Andreea Daia's Reviews > Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
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Apr 27, 12

bookshelves: read-2012, hugo-nominee, science-fiction, war-military, spacetime, recommended, classics, immutable-time
Read from April 22 to 26, 2012

Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts
(There are BOOKS written about this novel and I won't attempt to duplicate them. These are just my thoughts, half a day after finishing it.)

✐ I don't think I read anything quite like Slaughterhouse-Five. You are really going to love it or simply stop reading it. There is such a strong anti-war aura about it, yet with the exception of one paragraph at the end, it is never explicitly said "war is bad." Instead Mr. Vonnegut proceeds systematically at demythicizing the war.

✐ There is nothing glorious about it. The soldiers are no heroes, just too young boys, or too old men or, most frequently, untrained buffoons (and not only Billy Pilgrim, although in his case, Mr. Vonnegut takes facts to extreme). And when we are dealing with true soldiers, the British officers, the pride and joy of the their army, they are referred by sobriquets as the Blue Fairy Godmother.

✐ Everything that happens to Billy during the war is ridiculous: he carries no weapon (and when in the end he gets one, it is only to protect himself from wild dogs and rats), he doesn't take part in a single battle, he survives the butchering of Dresden by sheer luck. Being a soldier is just menial work or half-acknowledged traveling.

✐ But what I think it's spectacular about this novel is the fact that although it addresses such a heavy topic, it never feels heartbreaking or distressing. Mr. Vonnegut accomplishes that in three ways:

....1) the gore and horrors of the war are hidden under layers upon layers of good-natured humor or ridicule depending on the story;
....2) every time when something distressing is going to happen, Billy "travels" through time to a happier moment, and the reader never witnesses the slaughterous details;
....3) from the very beginning, in the not-titled Preface, we are given a summary of the novel. There are simply no surprises going on that might detract the reader from the embedded message.

✐ And because this is Kurt Vonnegut, in the end he has to explain the message he wanted to pass: "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."

✐ Final (i)relevant thought: one of the reasons I liked so much Slaughterhouse-Five was because of its concept of time, which is so close to what I consider my personal views on this topic: time doesn't flow; all the events "future" and "past" already exist and we simply navigate through them. Yet, the Tralfamadorians deny the existence of the free will, which I actually consider incorrect. But that's a discussion for another time. ツ
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