In his diary, the young war casualty is rhapsodic about a few romantic evenings with a young woman named Lucia and the three hours during which they became lovers. Lucia, however, was engaged to another man, and Remarque, a veritable young Werther, both relishes and suffers from the impossibility of their situation. Ignoring Lucia's pleas to be left alone, Remarque insists that he may have escaped death thus far, but he will surely die in action as soon as he returns to the battlefield. When Lucia returns a letter Remarque wrote to her, his soul is mortally wounded. Only a few days later Remarque writes that he has "a new love interest." Apparently, the wound was not so deep after all. Like Remarque's war experience, his Liebesschmerz was a symptom rather than the cause of his suffering. The searching need to belong and to find a home lay deeper than his bittersweet love life or even his horrible experiences of the war. Lucia, we can assume, was so desirable not in spite of, but because of her unattainability. Only if she remained, like Lotte, beyond his reach, could she hold the promise of an ongoing quest for love and understanding. Remarque's search for unattainable women and a place to call home outlines a pattern that repeats itself again and again throughout his work and his life.
But he was not yet the Remarque the world would come to know. At best Erich Paul Remark was a beginning novelist who aspired to become a respected man of letters. He had written some poetry during the Dream Den days, but that was merely a response to the universal human affliction of adolescence. While in the hospital, he also composed a youthful autobiographical novel called Traumbude: Novel of an Artist, which was eventually published in 1920. At the time, however, world history was more pressing than literary ambitions. On 13 October 1918, a few days after meeting his "new love interest," he received news that peace was near. His response:
There is peace now! People are not exactly exultant about this. I guess one got used to [the war]. It was a cause of death just like other diseases. A bit worse than pulmonary tuberculosis--. I'm not really happy either-why, I don't know. I had reconciled myself to the thought of having to go into the field. Now I'm annoyed that there's nothing. Oh, who knows, perhaps it's not working out after all. On the other hand, I'm also looking forward to peacetime. And I also worry about it: everything so different, Fritz [Hörstemeier] dead, no real relationship with another human being-everything out of whack, displaced, broken-that's how one resumes a life one once left so serenely and happily. Lonely and torn.On 21 October, after hearing more news of the war, he writes: "the war will probably go on or really get started now. Just as well! One gets used to anything, after all." And four days later:
It is decided: on Saturday, the 26th, I am leaving. To the First Battalion a brief vacation, then into the field! Feelings? Partly I'm glad, partly indifferent, and a little bit sad. Too bad for the beautiful winter, which would have become quite stimulating what with concerts, the theater, bliss in my room and the new love constellation which rose far on the horizon, happiness, because I can leave this rather stuffy air behind and breathe freely again! I'm almost looking forward to being in the field again.Hardly the words of even a budding pacifist; rather, they express the confusion of a young man at the threshold of adulthood. It was the very confusion Remarque would get to know well in years to come.