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THE VICTIM OF LOVE (writers of the “lost generation”).

On 22 June 1898, in the old town of Osnabrück in the German Empire, the bookbinder Paul Remarque gave birth to a son. The boy’s name was Erich. There were always many books in the house, they replaced the baby’s toys, and the pictures in them captured his imagination. No wonder little Erich began to read and talk at the same time. He read everything in turn, but it was the short stories of Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann, the poetry of Proust and Goethe, and later the novels of Dostoyevsky that helped him understand the world of human passions. They became his teachers in life. The boy loved music, painting, collecting butterflies and stamps. We can say that these grains of his curiosity once gave rise to shoots and talents that blossomed into a wonderful bouquet.
Yes, everything begins with the curiosity of childhood, with those days when a child begins to communicate with his elders in their language. He asks a lot of questions and when he gets something like “Leave me alone! Go play in the sandbox…” – it just means that the parents have destroyed the child’s talent, and reduced him to a primitive level.

It is important to realize that at the age of 3, your baby is no longer a child, but a person. And you should treat him or her as one. This is how children are addressed in enlightened countries. From this age, parents should give their inquisitive child the right books, enjoy the magical sounds of classical music, travel with him, and have heartfelt conversations. And such a child will have dreams and talent.
Erich’s mum understood all this perfectly well. She sent her six-year-old son to church school, probably hoping that religious philosophy and morals would influence his thinking and make him love humanity in the world created by the Almighty. Well, or Higher Power, as you prefer. The whole further life of Erich Remarque confirmed the correctness of his mother’s decision.
The young man grew up a pacifist, loved people, and wanted to become a teacher. Therefore, he continued his studies at the Royal Seminary in Osnabrück. It was there that Erich had an unexpected meeting with his future!
At the seminary, he met Fritz Hörstemeier, who inspired the romantic and inquisitive young man to become a writer. Remarque became a member of the literary society “Circle of Dreams”, presented his first readings, and wrote and composed. His friends liked his works and he became popular among students.

In 1916, a great war was raging in Europe. Eighteen-year-old Remarque was drafted into the army and sent to the front. A year later he received several shrapnel wounds from an exploding shell and until the end of the war was in hospital. During this difficult time for Remarque, in September 1917, his mother, Anna-Maria, died. Mum was his only friend, and her death devastated Erich so much that he changed his middle name from Paul to Maria in memory of her. Now Mum would always be with him.

***

In the autumn of 1918, Remarque was discharged from the hospital and transferred to a reserve infantry battalion stationed in his hometown. He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class but refused to accept it. The war and everything that reminded him of it left him with heavy feelings.
Erich set up a studio in his father’s house where he practiced music, drawing, and writing. He tried teaching at the local school, but after a year he became disillusioned with the profession. He worked part-time as an accountant and organist in the hospital chapel. Before the war, he had dreamed of becoming a pianist, but a wound received at the front, including to the arm, ended his musical career. Energetic and well-built, he attracted the attention of girls. Eric realized that to succeed with them he had to dress beautifully and elegantly.
So he started giving piano lessons to earn pocket money to buy clothes. His love for music remained throughout his life, and later Remarque admitted that all his works were written under the influence of its magical sounds and that he chose the names of the heroes of his novels by their sound.

**

In post-war Germany there was devastation and anarchy, Germans were unemployed and destitute. Crime flourished, and greed and lust for profit reigned. Property and valuables were bought up cheaply; a sack of potatoes could be exchanged for a Rembrandt painting or a silver service from the family collection.
Observing all this, Remarque became an ironic cynic. For a while, he lived in a gypsy tabor and sold pieces of cloth on the streets to feed himself. He worked in a tombstone workshop. He wrote all sorts of nonsense – advertising texts, poems for comic books about the adventures of naked beauties, and invented recipes for alcoholic cocktails.

Remarque still found time for writing and in 1920 published his first work “Shelter of Dreams”. Rereading this novel, he marveled at how he had managed to put his innermost thoughts on paper. He was doubly amazed when he realized that he could never have put them into words in conversation! In those reflections, the aspiring writer Remarque unraveled the mystery of the craft. He realized that in the silence of the study, alone with his thoughts, scribbled scraps of paper can become a reflection of the soul.

