Monday, June 11, 2012

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Launched in November, Dell's Kurt Vonnegut reissue program continues with one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

My take: 4 looks
How I made it to my 46th year without reading this book, I do not know. It is listed as the 18th greatest English language novel of the 20th century by Modern Library. At the very least, I should have had to read this in high school or my ENG 101 in college.

It is touted, as seen above, as one of the world's great anti-war books. I would have to heartily disagree. I would say that "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien is far superior to this book, and can only assume that the Modern Library's list was created prior to its publication in 1990 (although I seriously doubt it).

Slaughterhouse-Five is a satire and, with the intent of pointing out vice or folly, certainly serves that end. However, the delusions of the main character became, for me, more of a caricature rather than a statement on the far-reaching effects of war on the soldier's psyche. While the Tralfamadore aliens were probably the Germans, the zoo's geodome posed as the slaughterhouse and Montana Wildhack a juxtaposition to Valencia, I thought it too exaggerated and comical to be taken seriously.

Although, is that Vonnegut's point? War is, at its heart, so ridiculous that the only thing we can do is present it as such? After all, this seems to be nothing short of an autobiographical novel, since Vonnegut himself was a prisoner of war, surviving in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker and being one of a very few survivors of the bombing of Dresden. His personal experience was the batting for this book's odd quilt of a story.

With that said, Vonnegut can write what he wants, as he had certainly earned the right. He can portray the war, and any war for that matter, as the fodder of fools masked as aliens. He can convey, in his broken, psychotic and delusional way, the total annihilation of city and soldier, regardless of whether the legs still stand. What did I walk away with? No one ever wins a war.

1 comment:

  1. the only reason why I read this book was because The Readables reviewed it in her video. I'm glad that to have read it because I too greatly enjoyed it.

    Your review is well done as well. I really like how you analized it.