The most famous novel for peace
In 1889, Bertha von Suttner published her novel Lay down your arms! The book is her best-known work. It was published in Dresden, but quickly became an internationally success. For a long time it was considered the most important work of pacifist literature. It has since been translated into 20 languages and in over 40 German-language editions.
You can read the full text of the novel on the website via https://www.projekt-gutenberg.org/suttner/waffenni/index.html einsehen. You can also listen to the novel as an audio book via https://librivox.org/die-waffen-nieder-by-bertha-von-suttner/
Here is how the book begins:
“When I was seventeen, I was quite a high-spirited person. I would probably be unaware of that today if it was not for the diaries I kept then. In them, the long ago raptures, the fleeting thoughts, the unique feelings have been immortalised and so I can now judge what exalted ideas lay in that stupid, pretty head.”
What is special about Bertha von Suttner’s novel?
What was it about this novel that so provoked the readership and made the author the most famous woman of her time? Why did she even come up with the idea of writing the novel and founding a pacificist society?
The catchy title Lay Down Your Arms! appeals to the fact that wars are inherently man-made and so all wars can be prevented by people, a core message of the book as wars are not natural disasters but rather came about as the result of decisions made by individuals.
The book is an extremely emotional novel. The novel dramatises the life of a woman whose life is destroyed by war, effectively making her a war-widow twice over. The book describes how family and friends suffered from devastation during and after war.
We have compiled four tasks around the book.
Start with the first one: Read a little bit into the book and get an overview.