Friday, May 8, 2009

Classic War Fiction (or is it Sci-Fi?): Slaughterhouse Five

I love Kurt Vonnegut. I find his writing delightful in its quirkiness, and I love a man who can pull off a big fluffy mustache. Vonnegut blurs the lines of reality and fiction by not just writing about true events, but then juxtaposing them with the most absurd until you have to question—or believe—everything. In Slaughterhouse-Five, like in his other works, Vonnegut creates a character out of the narrator. We tend to ignore that voice telling us the story, or at least adopt it as only a voice telling us the story, but Vonnegut doesn’t let us off that easy. Sure the narrator in the beginning of the book could be perceived as Vonnegut himself, but it’s really not, just as we all create voices for ourselves to tell our stories (or at least we all would if we were all writers); we detach ourselves so that the story can be told. And what a story. I don’t remember learning much about the bombing of Dresden in school (thanks wiki ), but it was horrific and violent and if you saw it you might very well suffer psychological damage. Which is exactly what happened to Vonnegut’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, in Slaughterhouse-Five. Maybe. Either that or he really was captured by alien beings who held him in their zoo to study him. Either way, Billy Pilgrim must constantly deal with his life. We just have to decide: is he dealing with constantly time traveling to different parts of the universe and his life, or is he dealing with the psychological damage caused by seeing such violence by creating worlds and situations in his mind? Either way, the book is marvelous and a classic in my most humble opinion. Plus it has one of the longest title pages ever, and so I will conclude with that:
Slaughterhouse-Five; Or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death
By Kurt Vonnegut, A fourth-generation German-American now living in easy circumstances on Cape Cod (And smoking too much), who, as an American infantry scout hors de combat, as a prisoner of war, witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany, “The Florence of the Elbe,” a long time ago, and survived to tell the tale. This is a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales of the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from. Peace.”

No comments:

Post a Comment