All Not So Quiet on The Eastern Front – Does a 1929 novel offer a solution to North Korean menacings?

All Not So Quiet on The Eastern Front – Does a 1929 novel offer a solution to North Korean menacings?
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“Trump could take him.”


“Kim Jong-un”


“In a wrestling match, Trump has some connection to pro wrestling. But to be fair, he would adhere to Olympic rules for Greco-Roman.”


“A boxing match, yes boxing. Trump’s a boxing fan, a promoter, in way. He could jab away at North Korea’s supreme leader, and then finish him off in the second round; stand over him and taunt the way Muhammad Ali did when he was so globally dominant.”

“Are you…?”

“Mixed-martial arts. Just think of the pay-for-view. It would eclipse Mayweather-McGregor.”

“There certainly have been plenty of fighting words exchanged between Trump and Kim. But their words have ballistic consequences.”

“That’s why we have them square off in a ring, an Octagon – some cage, in some arena. Just the two of them.”

“I don’t think I want to see either one of them bared to just boxing trunks or some Spandex – the image is quite off-putting, don’t you think.”

“War is not pretty. The match, mano-a-mano, would be for the good of the world. All troops and ships stand down. All fingers move away from the nuclear buttons.”


The above is an approximation of a recent conversation I had with a former colleague, who taught English Comp and Lit courses in a community college. While retired from battles with state higher ed. bureaucrats and politicians who saw it as their duty to meddle in curriculum, he has not retired from his devotion to political discourse and “alt” thinking.

His notion about mano-a-mano comes from a brief passage in Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

An eighteen-year-old classmate of the novel’s narrator, both mired in the stench and goo of blood-soaked World War One battlegrounds and trenches, proposes that -

“A declaration of war should be a kind of popular festival with entrance-tickets, and bands, like a bull fight. Then, in the arena, the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing-drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out among themselves. Whoever survives, his country wins. That would be much simpler and more just than this arrangement.”

So, my former colleague’s suggestion is that Trump and Kim go at it – with their very own skin in the game. Literally.

My irony (or whatever it might be thought of) is that I am about to uproot my Eastern Seaboard self, to join my son and daughter-in-law, and their newborn, in Los Angeles; to join them in one of Kim Jong-un’s imagined target areas.

I will leave behind sixty-some years of scraping ice off windshields, hazarding wintry-mix, bearing up against wind-chill factors and the risks of no-wheel-drive. I will leave behind road-way and underfoot challenges for the delights of being an on-the-scene in-person crawling-on-the-floor doting granpa.

In trade, edging into my thoughts of granpa delights, are the horrors of a nuclear blast – its vaporizings, it fires, its percussions, and its fallout – as brought to life for me in John Hersey’s Hiroshima and in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.

In a follow-up conversation with that same former teaching colleague, I spoke of these apprehensions and my anxiety about North Korean nukes. He counseled –

“You’re going to be a California voter, tell that Senator Feinstein and what’s her name, the new senator, who badgers and argues with those offering testimony, and that Adam Schiff on the so-called Intelligence Committee, and that Maxine Waters – tell them to give the Russian thing a rest.”

“That’s what you want me to do?”

“You’re a registered Dem, aren’t you? That gives you standing. You’re soon to be a bona fide tax-paying voting-booth constituent.”

“Real clout.”

“Yes, tell them what is needed is collusion. And back-channels, side-channels, subterranean channels. Tell them that now, more than ever, collusion with China and Russia may be the way out – with a regime-change in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

“But Trump has declared that we aren’t going for regime change – in Afghanistan, anyway.”

“Of course, of course, but perhaps a regime shift – taking down a few statues of Kim and his ancestors, just for a start. See what happens.”

“A figurative toppling.”

“Followed by the real deal: A regime shift, facilitated by a kind of, well, you know, a kind of dynastic impeachment.”

“Like Kim being body-slammed and hammer-locked into submission by Trump, in an MMA bout; with Kim slapping the mat to give up?”

“North Korea’s Supreme People's Assembly would deliver the coup de grâce.”

“That’s probably the kind of coup Erich Maria Remarque had in mind.”

“Probably, but then his writings were banned and publicly burned by the Nazis… Too much truth to power.”

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