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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 398 (next | show all)
Just re-read after a period of several decades (am I really that old?--yes I am). This is a true classic which I appreciate much more at my current stage of life. Vonnegut contains a bit of Twain, a bit of Voltaire, and a bit of PK Dick, yet with more sympathy for humanity. So it goes. That phrase rather annoyed me on my first reading, but I accept it now as a clever rhythmic/pausing device in V's prose. (There was a section near the end, though, where it was a little overused)
Vonnegut was very lucky not to get pegged into the SF slot. His books are really satires/commentaries on contemporary life. Time to re-read all. ( )
  crosbyp | Nov 14, 2015 |
I finally got to read this book I had heard so much about over the years. A very interesting piece of meta-fiction, it was written in 1969 by Vonnegut. I only saw two errors in the text, which is close to being perfectly written and edited. This puts in the class of A Clockwork Orange, 1984, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?, and The Catcher in the Rye. It meets a high standard for literary company. Slaughter-House Five is worth reading at the college level but probably not apt for high school kids. Palm Springs and San Pedro get a shout out. Within the book itself, the story is categorized an anti-war novel.
Vonnegut is very clever at writing but not a deep thinker, at least not here. Slaughter-House Five is interesting to me since it is an anti-Christian book (post-Christian). Since Billy Pilgrim does not discern a meaning for the deaths of so many in the Dresden firebombing 135,000 he comes to the conclusion is that there is none and there can never be a meaning. The reasons for the war in the first place were muddled and the officer corps behavior during the war was always suspect from a qualitative point of view. So Pilgrim (from Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress) must find meaning not in theology or even in religion. He turns to science fiction and the possibility of a fourth dimension which happens to be populated by aliens from Tralfamadore to provide a meaning for all the firebombed dead. The Brothers Karamazov is listed in passing as a guide to meaning but then left alone. In there, Dostoevsky comes to see the need for humanity to turn to the Christian God as a way to cope with humanity’s desire to take and destroy. Billy mentions Jesus of the scriptures and says that he was a model of mercy but the real lesson on the contrary was that killing people who were well connected was to be avoided. And so learning to be merciful was not the lesson learned, but to be cruel when it was advantageous and without reprisal. Billy says that on the space visitor’s planet, Darwin is found much more interesting than Jesus is.
So on my reading Slaughter-House Five is not anti-war but actually anti-Christian since there was no moral Christian response for the Dresden military action.
Billy views the world through his time travel lenses which are human in three dimensions and another fourth dimension which is where the space aliens live. Without a need for a religious God, the 4th dimension functions as an objective parallel platform to view what happens on planet earth. The space aliens are also illogically subject to the 4th dimension as humans are to the 3 dimensions. In essence this is what is called a finite regress that solves nothing in causality although it adds space aliens to the historical equation. The one value which Billy sought out was that the meaning for the Dresden bombing has been solved. Moral meaning is not needed and none can be found. Everything is always an accident in the sense of David Hume’s billiard balls striking each other on a table top. There are no causal relations necessary to explain emotional pain and loss. Disparate motions among humans are all that is required to explain human contact. Meaning can be attributed to human action but is always something imposed from outside the action itself. This is the meaning of the refrain for whenever someone dies in the book, “And so it goes.”
This sounds philosophical and it is but the story does not delve deeply into human motivation and desire for meaning in transcendence. The Christian idea is that the reality of war is human horror on a grand scale but meaningful in that all is not lost. Even when the Atomic bombs dropped on Japan each caused less numerical death than the Dresden firebombing, there was a peaceful treaty between the Allied and Axis powers to conclude the war. The Christian idea of progress and hope, and love are essential to living in a fallen world. Without those things we become pure materialists and ignore the spiritual core of our reason for being. This is not a serious book about thinking human thoughts. It is a funny tale about what happens when humans cannot find, nor look for the means of their own transcendence.
Billy has a son who becomes a Green Beret (US Army Special Forces) serving in Vietnam and the implication is that, as the US still wages war like in WWII, this son will also be involved in a Dresden-like massacre. Nothing more is said about this son as the book ends.
This author shows how in rejecting Christianity (monotheism) he/she will look for a way to achieve some peace of mind by seeing the world as either illusion or sheer accident. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Nov 10, 2015 |
This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. I got to read it in book club which meant I took actual notes, and basically I had a note for every single page. There are so many good lines in this book, and all the lines put together make something really really really amazing. Oh what I would do to be able to write like Kurt Vonnegut.

I can't say too much without ruining the whole plot. Just that the storytelling is amazing, the timeline is amazing, the characters are amazing, Kilgore Trout is REALLY amazing, etc. etc. etc. I will write an indepth review which will probably be spoiler-heavy. But there's just so much to think about in this book, that I'm looking forward to going back through all of my book club notes so I can comment on them all again.

Everyone should read this book. ( )
  BrynDahlquis | Oct 17, 2015 |
Celebrated author, notable, compelling, unpleasant book. It is a challenge and begs to be a study rather than a read. ( )
  jamespurcell | Oct 6, 2015 |
This was a strange one for me. I really felt I should like it, and Kurt Vonnegut's writing is fantastic - watching the war in reverse was fantastic - but I couldn't get into the story. So it goes. ( )
  liso | Sep 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 398 (next | show all)
It is a novel about war and what men do to each other in the name of holy causes.

Which is not to say it is anywhere near "The Naked and the Dead" or "From Here to Eternity." Vonnegut fights his wars with feathers rather than with jackhammers. "Slaughterhouse-Five" is funny, satirical, compelling, outrageous, fanciful, mordant, fecund and at the bottom-line, simply stoned-out-of-its-mind.
added by Shortride | editLos Angeles Times, Harlan Ellison (pay site) (Apr 20, 1969)
An agonizing, funny, profoundly rueful attempt by Vonnegut to handle in fable form his own memories of the strategically unnecessary Allied air raid on Dresden... few modern writers have borne witness against inhumanity with more humanity or humor.
added by jjlong | editTime (Apr 11, 1969)
"Slaughterhouse-Five" is an extraordinary success. It is a book we need to read, and to reread. It has the same virtues as Vonnegut's best previous work. It is funny, compassionate and wise. The humor in Vonnegut's fiction is what enables us to contemplate the horror that he finds in contemporary existence. It does not disguise the awful things perceived; it merely strengthens and comforts us to the point where such perception is bearable.
It sounds crazy. It sounds like a fantastic last-ditch effort to make sense of a lunatic universe. But there is so much more to this book. It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; and it works. But is also very Vonnegut, which mean you'll either love it, or push it back in the science-fiction corner.

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brioschi, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterman, AdrianIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrer, JoseNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaskari, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The cattle are lowing,
The Baby awakes.
But the little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes.
For Mary O'Hare and Gerhard Müller
First words
All this happened, more or less.
"Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."
"There was a a soft drink bottle on the windowsill. Its label boasted that it contained no nourishment whatsoever."
I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.
So it goes.

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (6)

Book description
[R.L. 6.0]
From the World War Two firebombing of Dresden to the distant planet called Tralfamadore, the reader follows Billy Pilgrim in his attempt to understand the natures of time and existence.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385333846, Paperback)

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.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you--Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters..." Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is 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 a unique poignancy--and humor.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:01 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Billy Pilgrim returns home from the Second World War only to be kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, who teach him that time is an eternal present.

» see all 16 descriptions

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