This book is one that comes back to me again and again. It's certainly not for everyone, and it was not what I expected when I first picked it up in high school. Instead of the war novel I thought I would read, I was thrust into something surreal and nonlinear, which jumped from an extra terrestrial zoo to the bleak German prison. The more I think about it, however, the more the reasons that this is hailed as an anti war classic become clear. In its nonlinear nature, the book captures the futility and the absurdity of war and provocatively parallels them with being an exhibit in a zoo on a distant planet. Unsurprisingly, the zoo experience is shown in a more positive light than the prison.
This is not my favorite Vonnegut (that honor belongs to the Sirens of Titan), but along with Sirens and Cat's Cradle this makes my top three. Readers who dislike SF or cannot handle nonlinear narration should stay away, but if these don't put you off and you haven't yet read this one, consider picking it up.
"Listen, Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time." Vonnegut's semi-autobiographical account of the firebombing of Dresden in WWII, Slaughterhouse-Five is acutely anti-war and darkly funny. It is a cross between reality and science fiction, employing both to explore the omnipresence of time as a character, rather than as something to be thought of only when we're running late and as the one thing that ties every person to every other person. This joint attachment to others makes everyone responsible, which is where Vonnegut's indictment of the massacre at Dresden makes its appearance. Overall, my favourite Vonnegut.
This book shows Vonnegut at his best, sliding back and forth through the time line of not only the main character, one Billy Pilgrim, but also through the time line of his own life. Having been present as a P.O.W. himself during the bombing of Dresden (during which he makes several cameo appearances) it is astonishing that Vonnegut can tell the tale so complacently and still fill it with such emotion. His descriptions of the tragedies of war and their correlation to everyday life on this planet are summed up neatly (and frequently) in a phrase that is synonymous with the man himself - "And so it goes."
"Slaughterhouse Five" is a very powerful book. It is the best put together, most literary valuable book that Kurt Vonnegut wrote. Commonly classified as an anti-war book which it is. Yet behind the anti war message, there is also a much bigger lessons to be learned from "Slaughterhouse Five" as it deals with universal themes like fate, free will, the illogical nature of humans and how life is only enjoyable with the unknown.
Slaughterhouse-Five was a thrilling read for me. As someone who is not a fan of historic war stories, Vonnegut does it in a style that is almost sci-fi and makes for a very interesting, humorous, vivid, and heart wrenching read.
The nonlinear storyline follows Bill Pilgrim has a poorly trained and misfitted soldier who bounces between the past and the present. Traveling in his mind(?) between the war in Dresden and to a time where he is kidnapped by aliens and made into an exhibit.
The book made me feel as if I truly followed Pilgrim to each of these places. I felt awkward with him, frightened, and grieved for him. The best part of the book is that Vonnegut includes himself & his alter ego into the story line, and it provides another element of intrigue for the reader.
I was very disappointed in this book. I had heard several good things about it and read high reviews; however, Slaughterhouse-Five failed to meet my expectations. I did not even waste my time finishing it.
I know Kurt Vonnegut has written several other books, but the way this book was written I would have guessed that he had never even written a paragraph before. Sentence flow and word choice was terrible! There are a lot of choppy sentence with annoying and unnecessary repetition. There is no clear plot; rather, the book seems to be a collection of small snippets that are difficult to piece together. And I could not come to terms with how many times the author felt the needs to say "and so on" and "so it goes".
Those qualities were so distracting that I could not find any interest in the actual content.
Blending reality and fantasy in this ping pong memory of war. Vonnegut is the master of telling you exactly what will happen but keep you guessing how. It is about the journey, not the destination. Metaphoric words of wisdom and nihilistic views of time are peppered throughout these passages. You could read this in a day or a year or never finish or all of those. So it goes.
This is a very excellent novel. It is satirical, but not irreverent, and in many ways more truthful about the absurdity of war than a historical war novel. One of my favorite books that I will surely read again.
