Slaughterhouse 5 — Kurt Vonnegut
In the midst of yet another unjust war, this time raging in Ukraine, I wanted to read something slightly more immediately meaningful than the hilarity contained in the pages of Douglas Adams’ series on Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency . A suitable panacea appeared in the form on Kurt Vonnegut’s classic Slaughterhouse 5, detailing the horrors of the Second World War and the bombing of Dresden in particular.
It isn’t immediately obvious when reading the book whether to understand it as a piece of fictional literature or take it at face value as a non-fictional work. The truth is perhaps somewhere in between, I suspect the book undulates between the genres of an auto-biographical memoir and outright science fiction throughout its chapters.
While never making his presumably rather strong distaste of war explicit, as a reader it is difficult to walk away from the book with any other opinion that the fact that wars appear to be largely meaningless constructs, perhaps undertaken largely as an homage to our collective uncivilised past. It should be noted, however, that he can’t entirely entirely help himself from making a few not-so-subtle anti-war references, which are done through the literary medium of the wife of the narrator’s war-time friend, Mary O’Hare.
I found it interesting to later visit the Wikipedia article for the book and learn that the books content proved too perverse for parts of the gunslinging nation of America and was subjected to censorship before being overturned by the Supreme Court.
A phrase particular referential value may be “So it goes”, a phrase alledgedly popular among the Tralfamadorians and evocative of Danish sentiments towards progress in the 1980’s.
Additionally the “poo-tee-weet” of a bird carries a contrapunctual role in the book and the finality of death and meaningless of life is emphasised by the final word of the book, which is given to a bird chirping in Billy Pilgrim’s direction. Poo-tee-tweet indeed.
While the book can hardly be classified as an entertaining read, it was genuinely interesting and thought-provoking. Anyone remotely interested in history and/or politics should pick up a copy.