2010: 69. Slaughterhouse-Five

“All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway , are pretty much.”

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

      Slaughterhouse-Five is by far my favorite of the slew of World War II novels I’ve recently read, perhaps because, while it deals with the War, it does other things, too - it’s a novel about fate, and fatalism, and metafiction, and while all those are things that I often have little patience for, here I enjoyed them immensely.  I think it’s because Vonnegut takes on the big topics under the cover of black humor (and a little science fiction), and comes back with something unlike anything I’d read before (at least on the subject of the Second World War).  The novel opens with our unnamed narrator telling us the things in the book - at least the things relating to the war - are true, and that he was forced to write it because his experiences in the war haven’t left him, and he needs to get it off his chest.  This is my favorite part of the novel, the first and last chapters.  The rest is the story of Billy Pilgrim, the unlikely warrior who got unstuck in time, abducted by aliens, and forced to relive his life over and over again (out of chronology) - including his birth, death, and his time living through the firebombing of Dresden.  Billy is a sad sack who survived some horrible things, and the story of the war comes through in spurts with the rest of his life, so we only slowly learn of the horror.  But in the interim we mediate on life and fate, and all that jazz, and think about whether we have any influence on who we are or whether we can make any difference in our lives at all.  And it’s funny, and jazzy, and sometimes sad, and  I had forgotten how much  I liked this book until I re-read it.

And so it goes. 

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Re-read

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017