Talent was beginning to blossom, but Remarque himself may not have realized it yet. Having seen a lot of grief and suffering, he was prone to pessimism:
“When you die, you become somehow unusually important, and while you live, no one cares about you …”
Sad romantic did not know that the birth of the genius of prose watching and smiling approvingly at his teachers Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann. Perhaps they delivered their assessments to Remarque and helped to realize that writing was his vocation.

*****

CITY LIFE.

In 1922, Remarque went to Hanover. There he got a job in the magazine “Echo Continental”, where for some time he wrote various articles. His work was also published in other magazines. Another of his novels “Gum” was written and published. Remarque was noticed, and one day the Berlin publisher of the magazine “Sport um Bild” offered him a job as an illustrator.

In 1925, the self-taught artist moved to Berlin. He soon had an affair with the daughter of the magazine’s publisher, but nothing came of it. The girl’s parents prevented the marriage, even though the handsome provincial got a place as editor. He was an unknown journalist from the province, just an employee in her father’s company. Between them, of course, there were feelings, but they were rejected by the girl’s parents. As Remarque later confessed: “True love does not tolerate strangers”.

Yes, their relationship was broken. Very often parents ruin their daughter’s life. Young people should learn from birds to fly away from their parents’ nests as soon as they grow wings. But it was probably not just the girl’s parents. She came from a wealthy family, spoilt with money and the attention of enviable suitors. Remarque, with his modest salary, could not satisfy her whims. He left his observations in his notes:
“Give a woman a little time to live a life you cannot provide for her, and you will undoubtedly lose her. She will try to find that life again, but with someone else who can do it forever.”

Remarque’s heart could not live long without love, and soon he married the dancer Ilse Jutta Zambone. This fragile girl with big eyes became the prototype of his literary heroine Patricia Holman in “The Three Comrades”. This novel, on which he began working in 1932, shook many young souls, and the name of the heroine received a magical appeal around the world.

Remarque put all his romanticism into the description of the image of his heroine, and few writers have described with such skill the touching relationship between three men and a girl. The fact that he did not meet his invented Patricia in real life, suggests that she was nothing more than his literary fantasy, the desired ideal of many men. It is possible to meet such a one by chance and consider this case a rare exception to the rule.
Having created an image, Erich unwittingly adjusted his Ilse under him. He was buying her expensive clothes, and himself began to dress elegantly, wearing a monocle. The couple often attended concerts, theatres, and fashionable restaurants. Society dictates conventions, and once Remarque even bought himself a baronial title from an impoverished aristocrat.

His novels “From the Times of Youth” and “Woman with Golden Eyes” were published in 1926. From work to work the author’s style developed, and new projects appeared. He wrote another novel – “Station on the Horizon.” One of the writer’s friends joked that this is a story about first-class carriages and beautiful women who are taken in them.
Remarque continued, as it is called, to improve the pen. Impressions of that period of life formed the basis of his great masterpieces. Soon they began to appear one after another.
The cult novel “On the Western Front without Change” (1929) was written in just 6 weeks and gained incredible success. In Germany, it sold out one and a half million copies. In it, the writer talked about the war as no one before him could. Remarque did not describe the battles, he wrote about how the bursting shells maimed the lives of young boys and buried their dreams and ideals. The novel was translated into 36 languages and reprinted forty times.

In 1931, Remarque was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature for this novel, but National Socialism was gaining strength in Germany, and the German Officers’ Union protested that the novel was an insult to the German army. Remarque was accused of left-wing views, began harassment in the press, and eventually the Nobel Committee rejected his candidacy.
The writer himself replied that he considered himself a militant pacifist, but had nothing to do with the left. He was a soldier, he fought, and he developed a personal, conscious aversion to war. In the same year, his novel “The Return” was published, in which Remarque continued this theme, describing the lives of yesterday’s schoolchildren returning from the war.

Persecution of the writer continued. In April 1932 his bank account was arrested and Remarque was accused of illegal banking operations. The Berlin court imposed a fine of 30,000 Reichsmarks “for illegal currency transactions.” Remarque quietly paid the fine to stop the hype surrounding his name, philosophically observing, “…everything that can be settled with money is cheaper…”.

