“Slaughterhouse-5” came to my attention a while ago after reading an article about a Missouri school board that banned the book for his profanity (app“Slaughterhouse-5” came to my attention a while ago after reading an article about a Missouri school board that banned the book for his profanity (apparently “it would make a sailor blush”), and for practically everything else. Coming from a family where the notion of banning books is as foreign as the currency and political history of tralfamadorians (except from my grandma, but that’s another story entirely), the rash accusations made against this story awoke my interest in it. Would it be more demeaning towards humanity as a whole than Jersey Shore? Be more violent than a Tarantino movie? Would I find in its pages a recipe for homemade bombs, or (don’t raise your eyebrows, that was actually the underlying message of a popular TV show I know) would it teach girls that the easiest way to escape poverty is to get a boob job and become mistress to the local drug lord?
Of course not.
Instead, I found “Slaughterhouse-5” to be a brilliant and moving account of how war messes you up, sprinkled with dark humor and aliens. It was also a condemnation of the decisions that lead to massacres like the Dresden bombing, but also a justification of war on the basis that, sometimes, it is necessary to prevent a bigger evil. Here’s the plot: Through disorganized vignettes we come to meet Bill Pilgrim, World War II veteran, who believes he’s unstuck in time and is forced to go back and forth through it reliving the most important moments of his life. In case you’re wondering, one of those moments deals with the complete obliteration of Dresden at the hands of allied forces, and another describes his kidnapping by a tralfamadorian spaceship, which then made him live in a zoo with a young movie star.
Unlike the Missouri School Board, I happen to think that “Slaughterhouse-5” has some valuable lessons in it that made it worthy of a place in a library shelf. For starters, it reminds the reader of how there are no winners in war. You’re either in the losing side, watching everything you know and love disappear from the face of the earth because a man you’ve never seen decided that bombing your city and killing you would be the perfect move to force an enemy to surrender, or you can be on the side that wins, condemned to spend the rest of your life reliving a tragedy and questioning the point of your own existence. Either way you’re fucked, and if you don’t believe me ask some of the thousands of war veterans all over the world that have suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct consequence of their involvement in a conflict.
The reader might also remember that there’s hope in any situation, if you’re brave or crazy enough to look for it. Bill Pilgrim finds comfort in the idea that time is not linear, and that gives his life a purpose it lacked before. As someone who is still battling with the desperation that inevitably comes with the certainty that there is nothing out there, and no real reason to go on, I could sympathize with Pilgrim (although the origin of out despair is completely different) and in that sense, I was touched by the message of hope that in my view is the ultimate message of “Slaughterhouse-5”. If we want to keep our sanity in this day and age we better remember the good times and live for them, or risk losing our sanity. And now I have something new to talk to my therapist about! ...more