According to Julie

Showing some gratitude

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Ingar has dedicated a blog post to me. He writes:

"Only a couple of weeks ago, you accused me of systematically supplying you with novels in which the protagonist inevitably dies. (I have to admit you have a point there. On the other hand, show some gratitude will you! After all, I introduced you to Remarque, didn’t I? You should probably read "Arch of Triumph" once more, now that you’re in Paris!)"

I haven’t written anything for my "Books according to Julie" category in a long time, so this is me showing some gratitude.

To be fair, my dad introduced me to Erich Maria Remarque when he lent me Three Comrades. I was 16, and to say that I could relate to any part of the story would be a lie. The phrase "I couldn’t put it down," didn’t really apply either, but I felt I had to finish it. I remember telling a friend over cappuccinos at Stockfleth’s that I had been reading this book, half a chapter at a time, for so long that I felt like the three comrades really were my friends – my very messed-up friends – and that not reading the book would be letting them down, leaving them stuck forever in their depressing story. Of course, this being a Remarque book, the story took a drastic turn for the worse towards the end, leaving me crying over the last chapter – and I loved it.

A year later, when we studied WW1 in History class, my teacher (Ingar) suggested we read All Quiet on the Western Front. I recognized the author’s name, and told Ingar I had read another Remarque book. Within a few weeks, Ingar had lent me the 1979 film of All Quiet on the Western Front, and a stack of novels and short story collections roughly half my height. 

This was the beginning of a phase that lasted until the end of high school. As if I were rebelling against all the science and math classes I was taking, I never left home without a novel. The earlier it had been printed and the more characters died, the better.

I lost patience with chemistry, dropped it and replaced it with advanced English. This gave me permission to read Hemingway in cafés when my classmates were in the lab. My friends reminded me that I could never become a doctor if I didn’t study chemistry – as if not becoming a doctor would be the end of the world, which for them was true. The year before, Ingar had stopped me in the hall with one of my History essays in his hand, and told me: "You’re not going to be a doctor are you? Don’t be a doctor. Write." I didn’t need him to tell me this, but it didn’t hurt.

So, yes, Ingar deserves some gratitude. If I had not read The Arch of Triumph, I probably would not have had my first drink of calvados. I would have spent far less time holding back tears in the school cafeteria (reading at school made me weird enough; I was not about to cry in public). And when I finally went to Paris just before high school graduation, spent all my money in one long weekend, wandered the streets without food or money and finally sold some chocolate to buy an RER ticket to Charles de Gaulle, the whole experience would have been much less romantic.

One thought on “Showing some gratitude

  1. But “Three comrades” is not depressing! The book is about friends that try to do something for each other in a time that certainly is depressing – as such I always have seen it as a book about hope.

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