|Gas Mask: Iconic look of World War I|
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
by Erich Maria Remarque
I found All Quiet on the Western Front, the classic depiction of World War I from the perspective of a German front-line soldier, deeply compelling. I'm not alone- the Wikipedia page for this book is more detailed than any other I've seen for books written between 1900-1930. World War I really was the seminal event for many of the artistic attitudes that came to define 20th (and 21st century) art. Particularly the cynicism and disillusionment with larger ideals was an attitude that existed before World War I, but had nowhere near the same level of influence.
All Quiet on the Western Front is moving because it's written from the point of view of "the enemy" but totally destroys the idea that there was any difference between the soldiers on opposite sides of the first World War I. Reading both in translation, there is hardly any way to differentiate the French Under Fire from the German All Quiet on the Western Front.
Ninety years after the fact, reading a first-person depiction of a World War I trench battle featuring mortar shells and machine gun fire still brings chills down the spine of any reader. I defy anyone to read All Quiet on the Western Front and remain unmoved. Highly recommended