Remarque made the first notes to the novel "Shadows in Paradise" back in July 1950. For many years, the writer returned to work on the plot, but it did not work out. During this time, he managed to write and publish many books, some of them were filmed in Hollywood. Remarque even played a role in the eponymous adaptation of the novel "The Time to Live and the Time to Die".
Three original versions of the text have been preserved. The working title of the manuscripts is "The Promised Land". The texts had different endings. Which of them the writer would have chosen if he had finished the work, we will never know. Remarque died in September 1970. The novel "Shadows in Paradise" was published by his widow in April 1971.
Droemer Knaur publisher has reduced and reworked the unfinished novel of Remarque, releasing it under the title "Shadows in Paradise". Later, in 1998, an unfinished version of the manuscript was published under the author's title – "The Promised Land".
The Country of Happiness
America is a country of happiness. And happiness is not in the ordinary sense, but in the form of a certain image, to which one should strive. In America, no one thinks about tomorrow, giving preference to joys of the current moment. Different people live there, to whom everything looks different.
Cultural isolation from the world made it possible to form a truly unique society that has educated itself at its discretion. But emigrants from warring Europe had nothing to do with it, fleeing not from the war itself, but from the fact that people have long ceased to be considered people. The world is collapsing, and somewhere beyond the ocean, there is a country that allows anyone to feel like a free human, which has forgotten horrors of wandering from one border to another, wanting only to find firm ground underfoot.
"Shadows in Paradise" meets a reader with the most recent step towards finding the promised land, when the horror of the past remains behind, and there will be hope for a peaceful future in the end.
The phenomenon of emigration was uncharacteristic for the countries of Western Europe. But with the coming of fascist totalitarianism to power, everything changed. So all works of Remarque, written during the period of emigration, are thoroughly imbued with romanticism, a thoughtful detachment and despair of a person forced to live away from home.
The story is conducted on behalf of Robert Ross. In Germany, he was a journalist, then he was lucky and got to the United States. Robert Ross follows the path of the majority of emigrants who fled to America. In the novel, there is nothing concrete, only shadows in paradise. There is no storyline. The entire narrative consists of a number of emigre stories. The protagonist first tries to learn English, get a job, then tries to become a man, a person, an individuality.
He is an idealized German, despising the Nazis, possessing an inquisitive mind and having no goals in life, lost long ago with illusions. Where can a man go, who is completely deprived of a family, who does not have anything that can come in handy in a new country? He does not speak English, so he is not destined to become the same journalist as he was in Germany.
It is needless to say that Remarque created an ideal American for the book, endowed with that grip of steel and unprincipledness, without which it is impossible to survive in a cruel world of commerce. And it is not the paintings that the protagonist has to deal with, but ancient Chinese statuettes, and he assesses them for the possibility of forgery and sets the final price. The industry of culture has become common practice – and Remark describes every point of the game on human emotions with pleasure.
The hero realizes how superficially Americans perceive what was happening on another continent. The world of show business has its clear framework for creating a successful product, with which you have to reckon if you do not want to drown. In its majority, the public needs entertainment: only in this way and in no other way. If something does not suit, then your product will not make a profit. Remarque reflects starting with the views of the protagonist, fixated on his own memories, having the desire to overcome them, looking at the world with an unambiguous glance that does not allow any objection.
Can one somehow overcome the feeling of humiliation in order to lose understanding of oneself as a person's shadow? In paradise, there are its own laws, when it is customary to smile in any unfavorable circumstances, and to get rid of the manifestations of old age at the first opportunity. It is difficult to understand who exactly looks at the world through rose-colored glasses – happy people who do not know troubles, or the protagonist, trying to stay away from the naivety of the environment.
Showing other heroes, Remarque studies the formation of emigrants in general, their attempts to return to normal life. Someone is capable of this, someone is not. And again, the same tragedy and hopelessness are here.
As we have already mentioned, there are no intricate intrigues, complex figurative sketches, or sharp turns of plot lines in the novel. Remarque closely watches all characters. Apparently, the author portrayed real people. He scrupulously and pedantically displays all details of the image when a reader first meets it.
The hero clearly knows that the war was not started by the Germans, but by the fascists. He is an excellent psychologist and has a strong character. But he is only a shadow in paradise, despite the fact that he manages to save his "I".
The title of the novel quite accurately denotes each of the characters. None of them is able to remain the same. They are copies of themselves, gloomy shadows of their past. The model with the prosaic name Natasha, who hides sadness and despair behind beautiful things and empty idle life. Kahn, a participant in the resistance in the past, harbors himself with vain hopes for a peaceful future that destroys him. Carmen, who easily and naturally feels in the new conditions. But this is only because she is stupid and shallow-minded.
Remarque conducts the main hero scattering tragic stories of the life of secondary characters. But it is this method that creates the necessary atmosphere for the work. Ross gives precise definitions to all characters which came out very real and vivid.
As for the stylistic coloring of the work, Remarque is ideal here. Plain composition and bright images create the whole work step-by-step.
In general, the novel is tragic, although sometimes light episodes appear. For example, Ross's trip to California. There is a sharp contrast between gloomy and dull New York and warm and sunny California. This moment is the key in the work. It is here where the main hero realizes that for America, the war is a game or a film: cruel but not real. Americans perceive everything superficially, without stopping for a long time on anything. This speed of life makes them cruel and indifferent.
Erich Maria Remarque is precise in details, which he pays special attention to. After reading the novel "Shadows in Paradise", you can learn a lot about the life of New York during the war. The surrounding reality is real and natural, but the presentation itself is easily perceived, and the text is not overloaded with descriptions and numerous enumerations. It is unlikely that these positive moments can be attributed to work of editors of the novel. It should be noted that all books of Remarque are precisely distinguished by German accuracy in the description of details, small characteristics and nuances.
It seems that the novel was not written for general publication. It is designed for a certain range of readers, precisely for those who are faced with the phenomenon of emigration. Nevertheless, everyone can find something special here. If only because Remarque never wrote for nothing.