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Mother Night

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  48,921 Ratings  ·  1,846 Reviews
Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.
Paperback, 282 pages
Published May 11th 1999 by Dial Press (first published 1961)
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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutCat's Cradle by Kurt VonnegutBreakfast of Champions by Kurt VonnegutThe Sirens of Titan by Kurt VonnegutMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut's Best
5th out of 38 books — 532 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Best Books of the 20th Century
374th out of 6,647 books — 44,856 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kemper
May 27, 2014 Kemper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The thing I love best about Kurt Vonnegut is that he was both the ultimate cynic and the ultimate humanist. What better character for him to create to embody those views than a Nazi with good intentions?

Howard W. Campbell Jr. was an American citizen who grew up in Germany and became a prominent Nazi thanks to his virulent anti-Semitic propaganda. However, Howard had actually been recruited before the war began to be an American spy who provided vital intelligence to the Allies via codes hidden i
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Amanda
Apr 22, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
When most people think of Kurt Vonnegut, the novels Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle immediately come to mind. It's a shame that more people aren't familiar with Mother Night, a novel in which Vonnegut explores the nature of moral ambiguity and what high-minded ideals we sacrifice on the altar of war. It's a skillful blend of Vonnegut's trademark dark humor and philosophical musings about human morality as observed through the lens of war. To put it simply, this is some good stuff.

Sitting in
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Jason
This is the best Vonnegut I’ve read so far. American Nazi Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is awaiting trial on war crimes. A traitor to the American people, Campbell is responsible for the deliberate spread of damaging propaganda throughout Germany and its occupied territories during World War II. He is an evil, dangerous man who is undoubtedly guilty of high treason.

Or is he?

As the account of Campbell’s life in Germany unfolds, much is revealed about his motives, the benign sequence of events leading t
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Manny

Vastly underrated piece of black comedy, about a World War 2 double agent whose cover is a Nazi propagandist in the style of Lord Haw-Haw. Vonnegut says in the preface that this is the only one of his books where he knows what the moral is. You are what you pretend to be, so be careful about who you pretend to be. For my money, Vonnegut's second best book, running Cat's Cradle very close.

It's not just me - the great Doris Lessing also wrote once that she couldn't quite understand why this book
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Lyn
Jun 09, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it
In Stanley Kubrik's film, Full Metal Jacket, one of the most highlighted scenes is where the protagonist is asked to explain the peace symbol and "Born to Kill" slogan on his helmet. His response:“I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man.”

Cannot help but wonder if the writer for Full Metal Jacket had been thinking of Mother Night when he wrote that line. One of the darker novels in Vonnegut’s collection, but still with the humor and blithely irreverent tone that is his
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Jason Koivu
Feb 17, 2013 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
I'm going to make an unpopular statement right now: This is the best of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. Okay Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five fans, fling your dung at me, I understand.

The characters, setting, plot, all of it comes together in a well-wrapped tale in which a man fights the truth of his own identity under the pressing weight of the author's imposed moral law that states you are what you pretend to be. In Mother Night, the story of an American spy working undercover within Germany duri
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Algernon
Aug 08, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013

Future civilizations - better civilizations than this one - are going to judge all men by the extent to which they've been artists. You and I, if some future archeologist finds our works miraculously preserved in some city dump, will be judged by the quality of our creations. Nothing else about us will matter.

Mother Night is one of the author's favorites, so according to the above quote extracted from the book, it is how he would want to be judged by posterity. I believe I read somewhere tha
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Madeleine
As much as I enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut expound upon Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country not that long ago, it didn't quite satisfy the craving I've had for his fiction. Sure, there is something to be said for watching a favorite author turn his fine-tuned gallows humor on himself and the society in which he both lives and has lived but sometimes I just want to be told a story, damnit.

Before launching into the novel proper, Vonnegut introduces Mother Night as the only story of his with
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Melki
Jun 11, 2015 Melki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorous-fiction
"You are the only man I ever heard of," Mengel said to me this morning, "who has a bad conscience about what he did in the war. Everybody else, no matter what side he was on, no matter what he did, is sure a good man could not have acted in any other way."

Poor Howard Campbell, Jr., an American living in Germany, is recruited to spew Nazi propaganda on air that is laced with coded information for the Allies.

"You'll be volunteering right at the start of the war to be a dead man. Even if you live t
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Kirstine
Nov 14, 2015 Kirstine rated it it was amazing
Before this, I'd never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut.

From this day forward, consider me a fan.