***

ESCAPE.

His novel “On the Western Front Without Change” was made into a film of the same name, which won two Oscars. The royalties from the film and the book brought him a fortune. On the eve of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, a friend advised the writer to leave the country.
Erich moved to Switzerland, where on the advice of a friend in 1931 bought a villa on Lake Maggiore. The new home he called “Palace Remarque”. The house was elegantly furnished with antique Chinese and Egyptian bronzes, Venetian mirrors, and Persian carpets, as well as a magnificent collection of paintings by Renoir, Degas, and Van Gogh, miraculously brought from Germany. Remarque became a connoisseur of painting, having read many books on the history of art.

In 1933, just two months after Hitler became Chancellor, the World Jewish Conference, representing the interests of all the world’s Jews living in many countries, declared an economic boycott of Germany. The initiators of this boycott were the Rothschild bankers, who declared economic war on Germany on behalf of all the Jews of the world. This is an important key point, which explains why a hysteria of anti-Semitism, and persecution broke out in Germany, ending in tragedy for the entire Jewish people. By declaring economic war on Germany, the bankers made all Jews their accomplices and simply framed them.

The Nazi reaction to the boycott announcement was immediate. Julius Streichner, editor of the Nazi newspaper Sturmwerk, announced a national boycott of Jewish businesses. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels began a purge of national literature. On 10 March, a crowd of 40,000 watched the burning of 25,000 books in the square in front of the Berlin Opera House. Works by Marx, Freud, Kafka, and Einstein were burned.
Books by the pacifist Remarque were also burned. Propaganda criticized all of Remarque’s works, shouting that a true German should not have defeatist sentiments. Books were thrown into the fire with cries of “No to the scribblers who betrayed the heroes of the world war! Long live the education of young people in the spirit of true historicism! Remarque was labeled a traitor to his country and stripped of his German citizenship.

In Nazi Germany, Göring was the most loyal or, as they say today, tolerant of ethnic minorities member of the top leadership. Known as “Nazi Number 2,” the Reichsmarshal was considered Hitler’s official successor. A few weeks after Remarque left Germany, Göring visited a Berlin restaurant where Erich liked to go and asked the waiter to bring him a bottle of Calvados, the same one the disgraced writer liked to drink. The owner of the restaurant appeared and spread his hands: “Herr Reichsmarschall, the writer Remarque did not leave Germany until he had drunk all our stock of this drink..”.

Göring, like Remarque, fought in the First World War and perhaps the writer’s novels made an impression on him. Or maybe he, as a connoisseur and lover of works of art, was impressed by the writer’s similar hobby. Whatever it was, in 1935 Remarque received an offer from Goering to return to his homeland. The writer refused.

In 1936, his novel “Three Comrades” was published. Initially printed in English and Danish, the novel was published in German two years later. The writer immediately began work on the novel “Arc de Triomphe”, which he finished already living in America.
A year earlier Remarque met Marlene Dietrich, who became a famous Hollywood actress. They were acquainted back in Germany and now they had a stormy romance. The actress helped Remarque to get an American visa and in 1940 he moved to the United States. Many consider Marlene a prototype of the heroine of “Arc de Triomphe” – Joan Madou.

Back in 1938, while living in Switzerland, the writer did a noble deed. To help his ex-wife Ilse Jutta get out of Germany, he remarried her. In 1957 Remarque officially divorced her, paying $25 thousand, and assigned a lifetime monthly maintenance of $ 800.

***

HOLLYWOOD.

Remarque’s book “Love thy neighbor” was published in America. In Hollywood, the famous German writer enjoyed success with the stars of American cinema. But he loved his Marlene. She was an actress not only on stage. She teased Remarque and played with his emotions. She called him the most attractive man she had ever seen. Their long acquaintance grew into a passion. The turbulent affair continued without interruption until 1946. It ended when Dietrich in response to the writer’s proposal to bind her to him by the bonds of marriage cynically told him that recently had an abortion from a famous American actor. Remarque was shocked by her debauchery. To get rid of mental torment, he moved to New York.
“A woman must be either adored or abandoned. Everything else is a lie…”
He said this to others, but he couldn’t forget her himself. After breaking up with Marlene, he corresponded with her until he died in 1970.

