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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words cannot do it justice.
It is a crime that Remarque is only widely known for All Quiet on the Western Front in America. Not that that's a bad book or anything; it's one of the best books of all time. I like it very much indeed. But the fact is that Remarque never wrote a bad book, and that he wrote a great many books after Western Front. All of them are worth reading. Black Obelisk, A Life for a...
Published on May 3, 2002 by Angry Mofo

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bad Translation of a Marvelous Book
Without a doubt, "Three Comrades" is the saddest story I have ever read and one of the most beautiful. This novel is vastly under-rated. It should be on every "classics" list of great fiction. There is not a rating category high enough for it.

Many lovely pictures emerge page after page -- of Berlin in the late 1920's. Take page 129 as a small example: "We...
Published on September 14, 2008 by David Island


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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words cannot do it justice., May 3, 2002
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
It is a crime that Remarque is only widely known for All Quiet on the Western Front in America. Not that that's a bad book or anything; it's one of the best books of all time. I like it very much indeed. But the fact is that Remarque never wrote a bad book, and that he wrote a great many books after Western Front. All of them are worth reading. Black Obelisk, A Life for a Life, A Time to Live and a Time to Die, Shadows in Paradise...all of them. But above all, there is Three Comrades, very much my favourite book of all time. Have you read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises? What about Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby? Those are always the books one names when talking about literature of the Lost Generation. And they're great books too. But why isn't Three Comrades ever mentioned? It is a mystery!
Three Comrades takes place in Weimar Germany. We see hints of Hitler's rise to power. They help us picture said rise, even if they don't explain it. But the book isn't about politics - like The Sun Also Rises, it's about genuine people caught trying to find love, grace and dignity in a world increasingly devoid of all three. And they succeed, finding strength in love and friendship. And that's what this book is about - human friendship and human love, the two most important and beautiful aspects of life. The works of Remarque always feature an odd dichotomy - a sort of clash between a Romantic, highly idealized worldview and grim, bland, prosaic reality. It is this that makes his works so great - the promise that it's possible for the former to exist surrounded by the latter, hard though it may be. It is this that also allows Remarque to see the humanity present in any individual, no matter how debased or outcast (witness his attitude towards the prostitutes). It is this that makes Pat and Robert's romance the sweetest and most believable one in any book I've read. It is this, all in all, that made me genuinely sad, not only at the ending, but at having to leave the world and the people Remarque created. And no higher praise is possible.
My words can't do it any justice, so I won't go into further detail; you'll just have to read it. Hey, Mr. Publisher: how about releasing a new edition that's priced a little lower so people will actually want to buy a great book? Is that so much to ask?
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bad Translation of a Marvelous Book, September 14, 2008
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This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
Without a doubt, "Three Comrades" is the saddest story I have ever read and one of the most beautiful. This novel is vastly under-rated. It should be on every "classics" list of great fiction. There is not a rating category high enough for it.

Many lovely pictures emerge page after page -- of Berlin in the late 1920's. Take page 129 as a small example: "We walked on. Then we came to the graveyard. The trees rustled, their tops were no longer visible. As the mist continued to thicken the fairy light began. May bugs came reeling drunk out of the limes and buzzed heavily against the wet panes of the street lamps. The mist transformed everything, lifted it up and bore it away, the hotel opposite was already afloat like an ocean liner with lighted cabins on the black mirror of the asphalt, the grey shadow of the church behind it became a ghostly sailing-ship with tall masts, lost in the grey-red light; and now the houses, like a long line of barges, came adrift and began to move."

The characters are remarkable, and their stories are heart-breaking, while at once ringing with humor and pathos. Some episodes are hilarious; others make you cry unabashedly.

Three Comrades is a love story - no it's several love stories. One is of Robby and Pat (yes, unusual names for a story about young Germans). Another is among the abiding friendships and devotion between the three young men, their triumphs and travails, as the deteriorating social structure of pre-Hitler Germany crumbles around their feet, ruining their lives. The final love story is the heart-warming thread of true care and care-taking shown by the wider circle of the gloriously depicted players in this story, some sad and forlorn, others happy-go-lucky and still others greedy and vile. The mix is, of course, sensational, real and vivid. Every single character speaks with clarity in his or her own voice.

The story itself (once you pass through the first 40 pages) is simply compelling. You sense quickly the doom that is bound to come; you know that some will die; you know that tragedy will eventually win. You know all of this, and it does not matter. You cheer and root for these young people. You want them to live and thrive. You hope against hope that everything will be all right. You laugh, cry and exult with them. And in the end you are moved in your soul by their plight.

The story is - in a word - sensational. As to the fate of the characters, page 375: "'No,' said I, `I don't want to betray anything. But I do want that not everything we touch should always go to pieces.'" On the German social order, page 402: "'...They don't want politics at all. They want substitute religion.' He looked around. 'Of course. They want to believe in something again - in what, it doesn't matter. That's why they are so fanatical, too, of course.'"

