Since its outbreak, several political leaders compared the gestation of the COVID19 pandemic to a War: (Sanchez, Macron, Draghi). This argument (or better, declaration) has been particularly enforced in concomitance with the harshening of the first lockdown measures and since then repeated and reused - comparing medics to front-line defenders, masks to ammo, etc. In my paper, I will draw parallels with the real essence of front-line and trench warfare as testified in the short novel by E.M. Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929). With a vividness and tragedy that cost him exile, the author describes the unbearable conditions of living locked within trenches, the propaganda of war which required fighting “whatever the cost” (over our youngest); the feeling that war becomes the only existence that matters, taking over our actions and thoughts; the deep certainty that we will never return to normality once it is all “over” – whatever “normality” meant before. My argument is that if we want to live this pandemic as a War, we must thus take into consideration the true horror of its implications: what war indeed justifies and has justified, what it causes and changes. The long-term effects of such a condition, like the ones described in the novel, are becoming more and more evident.

Cite as

Szakolczai, J. 2021, '"Nothing new in the West": paralleling the war rhetoric and measures of the COVID-19 pandemic with the WW1 horrors described by Erich Maria Remarque', International Political Anthropology, 14(2), pp. 113-124. http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5721749

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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