Wednesday, January 20, 2010


From the back cover:

"Slaughterhouse-five is one of the world's great antiwar books. An American classic. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most."

I have read a few books by Kurt Vonnegut but until yesterday I had never read what is widely regarded as his best work, Slaughterhouse-Five. The novel is the story of Billy Pilgrim who becomes "unstuck" in time and travels randomly through different events in his life, past, present, and future. At one point in his journey, Pilgrim is abducted by an alien race called the Tralfamadorians. The Tralfamodorians help Pilgrim understand time's relation to his world as a fourth dimension, fate, and death's indiscriminate nature.

Don't be fooled by what would seem a silly or science fiction related premise. The story of Billy Pilgrim's jumps though his life is stunning. The book is typical Vonnegut, satirical, dark, and humorous with a cynical look at war. What is most striking is Pilgrim's journey in World War II Germany. His capture behind enemy lines and experiences as a prisoner of war up to and including the dreadful city-destroying bombing of Dresden. The bombing of Dresden was an event that Vonnegut himself survived during the war.

The book hints that Billy Pilgrim's travels through time and experiences with the Tralfamadorians are not reality but it never comes out and says it clearly to the reader. What I took from this theme of the book was that we all travel through time and we all have the ability to relive moments both good and tragic through our memories. Those moments are just as real as what we presently feel and experience.

So it goes. Highly recommended.

"I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone."

1 comment:

Dave said...

Forgot to mention, 300th post. Wow.