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Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

by Kurt Vonnegut

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
38,18860234 (4.11)1 / 915
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.
  1. 402
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (kiwiflowa, Anonymous user)
  2. 230
    Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (seojen)
  3. 141
    Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (weener)
  4. 123
    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. 50
    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. 20
    Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (CGlanovsky)
  10. 20
    Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg by Derek Swannson (jasbro)
  11. 32
    Candide by Voltaire (SCPeterson)
    SCPeterson: Vonnegut is the Voltaire of our age of un-enlightenment.
  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
    Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (Ronoc)
  15. 21
    Kurt Vonnegut's crusade; or, How a postmodern harlequin preached a new kind of humanism by Todd F. Davis (pyrocow)
  16. 21
    The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: War is not glorious and even survivors are not unscathed.
  17. 10
    Tertium Organum by P. D. Ouspensky (sombrio)
  18. 00
    1968 by Joe Haldeman (snat)
  19. 24
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (chwiggy)
  20. 25
    Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (ateolf)

(see all 20 recommendations)

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» See also 915 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 570 (next | show all)
I guess I just didn't "get it"... I've read his short story "Harrison Bergeron" and taught it for a Science Fiction/Futuristic unit and didn't mind it. However, reading a full novel in the same kind of nonsensical style left me unsure what to focus on and what I could/could not believe in. While I didn't hate it or find any of the characters or plot dislikeable, I just didn't "get it" so feel pretty meh about it overall. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
Glad I read Cat's Cradle first because it was a completely different animal from Slaughterhouse and, if anything, clarified the author's range for me. Having read them in this order makes me realize that, for Kurt Vonnegut, this is a completely appropriate and characteristic response to having been captured in WWII and being one of the few to survive the fire-bombing of Dresden. It would be an interesting project to compare this account of WWII to O'Brien's accounts of Vietnam. Both authors experienced these respective wars firsthand and write about them in very successful novels that have elements of metafiction. However, unlike Vonnegut, O'Brien attempts to present his work with the utmost verisimilitude. I know a few people who were devastated to find out that The Things They Carried is partially fictional, and that some characters like his daughter do not exist at all. Vonnegut's novel, which I've seen listed as sci-fi but I think would more appropriately be categorized as satire, deals with such weighty issues in a way so irreverent that it has been banned from some schools and libraries. I feel that Vonnegut is here being more sincere than O'Brien, and is in this way the more profound of the two. His book challenges the possibility of their being only one right way to deal with a disastrous historical event. ( )
  irrelephant | Feb 21, 2021 |
This is the story of Billy Pilgrim, who was present at the firebombing of Dresden in the Second World War and who became unstuck in time somewhere in the Sixties. He was abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and put on display in a zoo, and the Tralfamadorians taught him how to perceive all moments in time simultaneously, as they do. They also taught him to embrace their philosophy of “So it goes.”

I first read this in university and had only the faintest of memories on my re-read. I know about the book from cultural references, but the finer details had escaped my recollection. I’d give it a definite four stars for the storytelling, and an extra half star for the utter originality of the plot. I’m holding off a full five stars because there were enough uncomfortable portrayals of women (particularly discussing some women’s size) to make me back off that rating.

I feel like this might be a good book for those who like the idea of an absurdist war book but are put off by Catch-22, or for those who haven’t tried Vonnegut yet—this is probably as good a place as any to start. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 18, 2021 |
This book is about the insanity of war and PTSD.

In trying to address these themes the author adopts a deliberately disjointed narrative approach. There are numerous jumps forward and backward in time, there are hallucinations, absurd statements - the point of this I presume is to create in the mind of the reader an impression of the fractured and incoherent nature of war and its impact on the human mind.

The problem with this method, once you figure it out (which for me was the first three chapters) is that it makes the rest of the book boring and irritating. You see, unlike other books, where plot, story and events matter in their own right, here they exist solely to create a pattern and impression. And once you know what you are supposed to feel, the entire book feels rather contrived.

I believe the author is participating in the general postmodern trend of fracturing the narrative. The trauma of events like the World Wars and Holocaust was apparently such that it destroyed faith in things like reason and progress and called into question the ability of the traditional narrative structure to properly describe such events. Hence the incoherent book which is not telling a story but trying to create an impression of a feeling.

But it is here that I disagree. Writing about trauma is hard. This is a problem I have considered myself, and once I read a book on historians debating ways of writing about the Holocaust. The nature of the event makes writing about it very difficult. I was quite struck with the approach one historian took however. He said that the best approach is to let the events speak for themselves. Hence his history of the Holocaust - an investigation about the activities of an SS execution squad was essentially a bald narration of facts. Yet this history had tremendous impact.

Reading this book reminded me of that a lot. In the tiny portion of the book where the author talks about Dresden, and its aftermath, there is actually a lot of power in the text. I could not help but feel that the author would have made a far more definitive statement about Dresden, the war, and trauma if he had written a more coherent story. Sometimes the facts are strong enough to speak for themselves. ( )
  Andorion | Feb 6, 2021 |
5 stars

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five is a non-linear story, following a private in World War II, Billy Pilgrim, on his path through the war, the bombing of Dresden, the rest of his life, and even his brief stay on an alien planet. It is a fantastically horrifying dissection of the human psyche in war. This book was great from start to finish. No matter what, humans will find ways to maim and kill each other, atomic bombs or not.
So it goes.
I recommend it to absolutely everyone. It’s not hard to be anti-war in the 21st century, but it is a very interesting perspective on how the human mind “breaks” during times of great stress, trying to preserve a kind of sanity. ( )
  Firons2 | Jan 31, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 570 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vonnegut, Kurtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brioschi, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterman, AdrianIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donkers, JanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrer, JoseNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franco, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García de Miró, MargaritaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawke, EthanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hens, GregorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holder, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaskari, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonason, OlovTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nemes, LászlóTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellizzari, DanielTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagenseil, KurtTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zanon, CássiaTranslatorsecondary 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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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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[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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