It's strange, really, how some books fall into your life at exactly the right time. I don't know how it happens. If we somehow unconsciously know that this is the book we need and pick it up and let it take us places. Perhaps. All I know is this particular book came into my life at the most opportune moment. I say opportune, because I just recently acquired the skills to really understand this book,
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FeReSHte
Jan 17, 2016 FeReSHte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america
شب مادر پنجمین تجربه ونه گات خوانیم بود. به خاطر فضای جنگ جهانی دومی که داره کمی یادآور "سلاخ خانه شماره پنج" ه...داستان با همون طنز همیشگی و لحن سرخوشانه ونه گات روایت میشه ولی تو این کتاب، برخلاف سه اثر فیکشن قبلی که از ونه گات خوندم از نشانه های آخرالزمانی یا علمی تخیلی اثری نیست

داستان جالبی داره.مردی اصالتا امریکایی ولی بزرگ شده ی آلمان در طول جنگ جهانی دوم صدای رایش رو از طریق رادیو به مردم انتقال میده و با شهرت و محبوبیتی که نزد ملت آلمان کسب کرده ازطریق پیام ها و سخنرانی های شورانگیزش ، م
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Oriana
Oct 04, 2011 Oriana rated it it was amazing
God, this book is so devastating. Vonnegut is so chameleonic, or something, how the lightness of his prose brilliantly belies the darkness of his themes, but oh my god, I can't even think how to express how sad this one made me. Everything is so sharply focused, every word is so perfectly, harrowingly placed. The loops and recursions and double-agents and plots within plots: all perfect. All awful. All honed for maximum pathos and horror without becoming maudlin or overdramatic. I feel punched i ...more
Szplug
Jul 24, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right up front Kurt Vonnegut explains the moral of this short novel: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. We then are shuffled rapidly through a cast of post-war men and women wearing masks, decked out to publicly play an adopted role, whilst concealing their true feelings and being underneath. The champion dissembler is Howard W. Campbell Jr., a former deep-cover American operative in the heart of Nazi Germany, who so brilliantly espoused propaganda and spa ...more
Brad
Nov 16, 2012 Brad rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brad by: k.i. hope
It's been a long, long time since I read Mr. Vonnegut. I remember his satire being funny. I didn't laugh this time around. Maybe it was just me, but Mother Night was deadly serious.

Guilt. Not the state of being physically guilty of committing a negative action, a "crime" if you prefer, but the feeling of guilt that festers in one's soul for a lifetime. That's the guilt, that Raskalnikovian guilt, that interested me in Mother Night

I liked Howard J. Campbell Jr., Joseph Goebbels best radio propa
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Mel
Jul 13, 2013 Mel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers/thinkers
Recommended to Mel by: sister
Shelves: top-picks
My sister, a librarian and crazy mad Vonnegut fan (when he passed away she actually wrote the eulogy for her town's local newspaper), said to me when she suggested this book, that Mother Night is probably Vonnegut's most underappreciated novel, while Vonnegut himself considered it one of his best. His other personal favorites?: Slaughterhouse 5, and Cat's Cradle. She is a librarian with a PhD, so I don't argue literature with her; and Vonnegut is her favorite. When a reader can claim A favorite ...more
Dan
Jul 27, 2007 Dan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is one of my favorite books. I picked this book up and read it through in one sitting. I couldn't put it down I was so engaged.

This book presents the moral dilemma of Howard W. Campbell Jr. an American who became a Nazi propagandist. However, he only became a Nazi propagandist because he was spying for the USA. Yet, he was a really good propagandist. His dilemma is this: Does the good of spying for America obviate and out weigh the evils he did by making propaganda for the Nazis or do his s
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MJ Nicholls
Dec 26, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a deliberate contrast to Jonathan Littell’s 1000-page monster The Kindly Ones, I re-read this early Vonnegut masterpiece. The 1997 Robert B. Weide adaptation with Nick Nolte is one of my favourite movies, and where the novel is structured in typical nonlinear fashion, the movie embellishes and adds colour to the novel in its linear form. The two mediums compliment each other perfectly, so if you haven’t seen the film version, do it soon! And if you haven’t read this brilliant novella, the co ...more
Stuart
May 05, 2015 Stuart rated it it was amazing
Like many other Goodreads reviewers, I think this is one of Vonnegut’s best works, on par with Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five, perhaps even better. It is a straight-up story, without any SF or surreal elements, and what it has to say about morality amid the atrocities of war is not comfortable to swallow. In every way, it’s black gallows humor of the highest order, and only Kurt Vonnegut could deliver it with such pathos and wisdom.

Who is Howard W. Campbell, Jr? Well, he was born in the US
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Lorenzo Berardi

Today I will tell you about an interesting and unexplicably underrated semi-underground tribe: the Vonnegutians.

Either urban or rural, the Vonnegutians are spread all over the world (with primeval colonies in Indianapolis and the Galapagos islands) and cover at least three generations.

