Author: Laura Woods

Laura Woods is a poet from Ireland, currently working on her first collection. She can be contacted at
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A stylized portrait of Erich Maria Remarque, author of "The Way Back" and "All Quiet on the Western Front", sitting down holding a cane.

What Comes After: Reviewing Erich Maria Remarque’s “The Way Back”

I had never heard of The Way Back until relatively recently. An acquaintance mentioned that Erich Maria Remarque’s more famous wartime work, All Quiet on the Western Front, had a sequel (of sorts). It seems I’m not alone in that little ignorance, as The Way Back has been greatly overshadowed by its predecessor. While that’s a shame, since it’s an excellent novel in its own right, it’s somehow apt. War itself cannot be ignored – it carries a prurient thrill, no matter how pacifist a slant you put on it – but no such satisfaction can be gotten from its aftermath.

So it’s not surprising that this book has been ignored, just as the ex-soldiers it portrays are overlooked by the civilian world they return to. All Quiet on the Western Front begins with a dedication, to “a generation that was destroyed by the war –even those who survived the shelling”, and The Way B ack is a sequel insofar as it continues to unravel that thread. It is narrated by Ernst Birkholz, who is a kind of kindred spirit to the earlier novel’s Paul Baumer. One of the masses, yet a little too sensitive and observant to be really called an Everyman. […]

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A stylized shot of Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) and her father in Terrence Malick's "The New World".

Inner Terrains: Reviewing Terrence Malick’s “The New World”

Sometimes it occurs to me that many idioms are quite evocative when you consider their literal meaning, however dulled by usage they’ve become. How many times have you heard the New/Old World dichotomy being used to describe the Americas vs Europe? And how many times have you really felt the sentiment underpinning that phrase?

In Terrence Malick’s 2005 film, the title accrues resonances beyond being merely a stock phrase to describe America. We watch a ship glide towards land to the grandiose strains of Wagner’s Das Rheingold– we see the joy that alights on a chained man belowdecks as he glimpses the terrain through a porthole. All of this utterly evokes the dreamlike novelty that will lead the colonists to speak of this World as a place laden with promise. And yet, for all that the watcher is momentarily caught up in that rich sense of potential- this film is no sentimental paean to Manifest Destiny. You are not left to forget the immense subjectivity of the term “new” here, as the natives observe the approaching intruders. […]