You will laugh and you will cry and you will be unable to put this book down or stop yourself from thinking about these people long after you finish it.

While it might help, you need not read "All Quiet on the Western Front" first. Three Comrades stands on its own merits.

Now, why did I not give this book a 5 star rating, one that it clearly deserves and that most reviewers correctly award to it? It is because of the translation by A. W. Wheen. The feeling that the characters in this story are German and that the story takes place in Germany in the late 1920's is completely lost by the "over-the-top," slangy 100% British translation. This is not a British movie about Germans. This is a German language novel in need of a good English language translation. But, the way these people talk --- via this translation --- completely neutralizes their German-ness. The story could be in Southampton, or even Denver for that matter. I grew tired of the colloquial British-isms. Why not keep some of the German language --- un-translated? Except for an occasional "Ach!" we are forced to read this story in rather low-level British English --- a complete travesty. I don't want to see the word "lorry" or the word "kerb" or "tyres" or the phrase "...knocked the car down to us" in this story. Such a translation is an insult to the book, the author, and the historical value of the tale.

I implore the publishers to consider commissioning and publishing a sensible American English translation of this marvelous book, while at the same time keeping the tone, feeling and ethos of the German language, the German sensibilities and its very German setting. I detested reading what may have been an intentional de-Germanization of this glorious book by virtue of this horrible British translation.

