I took a break from my passion, Latin American literature, and read several works by Erich Maria Remarque, the non-war ones. I love those of his novels that deal with war and the consequences, all of them. They are enormously enriching, and more powerful deterrent than any that preaches against militarism and warmonging. I don’t exaggerate when I say that reading his novels in my early teens was a contributing factor not to join the military, making me the first male in my family not to put on a uniform. I’m glad for these novels’ existence, and wish that Remarque wrote more, though I know from his own comments that pressure from publishers forced him to abandon the subject.
Of all his non-war novels the most appealing for me is his first: The Dream Room (Die Traumbude). Partly autobiographical, it is nearest to the particular ambiance of his best works. Apart form all the existential questions raised by his characters it is also a story about an artist, a creator, which always draws me in. There’s something immensely pacifying to find that one is not alone, and whatever ups and downs of the creative process may be, others feel the same.
“Work does not take much of an artist’s time, on the contrary, it takes the least time. The idea, however, and its long maturing period is equally important. Creative work is divided into active and passive.” Erich Maria Remarque, in The Dream Room.