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Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel by Kurt…

Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel (original 1969; edition 1999)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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32,35249223 (4.12)1 / 815
Title:Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:Dial Press Trade Paperback (1999), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Recently added byprivate library, nburns, Wilwarin, Lindsaymadge, thisistasha, wmoskowi, RyanKristina, Catie_Elam, joehardy91
Legacy LibrariesAstrid Lindgren
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Showing 1-5 of 467 (next | show all)
Lots of dark humor here: Billy Pilgrim has been a Prisoner of War and time traveler, and claims to have been kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. And so on. Kind of trippy, yes, but Vonnegut makes it all work. He makes this point clear: war sucks. So it goes. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Apr 26, 2017 |
Simply speaking, Slaughterhouse-Five, widely regarded as an anti-war novel and the best work of American author Kurt Vonnegut, is a very good book. It was written in late sixties but the events and story of this novel still hold up. Slaughterhouse-Five is a little book but it manages to explore multiple philosophies.

Anti-War philosophy
The first chapter of this book clearly sets the expectation that this book is not going to be about the glorification of war or a war hero. The lead character, Billy Pilgrim, got drafted and was sent to the war front. He's not a hero, he's weak and somehow survives the war and his remaining life. Best I can describe him as the combination of two characters, weak and coward like Corporal Timothy Upham from the movie Saving Private Ryan (1998) and slow-witted, and lucky like Forrest Gump from movie Forrest Gump (1994). And other characters or the soldiers of war are also not some super heroes, they all are tired men stuck in that war.

Time-Travel philosophy
The narrative of this novel is non-linear. It has aliens and time travel, but it is done beautifully. Here, the non-linear narrative reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude, but Slaughterhouse-Five kept it simple and it's the story of Billy all the time, One Hundred Years of Solitude kept confusing me with each character having the same bloody name*. Another thing, aliens having the non-linear perception of time were most recently seen in movie Arrival (2016). The Tralfamadorians of Slaughterhouse-Five strongly reminded me of Heptapods of Arrival. I wonder if the writers of Arrival were inspired by this novel.

It also discusses religion, fate, freewill, death, and love. This a book you can read to forget and can still enjoy. Or you can read to ponder over the philosophies this book brings forward and spend days thinking about those.

A random stranger on the internet recommended me this and I was not disappointed.

*One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite book, but damn those names of Buendía family. ( )
  nishangu | Apr 16, 2017 |
2 1/2 stars.

Kurt Vonnegut is undoubtedly a good writer. The trouble is, that I enjoyed the introduction where he was describing his own experiences much more than the bulk of the book where he told us Billy Pilgrim's story. Kurt himself is a more interesting person than Billy. Or maybe I just didn't like the fact that we had to decide whether Billy was crazy or really was kidnapped by Tralfamadorians. Typically, in a book where we're left to decide if something is imagined or real I will imagine that it's real, but I just couldn't this time. The Tralfamadorians are too bizarre and their concept of time is too unbelievable. I didn't like the descriptions of Billy's time on Tralfamadore, or the fact that in an earlier part of the book we were told that 'Billy was cheating on his wife for the first and only time,' but if Tralfamadore was real, than he cheated on his wife multiple times with the movie star who the Tralfamadorians had also kidnapped. Kilgore Trout's ideas about re-writing the Gospels say to me that he (so possibly Vonnegut) didn't truly understand who Jesus is and what he did. Though the rewrite came with the question "why are so many Christians so Cruel?" so I suppose that it may be that it isn't intended to be taken seriously, but simply ask the question, "if this was the way the Gospels were written, would less Christians commit evil acts?" I doubt it. If a Christian is willing to commit atrocities with the Bible the way it is, why the heck would the care if Jesus hadn't been the Son of God until after His death?

There was too much sex in this book for my liking. The members of the Beaumont township in Footloose may have been wrong for judging this book only from of its' name, but they likely would have decided to burn it even if they had read it.

Oddly enough, I had never heard of the bombing of Dresden. I knew that Berlin and some other German cities had been bombed toward the end of the war, and I focused on WWII in my final year of high school, but if the bombing of Dresden was mentioned in any of the books I read or any of the documentaries I watched, they must have skimmed over the horror of it, or made the claim that it had to happen. I don't know if there were places in Dresden that were helping the German war effort. I don't know if there were places whose destruction helped the Allies, but I believe that the firebombing of Dresden without consideration for the refugees and other innocent civilians, or even the slightest attempt to avoid residential areas was wrong.

I was surprised that Billy Pilgrim was based of a real person, Edward Crone, who the author named in his interview at the end of the audiobook version I listened to. Even though the man gave up, didn't eat and died, his family was likely still alive and even though the majority of Billy's actions were not dishonorable, his bizarre belief that he had been kidnapped by aliens might bother the family of the very real Edward Crone.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. The writing was excellent, but there was a great deal of profanity, and I couldn't quite follow the story of Billy Pilgrim, who I had difficulty caring about as his narration jumped all over the place. I've seen Christian criticism of the book for the profanity and for the rewritten fake Gospel, but I hadn't seen that at the time I picked it up. I really don't know how I feel about this book. ( )
  NicoleSch | Apr 1, 2017 |
Excellent, natural, strong storytelling; very refreshing. James Franco was the perfect narrator for the audio version.

