Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut,Jr. Review

This was my first Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Little did I know that it is usually recommended for high schoolers. Nevertheless I really enjoyed it. Sometimes it is fun to read something a little different than you usually read.

by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
190 pages
Copyright 1969

Slaughterhouse-Five was a building that served as a German POW camp during World War II. Kurt Vonnegut was a prisoner there and witnessed the firebombing of Dresden. The long lasting impressions of this incident inspired him to write a fictional story about Billy Pilgrim’s experience as POW, mixing fiction with reality.

I think this novel is about the horrors of war, the sacrifice of young men who are still like children for the purpose of defending your country, and the helplessness of humans to direct their own destiny. The author accomplishes this in a jumble of events where Billy’s experiences and observations of war and encapturement are mixed with his mental time travel through his life. Billy’s time travel occurs after he was abducted by the aliens know as Tralfamidoreans on his daughter’s wedding night. He was transported to their planet for several years to be observed like an animal in a zoo. The Tralfamidoreans believe that life occurs in 4 dimensions and whereas you cannot change how it enfolds, you can visit any moment in your life as it is occurring. Death will not exist because you can always visit another part of your life at the same time.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a very enjoyable novel. The sadness and horrors of war are balanced with the absurdness of Billy’s postwar life and the Tralfamidorean influence. Two things in this book have really made an impression on me. First was the terrifying reference stating “the candles and soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the state”. This made a terrible impression on me and I really hope it is a myth. Second was Vonnegut’s repetitive “and so it goes” statement whenever someone or something dies. I like that phrase and now find myself using it quite often. This was my first Kurt Vonnegut novel and I can’t wait to read another.

Other books by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.:

Breakfast of Champions
Cat’s Cradle
Player Piano
The Sirens of Titan
God bless You Mr. Rosewater
Hocus Pocus
Mother Night
Deadeye Dick

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