I find it difficult to enjoy school assigned reading. Even when the book is a novel or adventure story. I’m always checking the time or glancing at my planner to make sure I’m still on track. Once in a very long while I find myself read away an hour effortlessly. I treasure those moments. Because during those periods of story immersion I know that I am learning and absorbing material.
This past week, I fell into the prose of Erich Maria Remarque and his engaging account of the German’s side of World War I in All Quiet on the Western Front. The book is less an argument for the German aggression and more a homage to the Lost Generation and the way that war shaped them.
In this passage, the main character, Paul, is on leave and is sitting in his room. But he is tormented by his memories of being at the front lines. What Remarque describes are the effects of Paul’s distress.
“I feel excited; but I do not want to be, for that is not right. I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urge that I used to feel when I turned to my books. The breath of desire that then arose from the coloured backs of the books, shall fill me again, melt the heavy, dead lump of lead that lies somewhere in me and waken again the impatience of the future, the quick joy in the world of thought, it shall bring back again the lost eagerness of my youth. I sit and wait.” –All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Remarque