In 1945 Remarque completed his novel “Arc de Triomphe”, and three years later the film of the same name was released. By this time Remarque had become an American citizen and decided to visit Europe. He had been away from home for 9 years. In his hometown of Osnabrück, Erich was met by his father and sister Erna. They told him of the death of his younger sister, Elfriede, who was arrested and executed in 1943 for anti-Hitler statements. During the war, his town was bombed 79 times by the Allies. The central part of the city was destroyed, he didn’t recognize his country lying in ruins, it was like that everywhere. The family drama and the sight of the destroyed country sent Remarque into such bouts of depression that he fled and returned to New York. There he began a new novel “Spark of Life”, which he dedicated to the memory of his dead sister.

In 1951, Remarque met the Hollywood actress Paulette Goddard in New York, the former wife of Charlie Chaplin. The new infatuation helped the writer to come to his senses after the separation from Marlene Dietrich and proved to be a cure for depression. Thanks to these changes, the writer was able to finish the novel “Spark of Life” and continued to write. His novel “A Time to Live and a Time to Die” was published in 1954.
During these years, Remarque worked on the script for the film “The Last Act”, which was released in 1955. In September 1956 the play “The Last Half-Station” was premiered at the Berlin Festival, and a month later his book “The Black Obelisk” was published. In 1959 – “Life on Loan” and in 1962 there was a separate edition of the novel “Night in Lisboa”.

Remarque and Paulette Goddard legitimized their relationship. His novel “A Time to Live and a Time to Die” was dedicated to his wife Paulette. Did his new wife make him happy? At least, she helped to console him. Marlene Dietrich had wounded him and he could not erase her from his memory: “The heart that has once merged with another will never again experience the same with the same force…”.
Paulette Godard was to play the leading role in the legendary epic “Gone with the Wind”, but at the last minute, the director chose Vivien Leigh.

***

All three of the great women in Remarque’s life, his two wives and Marlene Dietrich, resembled each other: big eyes and long, fluffy eyelashes, hair falling in curls over their shoulders, a graceful figure… He wrote a diagnosis to himself:
“Time does not heal. It does not heal wounds, it only covers them from above with a gauze bandage of new impressions and new sensations. Sometimes this bandage is torn off by something, and the wound bleeds again with pain…”.
When Remarque fell in love, he loved with all his heart. He was a victim of his love because the women to whom he gave his passion loved only themselves.

For a while, the writer enjoyed life in Hollywood, his financial affairs were going fine. He enjoyed the success of famous actresses, including the famous Greta Garbo. Remarque was flattered by popularity, but years later the glamour of film capital began to irritate him. People around him seemed to him fake and inordinately vain.
He could not completely free himself from memories and tried to forget with alcohol, but it was only a temporary therapy, and the past continued to deprive him of sleep. In his diary, he confessed that in his sober state, he could not communicate with people, even with himself.

In his novel “The Arc de Triomphe”, Remarque speaks ironically of love:
“How many words are invented for the simple, wild, cruel attraction of two human bodies to each other! And somewhere out there, high and high, there is a huge rainbow of feelings…to which no words are needed”.

The writer rightly pointed out that people have invented too many words to satisfy the wild, natural attraction of two bodies to each other. That’s why he added that above this attraction, which many people call love, real feelings are spread out like a rainbow, somewhere out there, unreachable high up in the sky. And not everyone can experience them, satisfied with carnal pleasures only.
The rainbow of emotions that the writer writes about can only reach those who understand the magical power of poetry and music, who can listen to the sounds of nature and have a refined soul. And if love is a rainbow, it flashes suddenly and disappears without a trace, together with the dried drops of tears. So it was in Remarque’s life.

***

RETURN TO EUROPE.

In 1958, Remarque returned to Switzerland, where he lived for the rest of his life. He and his wife spent the summer of 1963 in Naples, where Paulette was involved in the filming of “Indifferent”, based on the book by Alberto Moravio. It was there that Remarque suffered a stroke, but he pulled through. Two years later, during a trip with Paulette Goddard in Milan, his heart gave out again and he was hospitalized. His health continued to deteriorate.
In 1967, the German ambassador to Switzerland presented him with the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany. But Remarque never regained his German citizenship. At the same ceremony, he suffered another heart attack. In 1968, on his 70th birthday, the Swiss town of Ascona, where he lived, made him an honorary citizen.
Remarque and Paulette spent their last two winters in Rome.