Tendentially secularists, the Vonnegutians may however be inclined to join the subtropical doctrine of Bokononism at an earlier or a later stage of their lives.

Regretfully, the social behavior of the Vonnegutians
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Aaron
May 09, 2007 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
In a beautiful allegory of human duality, Vonnegut presents us with a character wavering on two worlds: pre-WWII and post-war; good and evil; certainty and ambiguity; past and present; life and death. As an American spy during the war, the main character is now faced with the ambivalence of whether he helped the Allies more than Germany, and if his civic responsibility was anything more than self-serving. Vonnegut delves deep into the psychological repercussions of ethical decisions, and society ...more
Jonathan
Aug 09, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Oh KV - no one can write the messy, unpalatable Truth of us like you. The only sane response to the great weight of sadness, which must come with any understanding of our species, is the sorrowful smile of your prose.
Nyna
Dec 01, 2007 Nyna rated it it was amazing
I have always enjoyed the way that Vonnegut sees the world, and his books, while written with well-formed characters and usually somewhat interesting plot-lines, have always struck me as 'idea' books. This book had a lot of ideas in it. They made me think, and usually I liked the way they directed my thoughts.

This is one of my favorite Vonnegut novels. It's something about how likable Campbell is, even at his very worst. About how the one thing he can say about himself with pride is that he has
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Sarah
Jun 30, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Mother Night is perhaps one of the most incredible, thought provoking and haunting books discussing human morality and perspective that I have ever had the honor of reading. This isn’t a review; rather it’s a diatribe about a book that literally knocked me off my chair with its brilliance. Mother Night is uncomfortable. It pushes the boundaries of perspective and forces us to ask questions that many would prefer not to ask. However, in the end it’s well worth it. Mother Night is a book that will ...more
Hadrian
Sep 07, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Dark and biting, with the blackest of humor. Vonnegut is one of the very few humorists out there who leaves you sadder than when you started. But I mean that as a compliment. He's one of the best.

Words fail me. He really as is great as people say.
Ɗắɳ  2.☠
Jan 14, 2015 Ɗắɳ 2.☠ rated it it was amazing
What that?! Are we absolutely, positively, sure this is Vonnegut? Where are all those crazy sci-fi elements? What, no Tralfamadorians? Where is that confusing, time shifting narrative? We aren’t seriously “stuck in time” for the whole story? What about all those absurd characters? No Kilgore Trout, Dwayne Hoover, or Billy Pilgrim? Hold on though…some of these guys are pretty weird too. And I did also notice a few references to Schenectady, New York. Hmm…so maybe this really is Vonnegut.

I should
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notgettingenough
Heart-breakingly sad, utterly horrific; if funny, then savagely so.

....

http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpres...
T4ncr3d1
Dec 15, 2014 T4ncr3d1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Dov'è il male? E' quella parte di ogni uomo che vuole odiare a tutti i costi, che vuole odiare e avere anche Dio dalla sua parte. E' quella parte di ogni uomo che trova tanto attraente qualsiasi genere di brutalità".

Questo libro sarebbe il perfetto accompagnamento a un libro di genere diverso, La banalità del male di Hannah Arendt. Entrambi, in modalità e forme differenti, affrontano il tema dei processi ai nazisti post seconda guerra mondiale, e il paragone, avendo letto il primo, ha accompagn
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Liz
Nov 23, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it
Wow.... wow. I am just not sure what to make of this book. As a jew who still cannot think hard about the holocaust without tearing up, part of me found this book offensive. But then the literary soul in me appreciates it for its twisted view. And I do appreciate that all in all, this book is a commentary about war and more specifically, about human nature as related to war.

I probably would never have picked up a book written from the point of view of a nazi (albeit an american spy-nazi). I hav
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Mother night, first Publication 1961, Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - )
عنوان: شب مادر؛ نویسنده: کورت ونه گات جونیور؛ مترجم: علی اصغر بهرامی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، روشنگران و مطالعات زنان، 1380، در 240 ص، شابک: 9789645512987؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی قرن 20 م
مضمون اصلی «شب مادر» هویت است. هر یک از آدمهای رمان، دو یا بیش از دو شخصیت دارند: اینان کدام یک از این دو شخصیتاند؟ یکی؟ هر دو؟ هیچ کدام؟ و با کدام ترازو؟ که پاسخ بدین پرسش ها بازمیگردد به متن رمان و مقدمه ونهگات. مترجم من داستان زیاد نوشتهام؛
...more
Sibilla
Apr 09, 2016 Sibilla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Why the title? 2 178 Oct 24, 2014 07:55AM  
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Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali
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“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” 13745 likes
“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.” 583 likes
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