Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Classics Club: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

(about the Classics Club)

Slaughterhouse Five, or the Children's Crusade: a Duty-Dance with Death
Kurt Vonnegut
published 1969

Vonnegut self-portrai
This was a reread for me, and I found it just as bizarre and incomprehensible and fantastic as I did the first time around.  I can't explain what makes it a 5 star read for me.  I know a lot of readers disagree--it appears to be a book one either loves or hates.

For those that haven't read it, Slaughterhouse Five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, "unstuck in time",  who lived an ordinary life except for witnessing the bombing of Dresden during WWII, and being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamador.  Like Billy, the narrative jumps from point to point in his life, never in the right order, always returning to his WWII experience.  It is full of philosophy--but does Vonnegut believe any of it, or is he just playing with the reader?

Vonnegut was himself, as prisoner in Slaughterhouse Five, a witness to that bombing.  Is he the intrusive narrator of the book, the one who says "that was me" and "I was there" about certain events?  That is one of the great questions the book poses, and, for me,  it gives an extra layer of enjoyment to the novel.

Despite the choppy narrative, the strange story, and the feeling that the reader is being played with, I find Slaughterhouse Five to be an engrossing, compelling, fascinating read.  I don't recommend it universally, though, as it's earthiness and weirdness will put off many readers.

Notable Passages, Ideas or Themes:
After every death, in the Tralfamadorian tradition: "So it goes".

Lots of repetitions of "And so on."

The profound: "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

No comments:

Post a Comment