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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque

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A hardened young veteran from the First World War, Ludwig now works for a monument company, selling marble and stone marks to the survivors of deceased loved ones. Though ambivalent about his job, he suspects there's more to life than earning a living off other people's misfortunes.

A self-professed poet, Ludwig soon senses a growing change in his fatherland, a brutality brought upon by inflation. When he falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Isabelle, Ludwig hopes he has found a soul who will offer him salvation--who will free him from his obsession to find meaning in a war-torn world. But there comes a time in every man's life when he must choose to live--despite the prevailing threat of history horrifically repeating itself. . . .

Picked as my book group read by one of the members, I was looking forward to something great from this book.  The copy I got from the library was a lovely Hardback First Edition from 1957 and the only copy of the book in the Montgomery County Library system (I couldn't find the correct photo of it so the one above, from Amazon, will suffice).
It was originally written in German so I am always nervous about translated books. A poor translation can kill a great book.  In this case I thought the translation was superb and the writing flowed very well.  

Despite a dark topic, Hyperinflation in Germany between the two world wars, a ruined generation coming out of the First World war and the business of tombstones, it was actually quite humorous in places.  The characters were very well described and most of them came to life in a very easy, animated way.  There were some laugh out loud moments and some very poignant moments. 

However, the point of the story was lacking throughout.  It just seemed to meander through various happenings and locations while never quite getting to a point.  Perhaps this was the way life was in the upheaval and disorganization in Germany between the wars and that was the authors point!  I felt that he needed to get to a stronger conclusion by the end or that he could have split the book up into several smaller books with each of the separate story lines standing on their own.

To me this is a prime example of great writing, and that is the only reason I actually finished the book, but a weak storyline. I struggled with what star rating to give this book.  I thought 4 at first for the actual writing style and 2 for the storyline so I split the difference and gave it a 3. 

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