Shares some surprising themes in common with Story of Your Life (upon which the movie Arrival was based) by Ted Chiang. ( )
  joeld | Mar 28, 2017 |
Even though he uses the phrase "So it goes" with irritating frequency (over 100 times), author Kurt Vonnegut manages to keep Slaughterhouse-Five quite agreeable. This is no mean feat considering the book is rather experimental in style and structure, breaking the fourth wall and not following any linear plot structure. It is a collection of fragmentary episodes from the protagonist Billy Pilgrim's life told in non-chronological order; not only does it work but it is also rather clever in reinforcing the novel's central time-travel theme. You see, Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens who see in four dimensions: that is, they see all things past, present and future as happening at the same time, being experienced all at once. So no one ever really dies, for they are still alive at another point in time (weaving an absurdist element into the anti-war theme). Consider this passage from page 88, where the aliens describe to Billy how they communicate:

"There are no telegrams on Tralfamadore. But you're right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message – describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time."

This meta-textual explanation is quite neat, and explains how and why Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five in its peculiar style: to achieve this effect. It enhances the time-travel element and allows you to connect with the protagonist's mindset. Pretty damn clever, and potential readers should want to experience it.

But Slaughterhouse-Five also takes a stab at being an anti-war book, and the amiable, unassuming approach which works so well in other ways ends up faltering here. It is mostly of the simplistic, war-is-bad relativism of that counter-culture (the book was published in 1969), with soldiers compared to mindless robots and machines and so on. It does hit some home-runs on its anti-war message; for example, an artillery barrage at the Battle of the Bulge is described as "the incredible artificial weather that Earthlings sometimes create for other Earthlings when they don't want those other Earthlings to inhabit Earth any more" (pg. 106), and when the US Air Force describes details of the really rather public event of the raid on Dresden as 'top secret', Vonnegut exclaims "Secret? My God – from whom?" (pg. 11). But the parts are greater than the sum in this regard; it lacks bite and energy. You don't feel the indignation at war.

It does get the right balance in its black comedy: it is dark without being caustic, and absurd without being wacky. It is closer to Douglas Adams or Voltaire's Candide than your typical anti-war book. Rather, it is compromised by making the Dresden bombing its centrepiece. Fair play to Vonnegut for evoking the horror of the firestorm and of criticizing the absurdity of war but, to put it plainly, his Dresden facts are wrong.

He labels it the "greatest massacre in European history" (pg. 101) and "worse than Hiroshima" (pg. 10), which are both wrong even if we were to accept the inflated death toll numbers bandied around in the 1960s. It also claims Dresden was undefended and contained no war industries (pg. 146), another common myth. This silly myth of Dresden, the beautiful 'Florence on the Elbe' that the Nazis – you know, those peerlessly evil bastards of history – left as an 'open city' and did not (cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die) use for war industry or a source of manpower or as a communications hub despite it being the only large area in the country left untouched, only for it to be destroyed anyway by evil bloodthirsty British and American bombers, was perpetuated by David Irving in his book The Destruction of Dresden (cited by Vonnegut here on page 186). If the name sounds familiar, it might be because Irving is also a noted Holocaust denier and a "historian" clearly not adverse to massaging statistics or ignoring evidence in order to suit his agenda. His distorted view of the Dresden bombing became the accepted version for a time – no doubt exacerbated by Vonnegut's book – but unlike the Tralfamadorians we experience time in a linear fashion and the lies were gradually demolished by later, more sober professional historians. Indeed, modern scholarship now estimates the death toll at around 25 to 35,000 (still high, but far from Irving's ever-changing estimates of 100,000+). It has also been comprehensively proven (as if it were needed) that – surprise – the Nazis were indeed utilizing the city in the war effort and it was, by the standards of the time, a legitimate target. (Frederick Taylor's 2005 book Dresden is required reading on this topic.)

All of this is academic, I suppose – quite literally – but it does leave Vonnegut's opinions on the topic (beyond his own personal experiences – he was a PoW in Dresden at the time) looking rather out-dated and foolish. Perhaps the most amusing thing for me about the darkly comic Slaughterhouse-Five was an unintentional one. In chapter one, Vonnegut talks at length about how he'd wanted to write about the Dresden bombing for years. All those years wishing, planning, writing about Dresden… and he got it wrong. So it goes. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Mar 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 467 (next | show all)
Lots of dark humor here: Billy Pilgrim has been a Prisoner of War and time traveler, and claims to have been kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. And so on. Kind of trippy, yes, but Vonnegut makes it all work. He makes this point clear: war sucks. So it goes
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.
"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.
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.

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Владимир ФилиповTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brioschi, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterman, AdrianIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrer, JoseNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franco, JamesNarratorsecondary 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
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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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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.
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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 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.

(summary from another edition)

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