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Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-five (original 1969; edition 1994)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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28,70737632 (4.14)1 / 666
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:New York, N.Y.: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, 1994.
Collections:Your library

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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

1960s (13)
Unread books (1,006)

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English (357)  Italian (5)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Czech (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (376)
Showing 1-5 of 357 (next | show all)
I remember it as a very experimental book. The style is refreshing, by times shows what can be done with language.
At the same time it's very realistic, based on war experiences. Humor used to cope with injustice I suppose.
Its dark satire makes it related to Céline and its wild fiction (read about the characters at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slaughterhouse-Five) to Burroughs (I only read parts of him, saw Naked Lunch)

I liked it a lot at the time, it's very teasing and entertaining, but I don't remember much of what it's about now. I'll have to reread it.

( )
  ToonC | Aug 19, 2014 |
The science fiction parts of the book do not hide the powerful anti-war message. ( )
  Oskar_Matzerath | Aug 17, 2014 |
I put this book on my Classics list because I've never read anything written by Vonnegut. How do I begin to describe this book? It's about war. It's about mental illness. Its about death. It's about aliens.

This story toggles back and forth between the character Billy Pilgrim's experience of World War II as a prisoner of war and forward to 1960 as his life as a family man and optometrist. As one of the few survivors of the Dresden fire Billy wants to write a book about the war but struggles how best to put the events on paper. He visits his war buddy to help him and his wife, rather appalled at the idea, tells him not to glorify the war. Billy promises not to and in doing so dedicates the book in her name.

While Billy lives his life in what seems like an average and normal way he then reveals he's been abducted by aliens which resemble upside down toilet plungers. When this happens he is able to see into the future and knows how and when he'll die. The aliens don't dwell on death as humans do because they are able to time travel within their life thus view death as rather mundane. Throughout the book the phrase "and so it goes" is repeated after every mention of death to emphasize this point. Once his concept of time changes and is no longer linear one might think this is his battle with post traumatic stress disorder.

This was a very bizarre and disjointed read as well as one outside my normal realm and liking, however, there is a reason why we read the Classics. There are important messages and themes to ponder, reflect upon and thus learn. I would recommend this book to someone looking for an interesting and thought-provoking read or to anyone studying the after effects of war.

This is book #4 read of my Classics Club Book Challenge.

How I acquired this book: Husband bought this book for me on Mother's Day on our visit to Moe's Books in Berkeley, California.
Shelf life: 3 months ( )
  missjomarch | Aug 13, 2014 |
Let me say right out that my initial enthusiasm for this book was tempered by the fact that it promptly put me in a deep blue funk for a week or two. It's a dark, pessimistic, yet rather funny book about a man who learns to become "unstuck in time."

Billy, the main character, is abducted by a race of aliens called Tralfamadorians, from the planet Tralfamadore. This race is very special because, although we humans can only see in three dimensions, the Tralfamadorians see in a fourth - time.

In fact, the idea that humans cannot freely "see" in time is so dumbfounding to the aliens that they compare our situation to that of a man who is locked in a box on a rail-car who looks at a mountain range through a very small viewport. While anyone else could simply view the mountains in all their splendor and from any angle, this man can only see one small isolated point at any given time, and is limited to a single plane of motion - back and forth.

Thus, freewill is an illusion - even to the Tralfamadorians. Everything that will ever happen has already happened, and everything that has ever happened is happening now. Incidentally, the aliens know how the universe will end - they destroy it when experimenting on a new type of starship engine. They agree that it's a little sad, but there's nothing they can do.

A good portion of the novel follows Billy's adventures (or, rather, memories of adventures, since he's on a track, remember?) back and forth through time, from his time in the army during World War II (in fact, the concentration camp he was kept in is the eponymous Schlachthof-fünf - Slaughterhouse-Five) to his post-military domestic life to his life on the public speaker circuit, right up to his death at the hands of an unknown gunman. After that, it's nothing but shades of purple.

Billy is, while a somewhat pathetic character, the only truly sane one in the novel. For example, in the military, he meets a cruel man who blames his accidental death on Billy. Both he and the rest of his troop (save for Billy) are only to eager to pretend that their tour of duty is just as romantic as in all the movies. Without spoiling too much, this leads to some pathetic, tragic, and ultimately rather funny scenes.

This is ultimately what put me in my aforementioned funk - everyone is pathetic, including the main character. Absolutely nothing matters because the illusion of freewill and higher purpose has been dropped like an old toy. Life is no longer enjoyable because it inevitably repeats itself in an endless loop. And even in spite (or perhaps because) of all of this, aggression abounds; the only good things, or even potential good things, are destroyed by war or childish anger or foolish pretense.

I eventually got out of my little case of the blues, but the impression is a lingering one. We should do more to combat the state of events portrayed in the novel, but we don't. Sometimes we can't. We're locked in our little box on our own rail-car and that pin-prick view of the mountain is our entire reality, and we can rarely, if ever, help it.

So it goes. ( )
  zhyatt | Aug 11, 2014 |
WARNING: Kurt Vonneguts' grim sarcastic humor isn't for everyone!

I, on the other hand, absolutely adore it. Slaughterhouse-Five is full of twists and turns and at many points you may not understand where the story is going, but the endgame is phenomenal. Due to the main character, Billy, becoming 'unstuck in time' the writing can become confusing as you are thrown back and forth between the past, present, and future. This book can become extremely dark and, despite being satirical, imposes the fact that many of the 'men' fighting in WWII were still inexperienced children (hence the book also being called 'The Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death'). As well as the effect the war had on the mentality of those who survived. ( )
  JayLyn001 | Aug 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 357 (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 (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall 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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:19 -0400)

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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.

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