Thus, it is because of the translation alone, not its literary value, that I decided to rate the book a mere 3. On its merits, the book is a 5++. But, alas, a translated book is only as good as the translation. Remarque deserves better.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings to life Weimar Germany., May 5, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
This is perhaps the most poignant of Remarque's novels. Much like Remarque's other works, it is told from a first person point of view, adding a powerful realism and humanity to the story. Three Comrades follows the story of three World War I veterans and how they survive in Weimar Germany. Robert, Otto, and Gottfried, own an auto repair shop and constantly have to scrape about for funds to stay in business. When Robert meets a mysterious young woman the story catapults into a love story as only Remarque can tell one--with great sympathy and insight into the tragic side of human existence. Using parts of his own life as a template, Remarque masterfully tells the story of Robert and Pat causing the reader to laugh and to cry with the rise and fall of the characters' dreams. Written in 1937, this book is not only a wonderful story, but an insight into the conditions that spawned the rise of the Third Reich. If you like this novel, then definitly read the Black Obelisk.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All novels are similar, but each one is unique, October 31, 2002
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This review is from: Three Comrades (Hardcover)
Three Comrades was the first book by Remarque that I've read and still I think of it as of his best novel. Under the impression from this one, without any delay I read 3 or 4 of his novels in a row and got a little dissapointed, as (it was already mentioned) many of his works have a lot in common. Later on I understood that one has to make intervals reading books by one author no matter how much you liked the first or the second one. That way the reader can appriciate the original writer's style, cherish and remember it. I don't remember any other book that made greater impression on me by depicting true human feelings and emotions.
Read it and you will be amazed to know that your own heart loves, misses, suffers, hates and cries together with "Three Comrades"' characters.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly For Remarque Lovers, October 24, 1999
By A Customer
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This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
Except for All Quiet On The Western Front and Spark Of Life, there is a strange sameness to all of Remarque's novels. It's as if he spent his life attempting to perfect a specific theme populated with a specific set of characters. Invariably, the main character is a life-torn man, outwardly bitter and cynical, yet emotionaly informed by a romantic core which allows him to navigate life with great sensitivity. Typically these men find themselves in relationships -- usually sweet, sometimes tempestuous -- with a woman who is doomed to die in either body or spirit.
Three Comrades is the first such book Remarque wrote, and sets the thematic stage for almost everything which followed. To those who have read any of his refugee novels, you will recognize the root characters of all his later work: they who survive life by day, philosophize over drinks at night, and eventually watch each other die for the sin of living in the 20th century. Anyone who knows and loves Remarque's novels will find old friends here, and be delighted with the reunion.
To those unfamiliar with the main body of Remarque's work, you would probably do better reading The Black Obelisk, Night in Lisbon, or Arch of Triumph for an introduction to Germany's Lost Generation. The type of characters he habitually portrays are less compelling here. Possibly it's because the characters are new to him in this novel. Possibly it's because there's less opportunity for them to shine: The 1928 Weimer Republic depicted here is a relatively comfortable period compared to the extremes of rabid inflation or spreading Nazism in his other books. Remarque is only at his best in a completely shattered world -- a vaguely restless one just doesn't suffice for his stories.
If Remarque had any great message, it was "people are to be loved, but humanity is always suspect." Although that point is not shrouded here, it is distracted beneath the fluff of an charmingly iffy love story during a time when, despite shootings in the streets, it could still be an issue of concern whether or not a man's necktie looked too ratty to wear on a date.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiring Book, October 24, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
I have just read this book for the second time in about five years and I again have been so moved by it, I need to write a brief note here. "Three Commrades" is as good and fulfilling on every account as any book I have ever read. It is well written, poetic and absorbing. It weaves itself deeply into the fabric of human existence with great skill and deceptive simplicity. There is nothing contrived and the reader must believe that Remarque himself lived what he wrote.
I recommend the reader first read "All Quiet On The Western Front", Remarque's more famous masterpiece. I believe that it is essential to lay the ground work for "Three Commrades" with "All Quiet", and to take the necessary time to absorb it's impact. "The Road Back" is the middle piece of this unofficial trilogy. I read it after my first read of "Three Commrades" and did not feel at a loss for reading it out of chronologic order. The book is very good however, and fits in perfectly with it's brothers.
Minor note: Remember that this book was written in 1930's German and translated into 1930's British English. Be patient in some places. Besides, it adds an even deeper patina to the writing.
Thanks for the interest.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a joy to read, and totally underrated, March 13, 2005
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
My colleagues who have reviewed Remarque favorably on these sites are totally correct: he is a remarkable writer who still resonates with contemporary readers in a manner that more esteemed German writers such as Mann and Goethe fail to. A cross between Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald, I have seldom spent more rewarding time reading. The combination of humor, philosophy, brilliant dialogue, unusual and touching romantic experience, war-weary and world weary articulations, social commentary, and perfect word craftsmenship (thanks to excellent translations of course), make him stand out among all European writers in my mind--but then again, I'm a more Modernist enthusiast. So far I love all of the novels I've read, but I tend to lean slightly towards The Black Obelisk with its absolutely profound and heart-rending romantic dilemma. I teach All Quiet at the university level, but I'm working on teaching A Time to LOve..., 3 Comrades, etc. BUT...can anybody tell me how in the freakin' world these books are out of print and how to do something about it?! It's a freakin' sacriledge!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read novel!, December 29, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
In his best (in my opinion) novel, Remarque tells an unforgettable story of love, friendship and loyalty in the chaotic post-WWI Germany. When the whole world seems to be going mad and there is nothing anymore to live for, one man realizes that love and friends are the only two things in this world worth living for, and dying for. This book is a tale of finding something so pure in the times when it seems that all the purity of this world has been wiped out from people's lives by the war, poverty, greed, jealosy, and constant nightmares. Staying true to one's feelings, not giving in and not giving up, remaining loyal at any cost and having the spirit to go on, are the main themes of this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Love Story, June 8, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
Remarque writes a great tragic love story, set in Germany prior to Hitler's ultimate rise to power. Much of the turmoil of pre-World War II Germany is left out and plays only a minor role, unlike Remarque's "The Black Obelisk". This first person narrative, starts off with Bob -- a thirty-year-old mechanic and his two friends. Together, they own an auto repair shop and gas station. The bleak economic conditions at the time, force them to be taxi drivers and used car sellers as well. The friends are pretty tight and spend their time drinking, auto racing and supporting one another.
Through a chance encounter, Patricia comes into Bob's life on day -- she is a mysterious and beautiful woman. Patricia and Bob eventually fall in love and much of the novel chronicles their adventures and their caring for one another. There are some several side jaunts that discuss Bob's relationships with his friends and acquaintances. The crux of the story, however, is that all is not well with Patricia and Bob's relationship with her is limited by time.
The story bordered on being excellent. I burned through the pages and had a hard time putting it down. Remarque's masterful dialog and narratives kept me captivated; some of them were poetic. I became attached to the characters and cared what happened to them, especially to Bob and Patricia. I was a bit spoiled on account that I had read Remarque's "Heaven has no Favorites," which has a very similar plot and ending. The last quarter of the book was almost duplicated from that story. Remarque's message is clear though: live life to the fullest and take advantage of every moment, good and bad.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's A Remarque You Won't Soon Forget, April 10, 2007
This review is from: Three Comrades: A Novel (Paperback)
Does anyone even remember this brilliant author anymore? What a shame, that the average American is made inescapably and constantly aware of the Paris Hiltons of the world while remaining completely unaware of this man and his literary genius.

This novel will touch you in some way, provided you have even a trace of the Milk of Human Kindness running through your veins. It is a story of the small troubles and small triumphs of insignificant men, at least as the world counts Significance. It is the story of men who no longer understand the world they live in, resorting instead to an unspoken Code of loyalty to one another, as Comrades ought to do. At the very least it will remind you of what integrity and quiet self-sacrifice are really all about. This one is abundantly worth your time.
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Three Comrades: A Novel
Three Comrades: A Novel by A. W. Wheen (Paperback - January 27, 1998)
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