To what degree this book is autobiographical is certainly debatable, but the incident at the center, the bombing of Dresden at the end of the Second World War, clearly inflicted a wound on the author which affected him for the remainder of his life. I don't want to rehash the content of the book, because there are so many reviews here which already have, so I'll just post my impressions. First, I like hybrid things, and this book certainly qualifies. It transgresses the boundaries of genre and any semblance of traditional narrative. To call it "postmodern" is an understatement: it's almost schizophrenic, at times reveling in its absurdity, but all the pieces work somehow. It's satire, but only just. Nor would I label science fiction in the traditional sense, although it certainly has some of those elements. What follows here is probably as garbled as the work it addresses, but here are my thoughts:
Vonnegut initially recounts his experience of informing an acquaintance that he was attempting to write an "anti-war book," whereupon the friend tells him that he "might as well write an anti-glacier book," so Vonnegut wrote an anti-war book that wasn't an overt anti-war book. It's impossible to describe what it's actually about, as its snapshots will say something different to just about everyone. It's more about what the reader gets out of it, because it is so genuinely thought-provoking. I often wonder how veterans of the great conflict dealt with the aftermath of serving in one of the most tragic periods of human history, as their experiences with PTSD are discussed much less than those of soldiers in later conflicts. Theirs are probably rather distinct from the experiences of the next generation of US soldiers fighting someone else's war, in Vietnam. There are undoubtedly similarities, but there must be many differences, too.
I've also often wondered if KV started writing because the war in Vietnam, just getting into full swing around the time he began publishing books, is what triggered his prolific activity. I certainly think that the world around him had something to do with his outlook. His war was once called "the war to end all wars," but the appalling absurdity of that statement by that time was clear, after the tentative armistice of the Korean War and the start of yet another conflict, which by that time wasn't being called a war at all by those in power. Current events clearly contributed significantly to his cynicism about his experiences in WWII. Seeing their sons going off to fight a war with dubious causes had to have a powerful impact on those who fought, in what most consider the only true kind of "just war," when clearly the one at the time he was writing was viewed by most Americans as anything but.
KV's characteristic dark humor seems to stem from a sense of futility, resignation, helplessness, and not least, cognizance of the true nature of the human condition. War is inevitable; might as well make jokes about it... When talking to Harrison Starr, the movie producer, who told him when he said he was writing a book about Dresden, which was an anti-war book, "You know what I say to people when I hear they're writing anti-war books? ... I say, 'why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?'" which KV acknowledged as well: "what he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that, too." Maybe anti-war books aren't as much anti-war as they are an expression of how we deal with the aftermath, on both the societal and human levels: shared insomnia with the now-district-attorney he calls in the middle of the night, who, of course, was up, while everyone else in the house was asleep. Things are relative: KV's father told him on one occasion, "you know, you never wrote a story with a villain in it." Because, aren't we all, in some sense or another?
Like Billy's story, Slaughterhouse-Five jumps around in time, giving little sense of time and space, which readers often report that they have difficulty connecting with. Of course. Indeed, his work in general seems more a collection of jigsaw puzzle pieces which you have to work to make sense of, and that's the point. Of course. The war stories are reminiscent of Hemingway, but with none of the latter's sense of the glory of combat and man's contesting with man.
In the end, I think that the most revealing aspect of the book is the sheer number of personal stories recounted by so many reviewers after reading this book, describing how it spoke to them when they read it after having asked relatives about their experiences or memories of the war, after the death of loved ones, on plane rides to and from funerals, and how profound it seemed in reminding them to remember the good times and to live in the moments which have the most joy and fulfillment, something we would all do well to keep in mind.
Here's the book... it is so short and jumbled and jangled... because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is except for the birds.
No art is possible without a dance with death...
Like so many Americans, she was trying to trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.
The doctors agreed: he was going crazy. They didn't think it had anything to do with the war. They were sure Billy was going to pieces because his father had thrown him into the deep end of the YMCA swimming pool when he was a little boy, and had taken him to the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Another time Billy heard Rosewater say to a psychiatrist: 'I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful NEW lies, or people just aren't going to want to go on living.'
i read this one on the heels of Cat's Cradle because it is so highly recommended, and because i had it on the shelf. This is one extremely good book that is written in a very unusual way. It took me a while to get into his mode of telling the story, but once i was in, i was all in. I think that for this reason, and because the deep topics dealt with, this book merits re-reading sometime soon, perhaps in the next year. This is a sobering yet zany story, that will have the reader thinking at every corner. I am now wondering if all of Mr. Vonnegut's novels are as unusual as these two i've recently read! great story.
Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes 'unstuck in time' after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden. Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch-22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it unique poignancy -- and humor.