The hospitals described by German novelist Erich Maria Remarque in his internationally best-selling All Quiet on the Western Front of 1929 are literally a stage on which to produce the spectacle of war’s material destructiveness: ‘the damaged limb had been hoisted up into the air on a kind of gallows: underneath the wound itself there is a dish for the pus to drip into’ (Remarque, 185). But the theatre of atrocity is played out only before those who are party to the killing; families know nothing of what has become of their sons. Remarque’s soldiers are mute bodies, reduced to their digestive systems and drilled as killing machines. They adapt to war by disowning their humanity; pressing themselves into the earth for cover, it is as if they were reversing evolution.
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