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Slaughterhouse 5, or The Children's Crusade - A Duty-dance with Death Paperback – 21 Mar. 1991
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Read Kurt Vonnegut's powerful masterpiece, which is as timely now as when it was first published.
‘An extraordinary success. A book to read and reread. He is a true artist’ New York Times Book Review
Billy Pilgrim – hapless barber's assistant, successful optometrist, alien abductee, senile widower and soldier – has become unstuck in time. Hiding in the basement of a slaughterhouse in Dresden, with the city and its inhabitants burning above him, he finds himself a survivor of one of the most deadly and destructive battles of the Second World War. But when, exactly? How did he get here? And how does he get out?
Travel through time and space on the shoulders of Vonnegut himself. This is a book about war. Listen to what he has to say: it is of the utmost urgency.
‘The great, urgent, passionate American writer of our century, who offers us a model of the kind of compassionate thinking that might yet save us from ourselves.’ George Saunders
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Mr Vonnegut knows a great deal about what is probably the largest massacre in modern history - the fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945. Slaughterhouse Five is a reaction to the event by one of our most gifted and incisive novelists. A work of keen literary artistry -- Joseph Heller, author of 'Catch-22'
The individuality of Vonnegut's style is a curious yet perfect match for the pain of the emotional content. A humane, human book that always remains a work of art rather than biography, no matter how apparent the author's presence -- Kate Atkinson
Unique...one of the writers who map our landscapes for us, who give names to the places we know best -- Doris Lessing
There are writers who create a lot of readers, and there are writers who create a lot of writers, and Vonnegut was both -- Jonathan Safran Foer
- Publisher : Vintage Classics; 1st edition (21 Mar. 1991)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0099800209
- ISBN-13 : 978-0099800200
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 2,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 December 2018
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The writing style and the time travelling schtick (without which, the book could have been half the length and lost none of its impact) I just found irritating/baffling to the point where, having put it down, I really didn't want to pick it up again... but for the sake of finishing the book I did.
If I ever see the words "Billy Pilgrim" in print again, I may just scream. It seems to me that it's a classic because it's been used so widely as a school study book which maybe gives people some sort of rose tinted view. I'm glad we didn't read it at our school (though we were subjected to the dreary old Steinbeck classics which, themselves, weren't a bundle of laughs).
By all means give it a go... you may find yourself in the majority (by definition you probably will!) but it's not something I'd ever want to pick up again... not because of the message but because of the plodding prose.
Vonnegut shows us the true colours of war. He dismantles all the naively romantic notions anyone may have about war, the unrealistic heroism and the false premise of winners and losers. I didn’t enjoy reading Slaughterhouse Five, but then it wasn’t written for anyone’s entertainment. It is stark, cruel and unforgiving. It is a warning. People die – good people, bad people, losers as well as conquerors, soldiers and civilians, youngsters and the elderly, dogs, horses, allies and enemies. No one is exempt. No one is immune. No one is above it. And so it goes. Vonnegut shows it in raw, ugly detail, and that detail is no fiction.
War and death equalise everyone. No nation is idealised and no nation is condemned in its collective totality. Faults and failings befall all. It is a brave concept not to idealise the winners. In fact, Vonnegut shows quite effectively that war destroys everyone and everything. Every construct of what’s right and wrong, good and bad, justifiable and inexcusable is absolutely false. The “victorious” Americans are bombed on par with German civilians in an “open” city of Dresden. The bombs don’t discriminate between “them” and “us”. It is all “us”. And this is the irony of it – wars are started because of divisions, but as they rage everyone pays the same price, feels the same pain and has only one life to lose.
My second reason was to explore the time-travel idea in the book. It is harrowing for Billy Pilgrim to go over and over again through his terrifying war experience. Time doesn’t work chronologically in this tale. The war never really ends. It remains present throughout Billy’s entire life. Events from his birth, childhood, wartime and his post-war civilian life are mingled together. The trauma he has lived through can never be consigned to the past. There is no past. There is no future. Time is not linear. Everything is happening simultaneously, all the time, and Billy jumps in and out of events while they carry on unfolding on an endless loop. Billy’s sojourn into the alien world of Tralfamadore is his brain’s way of coping with the scars left by the war on his psyche. Those who lived through war will never put it behind them. That message really hits home when you think of all those child refugees physically leaving war-affected areas but having to spend the rest of their lives trapped back there forever.
It is such a powerful idea. War is timeless. Once you have unleashed it, it will not end. Slaughterhouse Five should be a compulsory read for young people to digest before they enter adulthood in order to dispel their childhood “jolly-war” myths and shield them against glorification of war.
It's a philosophical book that considers how time might appear to beings who exist in four dimensions compared to our linear perception of time. It also asks what is real and what is not real - is it based on perception, or is it possible to point to any one objective reality? If you haven't read it and enjoy being confused, check it out.
By Amazon Customer on 17 December 2018