Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse Five

27-11-2011 | Dojo |

Do you like war books? Cause I don’t.

If I had the curiosity to read about the book and find it’s got to do with the War, I’d have skipped it from my reading list. And still, since I never wanted to find about it and it was there in my ‘collection’ on Nook, weeks ago it came its turn to be read.

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is that ‘war book’ that shows the ‘human’ side of the war. No, it’s not human itself, but PEOPLE are involved in it and they are more than just the statues and the songs of bravery we think about, when dealing with war. Most of them are NOT heroes, but people who left their countries and families, who are not pleased to go die in a faraway land, who are suffering from cold, fear, diseases, people who sometimes become heroes or, most of them, carry their scars (not only physical) for the rest of their lives.

This is not a book to glorify the way, it’s a book that shows its ugly face, the killing, the absurdity and its unfairness. War is cruel and stupid, it maims people, lives and minds. There’s nothing brave or amazing in having to live like an animal, in surrendering or digging for the dead under ruble.

Billy Pilgrim knows all about this.

He’s just a young man thrown into the war. He’s tall and thin, a ‘weirdo’ for other more seasoned ‘warriors’. His war experience is far from being glorious, as we’ll find out from the book.

He really dislikes wars and will come to hate this one more after being captured by the Germans. Life as a war soldier is far from being pretty, but as a prisoner of war it’s even worse.

Billy, with his weird looks, is despised by everyone, Germans or fellow soldiers. He seems to get on everybody’s nerves and is totally unfit for the war. And still, he survives it.

The climax is the bombing of Dresden. Just a little time ago Billy Pilgrim is taken there in a Slaughterhouse with other prisoners. Imagine how ‘pleasant’ it can be to live there, among carcases, in all the cold and misery. And, if that wasn’t enough, he survives the bombing, only to climb on mountains of ruble to find a place to go.

And, just when that War showed all its ugliness, he and other survivors are put to dig through the ruble to get out the corpses of the people who died in the bombing.

Such events can really mess with one’s mind.

As mentioned before, Billy does survive the war and gets back home, where he becomes an optometrist and marries a girl out of interest. He’s doing VERY well, business wise, though his mental state is not that ‘clear’.

He’s ‘traveling’ in time and gets back to the war days, re-living all his days as a soldier, prisoner or war and Dresden bombing survivor, he’s even abducted by aliens on Tralfamadore, who display him in some sort of a ZOO.

There he learns that free will doesn’t exist and that we do what we do because we MUST do it. And time on Tralfamadore is not made uf of a succession of events, but everything is there at the same time. And we re-live parts of our lives and, even if we could change the future or the past, we don’t do it, because it’s useless: you can always find another moment to re-live.

As you can guess no one is thrilled to find out about his ‘abductions’, even if Pilgrim does tell his story on the radio and they all think he’s crazy. And it doesn’t really matter since he’s always traveling back and forth in life and, whenever he sees death, he’s just saying ‘so it goes’.

The writing is not ‘pretty’ as some would like. There’s foul language, there’s short concise sentences, cold and short like a blade. But one cannot write about war aesthetically, because the war, as it is for the regular soldier, has absolutely nothing pretty in it.

I would have never expected to like a ‘war book’, but this one was really enjoyable. There’s a lot to discover in it and it’s really an amazing read. Just try it and let us know how it was for you.

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