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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
34,08552631 (4.11)1 / 853
  1. 362
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (kiwiflowa, Anonymous user)
  2. 220
    Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (seojen)
  3. 131
    Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (weener)
  4. 114
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (weener)
  5. 70
    Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (esswedl)
    esswedl: Both of these Vonnegut novels involve the question of free will (and both are great).
  6. 41
    Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (waitingtoderail)
  7. 53
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (andomck)
    andomck: Both books, besides having science fiction/magical realism elements, discuss bloody episodes of WWII from the point of view of everyday people.
  8. 31
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (JenMDB)
  9. 31
    Candide by Voltaire (SCPeterson)
    SCPeterson: Vonnegut is the Voltaire of our age of un-enlightenment.
  10. 20
    Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (CGlanovsky)
  11. 20
    Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg by Derek Swannson (jasbro)
  12. 10
    Payback by Gert Ledig (hvg)
  13. 10
    God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Elliot Rosewater, the main character of God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, appears in Slaughterhouse-Five. Also, they both feature books from fictional author Kilgore Trout.
  14. 21
    Kurt Vonnegut's crusade; or, How a postmodern harlequin preached a new kind of humanism by Todd F. Davis (pyrocow)
  15. 21
    Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (Ronoc)
  16. 10
    Tertium Organum by P. D. Ouspensky (sombrio)
  17. 00
    1968 by Joe Haldeman (snat)
  18. 11
    The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: War is not glorious and even survivors are not unscathed.
  19. 25
    Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (ateolf)

(see all 21 recommendations)

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Showing 1-5 of 502 (next | show all)
I really loved this book. I have friends who are rabid fans of Vonnegut, but the ideas and style he was said to write in just “turned me off,” and I never had much interest in trying him out. But I finally did, and am pleased at that. This is a satirical novel, written in a series of looping flashbacks, of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a man traumatized by WWII and life in general, who is abducted by space aliens, and learns that we live our lives over-and-over, and he transports to scenes of his past at seeming random. Vonnegut’s “voice” is rich, sarcastic, funny at times, and, more often, tragic. He explores many themes still relevant today, such as humanism, free will and choice, war, family, wealth, and fate. Nominated for several industry awards when written in 1970, and still powerful and fascinating today. ( )
1 vote Eric_J._Guignard | Jul 26, 2018 |
This book is weird, the narrator Billy Pilgrim is unreliable and there are so many genres mixed up, but all of this is what makes Slaughterhouse Five good. Kurt Vonnegut addresses war and the casual attitude towards it like its no big deal (especially by people who weren’t there) in a sarcastic manner. His writing style is to the point, not much detail, just the facts/points you need to know for the story to continue. The content is heavy but it reads light, that is remarkable to me. I look forward to reading more Kurt Vonnegut. ( )
1 vote wellreadcatlady | Jul 9, 2018 |
Slaughterhouse Five is a quirky, but sometimes chilling, account of Billy Pilgrim, a man who has witnessed and survived the horrors of the burning of Dresden during WWII. While he seems to have survived not only physically, but thrived in society in the aftermath, there is an emotional and mental toll that he is paying beneath the surface, and as part of this inner turmoil, he believes he has been abducted by aliens from Tralfamadore and that he travels in time.

The following conversation takes place between Billy and his Tralfamadorian captors:
”That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?” “Yes.” Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs embedded in it. “Well here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

Vonnegut seems to have concluded, himself, that “there is no why”, and he and Billy together step away from any idea that there is choice or free will operating in the universe, and gravitate toward the idea that everything that happens in life is random. Time and again, we are told of those who escape death inexplicably and those who die despite being better armed, better prepared, smarter, more careful or more deserving of survival. They often escape situations that are fraught with death, to die in situations that are ironically random.

The only solution seems to be to navigate life without trying to find too much meaning in anything, including death. He constantly echoes the phrase “so it goes” after every reference to death, as if to emphasize that in the end death is where everything goes and there is no fighting it, understanding it, or avoiding it.

"And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes. People aren't supposed to look back. I'm certainly not going to do it anymore."

In truth, Billy not only looks back, but does little else. He returns, over and over again, in what he describes as a kind of time travel, to relive and re-experience the horror that he has never really left behind. He is Lot’s wife, being turned to salt, or to stone, simply because he cannot unsee the things he has seen or make sense of the events that make up his own life.

There is a deep irony in Vonnegut’s selecting Pilgrim for the name of his protagonist. A pilgrim, by definition, is a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons; a worshiper, a devotee, a believer. What Billy has found is that there is nothing to believe in, nothing that is sacred, nothing that can save you...life and death are random, unselective, indiscriminate. Vonnegut tells us:

Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.

Slaughterhouse Five is an anti-war appeal, penned at the height of the Vietnam War, but it has a much wider reach than just that war or that time. It begs us, in an ironically lighthearted way, to question what life is about. How precious is it, how expendable? And what price does humanity pay for acts of carnage that are dismissed as inevitable parts of unavoidable conflicts? I found myself thinking about all the boys who never returned from Vietnam, and about those I knew who did return but were never the same, whose smiles were always a little wry, whose laughter carried a tint of sorrow. And then I found myself thinking about all the WWII veterans who never wanted to talk about their war, but found themselves constantly drawn back to the cemeteries of France or the memorials at Pearl Harbor. No one really survives a war unaltered.

( )
1 vote phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
I completely understand the five star ratings for this book. The overall message is powerful and the book is incredibly thought-provoking, drawing attention to the personal impact of war (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). That being said, ratings are subjective for most people, and my own criteria for ratings are fairly simplistic. 5s are favorites, books I want to own copies of, that I want near to me, that I want to reread, whose story makes such an impression that it becomes personal. 4s are great reads, I enjoy them and will recommend them but won’t necessarily have a desire to reread and they don’t leave a lasting impression on me. So for me, my rating is based off of my own personal preferences. I acknowledge that, in the case that I were teaching an AP lit class, this one would be loaded with days and days of analysis and dissection - there’s so much to talk about. For me personally, right now, it has not made a life-changing impression on me, though I suppose over time, time will tell. It was an interesting read, definitely original, and I do admire Vonnegut for tackling it. ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Jun 27, 2018 |
I can't say I loved this, but it got to me. I liked the pace and tone of it. I far preferred the war stories to the time travel or alien abduction parts, and it makes a powerful anti-war statement. I loved the characters, very vivid and even though I didn't like a single one of them I enjoyed how their stories played out. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 502 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, KurtAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brioschi, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterman, AdrianIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrer, JoseNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franco, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hens, GregorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaskari, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Владимир ФилиповTranslatorsecondary 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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (4)

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 14 descriptions

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