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One of the best-known anti-war novels of the last century, Im Westen nichts Neues, a realistic and matter-of-fact account of the experiences of a young private soldier in the trenches during WWI that brought home to readers the horror and futility of modern warfare, had first appeared in instalments in Vossiche Zeitung in the previous year, but these 139 galley proofs, often browned and brittle, demonstrate the author’s compulsive attitude to revision.

They represent a further and previously unrecorded stage between the original autograph manuscript – itself only quite recently rediscovered and sold by Sotheby’s in December 1995 for £250,000 – and the corrected typescript held by the Fales Library at New York University.

The revisions that Remarque made between autograph manuscript and the first printing shifted the emphasis of the novel from the specific to the universal, avoiding precise detail of time and place and discarding semi-autobiographical material, and that process is continued in these galley proofs. More revisions were made in later years, sometimes as a result of readers’ comments, and the text found in modern editions is that of 1959, which incorporates the author’s final revisions.

All Quiet on the Western Front was one of the books burned publicly by the Nazis, and Remarque remained persona non grata in Germany for 50 years, living for some years in Switzerland and later emigrating to America, where he became a citizen in 1947 and married the film star Paulette Goddard before returning to live on Lake Maggiore until his death in 1970.