Here are a couple of memorable passages:
“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will simply try to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”
“So I speak to him and say to him: ‘Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if you would be sensible too. But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; and now I see your wife and your face and your fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony--forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, omrade, and stand up--take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now.”
I have the utmost admiration for an author who can keep my interest with so little dialogue and absence of plot. The first-person voice locks us into the mind of the protagonist, which, while restricting us to his experiences, does at the same time lend intimate access to the depth and breadth of his feelings and perceptions, including some "flaws."
What is exceptional are the author's access to his feelings and his ability to express them. Most people would be psychologically numbed by such traumatic events. The vast majority of military combatants have either repressed their trauma or have no stomach for reliving them, certainly not well enough to write them down in a palatable fashion.
This is why this book stands out. The author, by some miracle, had the mental wherewithal to take trip after trip into his mental furnace and sit with his flaming pen long enough and often enough to create such a noble record. No one in his right mind would want to do this, but the proof is between the covers
Causes Monty Heying Supports