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Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
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Mother Night (original 1961; edition 1999)

by Kurt Vonnegut (Author)

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6,221691,130 (4.1)174
Truth and justice are blurred when American spy Howard Campbell is tried in Israel as a Nazi war criminal after World War II.
Member:pangurb
Title:Mother Night
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut (Author)
Info:Dial Press Trade Paperback (1999), Edition: Reissue, 268 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:Eng, Original

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Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)

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» See also 174 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Read this book in a day and couldn't tell you the plot but it fucked me up for sure ( )
  ncharlt1 | Sep 28, 2020 |
I enjoyed the book, both in terms of content and style. I just didn't find myself to be "moved" by the story. The challenge of moral ambiguity was not as ambiguous as I had hoped. ( )
  kohrmanmj | Sep 21, 2020 |
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

When we first meet Howard W. Campbell, Jr it is 1961 and he is sat in an Israeli jail awaiting trial for war crimes. The book is written in the form of his confession. Campbell is an American who in the years between the two World Wars moved and lived in Germany where he achieved some success as a playwright, writing plays that will feature his actress wife, Helga.

Throughout the war Campbell working for the Nazi party as a radio propagandist making daily inflammatory racist broadcasts. But unknown to the Nazis and the wider world, he had also been recruited to serve as an American spy, hesitations and speech mannerisms within his broadcasts contained coded information for the Allies.

He is highly successful. The Nazis never suspect him as being anything other than totally loyal, so much so that towards the end of the war, his father-in-law, the Berlin chief of police, informs him: "I realized that almost all the ideas that I hold now, that make me unashamed of anything I may have felt or done as a Nazi, come not from Hitler, not from Goebbels, not from Himmler -- but from you." Similarly whilst the Americans save him from hanging at the end of the war and allow him to relocate in New York, they can never admit that such a vilified figure actually worked for them.

Campbell describes the next fifteen years, alone in a New York loft apartment, as a purgatory worse than hell. He makes no real effort to hide his identity, even using his real name, which eventually leads to his address becoming known both to Israeli agents who want to take him back to their country and try him and to a neo-fascist group who want to venerate him as a hero.

Rather than the war years the real focus of this book are the events leading up to Campbell's 'capture'. Vonnegut's aim appears to be to portray the battle of personal identity, the difference between how we see ourselves and how the outside world sees us. However, employing his customary over the top and at times hilarious satire, he also attacks American racial and religious extremists, many of whom unfortunately still seem to present today. Vonnegut doesn't try to condone the Nazis or their actions, insteads he condemns extremism in ALL it's many forms.

"There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on his side." ( )
  PilgrimJess | Sep 14, 2020 |
I think this replaces Sirens of Titan as my favorite of Vonnegut's novels that I have read. It is by far the most human of his works which to me makes it that much more powerful. He is just so good at writing how humans view each other in this book. How we only really know someone based on what they present to us and how based on what we show, people can become so blinded that they become inhuman to one another. This will certainly become a book I recommend to others. ( )
  prime261 | Jul 31, 2020 |
Heart-breakingly sad, utterly horrific; if funny, then savagely so. I can’t write about people writing about Nazis and WWII without feeling that I diminish the power of their work. If you read one thing about the period, this short novel would do just fine. I will leave it at that. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
夏樹, 池澤Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bevine, VictorNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, MarjattaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santalahti, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my own, my native land!"
Whose heart hath ne'er within him
burn'd
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand?
- Sir Walter Scott
Dedication
To Mata Hari
First words
This is the only story of mine whose morals I know. (Introduction)
My name is Howard W. Campbell, Jr.
Quotations
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.
Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Truth and justice are blurred when American spy Howard Campbell is tried in Israel as a Nazi war criminal after World War II.

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