A self-professed poet, Ludwig soon senses a growing change in his fatherland, a brutality brought upon by inflation. When he falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Isabelle, Ludwig hopes he has found a soul who will offer him salvation--who will free him from his obsession to find meaning in a war-torn world. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure.
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From noon [Saturday] till Monday morning our currency is stable. Already the US dollar had become the international currency of exchange.
Next come the monuments of sandstone with inset plaques of marble, gray syenite, or black Swedish granite. Spouses and relatives of suicides are also frequent customers. Remarque occasionally gleans humor from this soul-crushing predicament. Ludwig himself lives from day to day. He loses his current girlfriend Erna to a profiteer but soon finds another named Gerda.
Relationships, as with every other aspect of life, accelerate to keep pace with inflation. Ultimately the Weimar Republic settles the bulk of its foreign debt punitively imposed by the Treaty of Versailles and establishes a new currency based on available commodities.
This action renders all existing bills worthless. Unfortunately, the general population hoards the new currency and abstains from making purchases, which leads to an equally catastrophic bout of deflation. Global financial observers consider the establishment of the Chinese exchange an earthshaking event. This would decrease demand for the greenback and boost U. The Obama administration effectively weaponized the dollar, using its position as reserve currency as a blunt instrument to bring Iran to the table when negotiating an end to its nuclear program.
Countries that wanted to buck the US on Iran oil purchases could just go to Shanghai. I said at the time that using the position of the dollar as the world reserve currency in what was basically economic warfare on Iran would certainly cause China, Russia and other powers to attempt to sidestep the dollar.
The notorious top one percent share much of the blame for our economic predicament. Ordinarily, cutting taxes on the people with the money to pay them and then running consistent big deficits would cause inflation and would vastly weaken a currency against other currencies. Once the dollar loses value, the market for US Treasury notes evaporates. No one wants to get stuck with worthless paper.
This is not the only challenge to the US economy. The United States was excluded. Trump also imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, further undermining our economic status internationally.
When—not if—this happens, US currency will lose much of its current value as central banks the world over shed their suddenly worthless greenbacks. Once the dollar loses traction, we will have nothing but bad paper to offer our creditors.
The result will be hyperinflation likely followed, once it has been stabilized, by an equally ruinous bout of deflation. Other than arms, the US produces next to nothing. What happens to a nation of consumers when their currency loses its value? But there is much more to be contemplated in The Black Obelisk. Remarque also examines the rise of fascism in Germany.
In early Weimar, as he describes it, the principal malefactors are not Nazi brownshirts but nationalists, first encountered in the novel at a beer hall, where they demand that patrons stand for the national anthem. They keep ordering the national anthem, and each time a number of people do not get up because it seems so silly.
Then with blazing eyes the brawlers descend on them, looking for a fight. Ludwig is hugely concerned by the plight of veterans. At an insane asylum where he plays the organ on holy days Dr. Grenades explode in these poor ears; the eyes reflect, just as they did four years ago, an incredulous horror. Arms and legs are missing. Next come the amputees on crutches. These are the strangely distorted silhouettes one sees so often—the straight crutches, with the twisted bodies hanging between them.
Then follow the blind and the one-eyed. Adolf Hitler Will Help You! This, Remarque implies, is how terrible things begin. Election statistics inform us that between thirty and forty percent of the electorate take a favorable view of the extreme right. In The Black Obelisk Ludwig and his boss, Georg Kroll, travel to a nearby village to witness the unveiling of a war memorial they are owed a commission for.
A Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor preside over the ceremony. The local rabbi has been banned, though two of the villagers who died heroically on the battlefield were Jews.
Later that day a man who flies the black, red and gold Weimar flag rather than the banned Imperial flag is thrown down a flight of stairs and stomped to death by a nationalist mob.
Georg Kroll sarcastically assures Ludwig that no one will be punished. They hold minorities, the weak, the elderly and the infirm in contempt. Anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the ascension, and the number of young black men shot and killed by the police continues to swell. This will only get worse as things move forward. Those in the liberal media are consoled by the antics of Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart and other comics who use humor to confront the menace of Trump.
I recall the words of the late British comic Peter Cook who pointed out that during Weimar, in the cabarets and cafes of Berlin, the funniest, sharpest and most biting political satire ever staged was on offer.
[PDF] The Black Obelisk Book by Erich Maria Remarque Free Download (448 pages)
This novel paints a portrait of Germany in the early s, a period marked by hyperinflation and rising nationalism. Ludwig, the protagonist , is in his mid twenties; just like most of his friends, he is a World War I veteran. Although aspiring to be a poet, he works for a friend, Georg, managing the office of a small tombstone company. He tries to earn some extra money as a private tutor to a son of a bookstore owner, and by playing the organ at the chapel of a local insane asylum. Thanks to this diversity of activities, Ludwig interacts with a wide cross-section of the German population of his town and the surrounding villages and we are allowed to witness those interactions. We see, for example, businessmen — some trying to stick to the old principles and going bankrupt, others speculating on stocks, exploiting the system and becoming rich in morally ambiguous ways.
The Black Obelisk