Week four of this challenge marks the final book of January and a whole month of 2018 being over. To be fair, this month has flown by so I can’t really complain about the dreaded January Blues like I usually would.
This week I took a suggestion from a friend (thanks Kelsi!) and tried something new. Slaughterhouse Five is a classic novel, written by someone who actually experienced the fire-bomb destruction of Dresden first-hand. The novel, in a way, exposes the mental turmoil Vonnegut must have experienced being a prisoner of war, and then in his life after WW2. That is to say, the novel is insane.
Loosely, the plot revolves around Billy Pilgrim and his life during and after WW2. Billy Pilgrim experiences the fire-bombing of Dresden, survives a plane crash, marries a wealthy woman, has children, is abducted by aliens and travels in time. Oh, and the time travel coincidentally has nothing to do with the aliens. Vonnegut writes about a post-war world where the sanest of men succumb to insanity and the truth is more insane than fictional realities.
The novel jumps between different points in Pilgrim’s life as he constantly travels in time, but always on his own timeline, and never changing a thing. I interpreted this book as a narrative on acceptance and the futility of war. Pilgrim is taught by an alien race that no-one really dies, since there are versions of themselves living at the same time at a different point in time. Humans see time in a linear way, but it is not linear at all. Why mourn someone for being gone in that moment, when they are alive in another? So it goes.
Aside from being an exceptionally intriguing read, simply because of the author and his experiences, the entire story is an exercise in losing control. The plot is intangible and hard to follow at times, but you carry on because you have no choice. You know how it will end, but you carry on so you can experience Billy’s adventure alongside him. The reader’s experience closely matches the confusion Pilgrim, Vonnegut and thousands of other war survivors would have felt. The mishmash of emotion, anecdote, war, love, family and humour is entertaining and yet poignant.
I would highly recommend Slaughterhouse Five if you’re in the mood for a fun, yet challenging read which may make you think again about WW2 and its atrocities. Also, if you like aliens and inter-textual references to awful sci-fi novels about robots with bad breath and humans kept in a zoo. I’m certainly very thankful that this was recommended to me – so I’m passing on the favour!
As usual, I’ve included some of my favourite passages below:
Let me know if you have any suggestions for future books I should devour. I’m open to all genres, pretty much! The only limitation being that I do need to fit a social life and degree around this challenge, so no War and Peace suggestions, please!
Until next time,