

Until of course, you meet love. Love...I no longer wonder why we always search for love. Even if we have an amazing job, amazing friends, an amazing house, we always feel there something else to it. Well of course, books, movies, magazines, everything bombards us with the theory that a)if you don't find love you are incomplete and b)when you find love, everything else just fixes itself and/or your daily problems no longer matter. Robbie also meets love in the face of the young and fragile Patricia. Their relationship evolves slowly but unfortunately is predestined to a tragic end. At the end, though, which is better - to love but to lose or not to love at all. I would leave the choice to you.

Several images reappear in Remarque's novels making you feel somehow even closer to the writer. The war (well of course). The cemetery. The prostitutes. The comrades from the war. The fragile lady the main character falls in love with. The all-consuming love that goes beyond what the human mind can grasp. And the end of it. What all of this encompasses for me is a thing I am going to call Remarque's world. Definitely not optimistic but strikingly real, it describes life as it is. Ups and downs, friends and enemies, gains and losses, ultimately forming characters you can do nothing but admire.

Bottom line, I said almost nothing about the plot because it is frankly not important. What Three Comrades gives you is a feeling. A feeling of a devastation after a world war. A feeling of sorrow and hopelessness. A sorry feeling for all those poor souls who have to fight to survive. A feeling of a great friendship - one that goes beyond daily problems, one that prompts your best friend to sell his most precious item in order to help you, one that makes your friend commit a crime in order to be there for you. And of course love. In its realest, most purest form, where nothing is only roses and smiles, but where every day is a battle. At the end, are you the loser because you lost your loved one or the winner because you managed to love in a time where people are only able to hate?