Erich Maria Remarque

[ri-mahrk; Ger. ruh-mahrk]

Erich Maria Remarque (Erich Paul Remark, 22 June 189825 September 1970) was a German author.


Erich Paul Remark was born in a working-class family in the German city of Osnabruck, the son of Peter Franz Remark (b. 14 June 1867, Kaiserswerth) and Anna Maria Remark, nee Stallknecht (b. 21 November 1871, Katernberg). He later took the middle name Maria from his mother. At the age of sixteen or seventeen he also made his first attempts at writing: essays, poems, and the beginnings of a novel that was finished later and published in 1920 as The Dream Room (Die Traumbude). He was conscripted into the army at the age of 18.

On 12 June, 1917 he was transferred to the Western Front, 2nd Company, Reserves, Field Depot of the 2nd Reserves Guards Division at Hem-Lenglet. On 26 June, he was stationed between Torhout and Houthulst, Trench Battalion Bethe (Name of commander), 2nd Company of the 15th Reserve Infantry Regiment. On 31 July he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck, and repatriated to an army hospital in Germany, where he spent the rest of the war.

After the war he changed his last name to Remarque, which had been the previous family name until his grandfather changed it in the 19th Century due to the German xenophobia of the time. He worked at a number of different jobs, including librarian, businessman, teacher, journalist and editor.

He married his first wife, the actress Ilse Jutta Zambona in 1925. In 1925 Erich Maria Remarque also made a second literary start with the story "Stationen am Horizont" (Stations on the Horizon), which was serialized in the sports journal for which Remarque was working but was never published in book form.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues) was written in a few months in 1927, but Remarque was not immediately able to find a publisher. The novel, published in 1929, described the utter cruelty of the war from the perspective of a twenty year-old soldier. A number of similar works followed; in simple, emotive language they described wartime and the postwar years.

In 1931, after finishing 'The Road Back (Der Weg zurück) Remarque left Germany. He bought a villa in Porto Ronco in Switzerland and lived both there and in France until 1939, when he left Europe for the United States of America with his wife and they became naturalized citizens of the United States in 1947.

In 1933, the Nazis banned and burned Remarque's works, and issued propaganda stating that he was a descendant of French Jews and that his real last name was Kramer, a Jewish-sounding name, his original name spelled backwards. This is still listed in some biographies despite the complete lack of evidence. Also despite clear evidence to the contrary, their assertion that he had never seen active service remains in some references. In 1943 the Nazis arrested his sister Elfriede, who had stayed behind in Germany with her husband and two children. After a short trial she was found guilty of 'undermining morality'. The verdict states verbatim that she is convicted, "as her brother is beyond our reach at this moment". Elfriede was decapitated with an axe on December 16, 1943.

Remarque's next novel, Three Comrades (Drei Kameraden) spans the years from the inflation of 1923 to the end of the decade. Remarque's fourth novel, Flotsam, appeared in a serial version in English translation in Collier's magazine in 1939, and Remarque spent another year revising the text for its book publication in 1941; the German version, Liebe deinen Nächsten, was published the same year. The novel Arch of Triumph, first published in 1945 in English translation and republished in German as Arc de Triumphe in 1946, was another instant best-seller and reached worldwide sales of nearly five million copies.

In 1948 he went back to Switzerland, where he spent the rest of his life. There was a gap of seven years--a long silence for Remarque--between Arch of Triumph and his next work, Der Funke Leben (translated as Spark of Life), which appeared both in German and in English in 1952. While he was writing Der Funke Leben Remarque was also working on a novel he called Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben (Time to Live and Time to Die). It was published first in English translation in 1954 with the not-quite-literal title A Time to Love and a Time to Die. In 1958, Douglas Sirk directed the film A Time to Love and a Time to Die in Germany, based on Remarque's novel A Time to Live and a Time to Die. Remarque makes a cameo appearance in this film in the role of the Professor.

In 1955 he wrote the screenplay for an Austrian movie, Der letzte Akt (The Last Act), about Hitler's final days in the bunker of the Chancellery in Berlin, which was based on the book Ten Days to Die (1950) by Michael A. Musmanno. In 1956 Remarque wrote a drama for the stage, Die letzte Station (The Last Station), which played successfully both in Germany and on Broadway; it was never published in German, but an English translation, Full Circle, appeared in 1974.

Die Nacht von Lissabon, published in 1963 and a year later in English as The Night in Lisbon, is the last work Remarque finished and a far better novel than its predecessor. The novel sold some 900,000 copies in Germany and was a modest best-seller abroad as well.

He married the Hollywood actress Paulette Goddard in 1958 and they remained married until his death in the hospital at Locarno on 25 September 1970 at the age of 72 . He is interred in the Ronco cemetery in Ronco, Ticino, Switzerland after a Catholic funeral, where Goddard is also interred. Goddard left a bequest of $20 million to New York University to fund an institute for European study which is named after Remarque. The first Director of The Remarque Institute was Professor Tony Judt.


Note: the dates are those of the first publications in a book form



  • Die lezte Station (play; title means The Last Station; first produced in 1956), adaptation by Peter Stone published as Full Circle, Harcourt, 1974.
  • Das unbekannte Werk: Fruhe Prosa, Werke aus dem Nachlass, Briefe und Tagebucher, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1998.
  • Heaven Has No Favorites, Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1998.
  • Also author of film script The Last Act, 1955.

'Media Adaptations: Three film adaptations of All Quiet on the Western Front have been produced, one of them with a screenplay by F. Scott Fitzgerald; an audio cassette edition of All Quiet on the Western Front was produced by Cram Cassettes, 1988.

His books have been translated into at least 58 languages.


Further reading

  • Mariana Parvanova, "... das Symbol der Ewigkeit ist der Kreis." Eine Untersuchung der Motive in den Romanen von Erich Maria Remarque. Tenea, Berlin, ISBN 3-86504-028-4 (in German)

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