On this day in 1953, an armistice between the US, China, and the two Koreas officially ends the Korean War. Since we’re still stuck in a protracted conflict in the Middle East and South Asia, we figured it was as good a time as any to discuss the books in the past century that spoke frankly about the horrors of war on the battlefield and in the air. After WWI, novels about wars became best sellers, as veterans became writers and began to attempt to make sense of what happened through the written word. Though we’re now in the era of spy thrillers and identity theft cases, it’s important to look back at the novels and memoirs that moved generations to rethink their past assumptions about war and conflict at home and abroad. When will we receive the books from the veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan? And what were the war books that influenced you, readers?
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Paul Bäumer, a young soldier, is the protagonist and narrator of this WWI-era novel that Remarque wrote in the late 1920s after he experienced the war firsthand while serving in Germany’s Reserve Guards. Supposedly there will be a film remake in 2013, with Daniel Radcliffe playing the German teenage soldier. In the introduction, Remarque wrote, “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.”