Remark, Erich Maria “Flotsam”

Love your neighbour as yourself

Essential book information

  • Author: Erich Maria Remark
  • Name of the book: Flotsam
  • 1939

Basic plot summary

A novel depicts two immigrants’ love story in the dawn of World War II and encounters with several other immigrants with their own stories.


Every book of Remark is like a slap on the face of what is called humanity. Kern meets Ruth in Vienna. After he gets arrested, she flees to Zurich while trying to protect her from getting hurt in a staged scuffle. They meet in Switzerland and end up in France with miraculously obtained tickets to Mexico’s next steamer. There is no joy, and no love triumph here – the escape of a few are paid for by the capture of many. Human life is simultaneously worthless and priceless. Love and friendship mean nothing and anything and even family ties do not mean anything in the cold face of ideologies and fear for your own lives.

My recommendation

I firmly believe Remark should be on the list of mandatory reading for schools, universities and colleges notwithstanding the field of studies and chosen specialisation. And our main takeaway should not be the criticism of specific regimes but the understanding of how very hypocritical beings we humans are. Knowing this might be the first step towards learning to be worthy of the “human “-ity part in what we proudly call ourselves.

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