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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five (original 1969; edition 1991)

by Kurt Vonnegut

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30,01741530 (4.13)1 / 732
Authors:Kurt Vonnegut
Info:Dell (1991), Mass Market Paperback, 215 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:WWII, fire storms, Dresden, time travel, survival

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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

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Showing 1-5 of 395 (next | show all)
Slaughterhouse-Five is a book about the Second World War, or at least a small part of it. Vonnegut witnessed and survived the fire-bombing of Dresden, and the novel is a remarkably impotent attempt at describing the aftermath. Vonnegut survived the the bombing of Dresden as a POW, kept in a cellar at a short distance from the inner city.

Central themes of the book are the surreality of the result of the event, the before and after, and the transportation from the pre-bombing state to the post-bombing state, a transition from the city appearing as one of the most beautiful in Europe to a landscape resembling "the surface of the moon".

This psychedelic experience, and the horror, mentally completely unhinge the main character. The novel seems the expression of a post-traumatic experience, which offers no rational explanation for any part of the event, and only the super-natural, not the divine, but extra-terrestrial, seems to make sense of this "not-of-this-planet" type of disaster.

The inability to form a whole picture, is echoed in the novel's embedded vignettes, which appear as fragments or shards, held up to illustrate the incredible, such as the soldier who was shot because he stole an undamaged tea pot.

Defeat in the face of so much power, and one's own powerlessness, or impotence, is repeated by the main characters mantra "so it goes".

Instead of trying to describe the desctruction of dresden in a conventional novel, the traumatic experience found its form in an experimental, science-fiction work or semi-autobiographical fiction. It is mixture of fiction and meta-fiction, with a strong streak of the absurd.

Slaughterhouse Five is an unpleasant read, in a style of writing, which does not find a lot of sympathy now. Alas, so it goes. ( )
  edwinbcn | Aug 22, 2015 |
An incredible look at war and its costs. Vonnegut's best book. ( )
  midwestms | Aug 11, 2015 |
Slaughterhouse Five refuses to sit quietly in a single specific genre. The short book appears to have a bit of everything, all glued together with a disheartening and dark kind of humour and criticism. There’s war, death, aliens, time-travel, and even a porn star.
Confused? Not to worry. Kurt Vonnegut continually pulls readers in and out of reality and what must be Billy Pilgrim’s fantasy, rather smoothly. Parts of the story are not told in chronological order, but make sense as they are placed. But readers have to pay attention to detail to understand the underlying themes woven into the plot. The writing itself is simple easy to understand, though the plot is much more complex, as Billy becomes “unstuck in time”. As a broken soldier, he appears to suffer from PTSD (as was not unusual for other sufferers of World War II). His story is told very bluntly and matter-of-factly, which makes the story sound both like a tragedy and poor comedy at the same time.
Also, a very un-author-ly thing that Vonnegut does in the introduction, is tell readers exactly how the story is going to end, among other technical-spoilers. But no, it shouldn’t kill your view on the rest of the book too much. So it goes. ( )
  haru.T | Jul 22, 2015 |
Since almost all of us are born at different times and there is no set chronological cultural-experience list (that I know of), most readers end up like the protagonist, jumping through time and across genres. Thus fifty years on, with countless media portrayals of everyday-people-affected-by-war in between, the author's depiction of the absurdity and futility of wars and the people caught up in them ends up being just that, absurd and futile, further condemned by the simple, repetitive and fragmented prose which was probably intended to contrast and compound the original message. (two stars off)

Things I enjoyed:
- the narrator's drunk-dialling at the beginning of the book. I wonder how common that was back in the days of needing a telephone operator,
- the time reversal from the protagonist's point of view in chapter four,
- Kilgore Trout and
- the Tralfamadorians' inexplicably humorous fatalism which came about from their four-dimensional-capable perceptions.
I did not enjoy the misspellings/mis-scan-to-text-s in my Vintage Classics 2000 edition: Walt was spelt as WaIt on page 15 and evening as evenmg on page 69.

Recommended if you have not read or watched any e-p-a-b-w genres. Feel free to skip this book and any anti-war materials if you have watched Grave of the Fireflies and have received your cried-fifty-litres certificate, your anti-war education is complete. ( )
  kitzyl | Jul 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 395 (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.

(summary from another edition)

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