In September 1970 he suffered another heart attack. Erich Maria Remarque died on 25 September 1970 at the age of 73. He is buried in the cemetery of Ronco, Switzerland. Paulette Goddard, who died twenty years later in 1990, is buried beside him. Remarque left $50,000 each to his first wife, Ilse Jutta, his sister, and the housekeeper who looked after him for many years in Ascona.
“The most terrible thing, brothers, is time. It is the moments we live but never possess. Smile! If you don’t laugh at fate, you’d better shoot yourself…”.

***

To understand life, a man must experience catastrophe, pain, poverty, and the nearness of death. Remarque wrote about the lost generation, which unfortunately has no place among people who have not survived the horrors of war. War in his novels is terrible, it breaks the will, the faith, and the destiny of man. And love – passionate, all-consuming and ever-present. Such love can heal the most terrible wounds inflicted by one human being on another.


***

“No,” he smiled sadly. Stay friends? Plant a little vegetable garden on the cooled lava of faded feelings? No, that’s not for you and me. That’s what happens after a little fling, and it’s pretty fake. Love is not tainted by friendship. The end is the end”.

***

No one is a stranger than someone you’ve loved in the past. The one who betrayed you by poisoning your heart with betrayal.

***

Only the unhappy know happiness. The happy man feels the joy of life like a mannequin: he only shows it, but it is not given to him. Light is not seen when it is already light. It is seen in darkness.

***

You can talk about happiness for five minutes at the most. There’s nothing to say except that you’re happy. And people talk about unhappiness all night long. A person is only truly happy when he pays the least attention to time and when he is not driven by fear.


Those who want to hold on lose. Those who are ready to let go with a smile are trying to hold on.


Remorse is the most useless thing in the world. You can’t take it back. Nothing can be undone. Otherwise, we’d all be saints. Life isn’t meant to make us perfect. Perfect people belong in museums.


And whatever happens to you, don’t take it personally. Few things in this world last.


Free is the man who has lost everything worth living for.


The reason was given to man to make him realize that he cannot live by reason alone.


Do you want to know what to do when you’ve done something wrong? The answer is never to ask for forgiveness. Don’t say anything. Send flowers. No letters. Just flowers. They cover everything. Even graves.

***

© Copyright: Walter Maria, 2021
Certificate of Publication No.221050901464

Published inEssay

4 Comments

  1. Катерина Катерина

    Не увидела в тексте подтверждения того, что Полетт тюбила только себя. Все возможно, что она любила Ремарка той самой радугой.
    Двадцать лет прожить после смерти любимого! Ах, Полетт… Я обязатено найду биографию этой женщины. Надеюсь она не попыталась заменить любовь суррогатом.
    Мы не можем быть счастливы чужой любовью, какой бы огромной она ни была. Только своей, той, которая пульсирует в сердце.
    После таких разрушительных отношений, которые у него были с Марлен, он, вероятно, попытался спрятаться от той боли, отогреться в чужих объятиях. Но бегство от одиночества не равно счастью.

    Любовь – единственный багаж, который мы можем взять на ту сторону. У него он был большой багаж. И истерзанное сердце…

    Вальтер, спасибо за интересную статью.
    ( Оставляю этот коммент для тестирования. Здесь не поставить лайк. :)) )

    • Катерина, спасибо за комментарий и чувства вашей души. Вы пожалуй правы в том, что Ремарк в этом последнем своем браке пытался спрятаться от боли, от нанесенных его сердцу ран. Полетт вероятно сумела дать ему то, что не удавалось всем его женщинам. У нее до Эриха был опыт жизни с Чарли Чаплином, и тот опыт многому ее научил, Чарли был любвеобилен, имел поклонниц, был еще тем ловеласом. А Эриху повезло с Полетт. Я пробовал четырежды, каждый брак длился пять лет. Но не повезло. Ведь брак это не совокупление и семейное поедание котлет на кухне. Многие именно этого и ищут. Мне приятно общение с такими умными читателями как Вы. Удачи Вам во всем!

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