Slaughterhouse Five

I never expected that this would become a funny read. Countless chuckles, smiles, and pages later, I thought this novel deserved its status as one of the leading anti war literature of all time. For those who seek the humanist view of war and its folly, this is a recommended text.

This is so far my best Vonnegut Jr read after The Sirens of Titan five years ago and last year, his fiction anthology Armageddon in Restrospect where the author openly declared his distaste for war. The main question of the novel is this: Was it really necessary to bomb Dresden in February 13, 1945 and keep it a secret many years after bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Vonnegut retells his own story as a Prisoner of War in Dresden in a playful but biting way for the main character Billy Pilgrim. Non accusatory but cautionary, narrating Billy Pilgrim's story is so easy to follow when the author tells it at the same tone as your grandfather did in retelling war exploits and misadventures during the second World War. I look at this novel as essentially an autobiography disguised as a postmodern novel, sans the sci fi elements of time and space travel as the magic of this book comes naturally from the author's unlimited, black humor-flavored humanism.

The first chapter is a very good chapter, the author clearly explains why the tribute to Mary O'Hare and why it's subtitled "The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death." This novel never runs out of funny and sarcastic scenes, as much as references to other books a bibliophile might need for further experience. They are the following:

"The Destruction of Dresden" by David Irving
"Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay
"Words for the Wind" by Theodore Roethke
"Celine and His Vision" by Erika Ostrovsky
"Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann
"The Execution of Private Slovik" by William Bradford Huie
"The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane
"The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

And then there are the "fictional" novels by a fictional author Kilgore Trout:
"Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension"
"The Gospel From Outer Space"
"The Big Board"

Contrary to popular belief, Kilgore Trout is not an allusion of Kurt Vonnegut, but of his colleague in sci fi community Theodore Sturgeon. The author admitted this after Sturgeon died in 1985. But Kilgore Trout's struggles as a sci fi author almost mirrors that of Vonnegut than Sturgeon's making the readers think that Trout may be an indirect or rather partial allusion of the author himself.

I can see this novel as a classic man's book, given the writing style very easy to understand and free from flowery and post-industrial invented words of the postmodernist. Vonnegut writes in a simplistic language, his narrative is short but effective and hits the bull'seye. This is pobably the main reason why the book is highly regarded as a classic, a premium literature listed as one of the Top 100 Modern Books by Time Magazine.

This novel I believe, is certified Food for the Soul.

Category: Anti War, Science Fiction
Rating: 5 tablespoons of malt syrup

1 comment:

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