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Slaughter-House Five

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Slaughter-House Five

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Adapted for a magnificent George Roy Hill film three years later (perhaps the only film adaptation of a masterpiece which exceeds its source), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is the now famous parable of...
Adapted for a magnificent George Roy Hill film three years later (perhaps the only film adaptation of a masterpiece which exceeds its source), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is the now famous parable of...
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Description-
  • Adapted for a magnificent George Roy Hill film three years later (perhaps the only film adaptation of a masterpiece which exceeds its source), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW, who has in the later stage of his life become "unstuck in time" and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously.

    Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralmafadorians who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence).

    The "unstuck" nature of Pilgrim's experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; then again, Pilgrim's aliens may be as "real" as Dresden is real to him. Struggling to find some purpose, order or meaning to his existence and humanity's, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author's best character name), has a child with her and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralmafadorians, Montana Wildhack and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence.

    Slaughterhouse-Fivewas hugely successful, brought Vonnegut an enormous audience, was a finalist for the National Book Award and a bestseller and remains four decades later as timeless and shattering a war fiction as Catch-22, with which it stands as the two signal novels of their riotous and furious decade.

 
Awards-
Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I've changed all the names. I really did go back to Dresden with Guggenheim money (God love it) in 1967. It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has. There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground.
    I went back there with an old war buddy, Bernard V. O'Hare, and we made friends with a cab driver, who took us to the slaughterhouse where we had been locked up at night as prisoners of war. His name was Gerhard Müller. He told us that he was a prisoner of the Americans for a while. We asked him how it was to live under Communism, and he said that it was terrible at first, because everybody had to work so hard, and because there wasn't much shelter or food or clothing. But things were much better now. He had a pleasant little apartment, and his daughter was getting an excellent education. His mother was incinerated in the Dresden fire-storm. So it goes.
    He sent O'Hare a postcard at Christmastime, and here is what it said:
    "I wish you and your family also as to your friend Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and I hope that we'll meet again in a world of peace and freedom in the taxi cab if the accident will."

    I like that very much: "If the accident will."
    I would hate to tell you what this lousy little book cost me in money and anxiety and time. When I got home from the Second World War twenty-three years ago, I thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do would be to report what I had seen. And I thought, too, that it would be a masterpiece or at least make me a lot of money, since the subject was so big.
    But not many words about Dresden came from my mind then-not enough of them to make a book, anyway. And not many words come now, either, when I have become an old fart with his memories and his Pall Malls, with his sons full grown.
    I think of how useless the Dresden part of my memory has been, and yet how tempting Dresden has been to write about, and I am reminded of the famous limerick:

    There was a young man from Stamboul,
    Who soliloquized thus to his tool:
    "You took all my wealth
    And you ruined my health,
    And now you won't pee, you old fool."

    And I'm reminded, too, of the song that goes:

    My name is Yon Yonson,
    I work in Wisconsin,
    I work in a lumbermill there.
    The people I meet when I walk down the street,
    They say, "What's your name?"
    And I say,
    My name is Yon Yonson,
    I work in Wisconsin . . ."
Synopsis-
  • Unstuck in time, Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's shattered survivor of the Dresden bombing, relives his life over and over again under the gaze of aliens; he comes at last to some understanding of the human comedy. The basis of George Roy's great 1972 film and perhaps the signature student's novel in the 1960's embracing protest and the absurdity of war.
About the Author-
  • Hailed by Graham Greene as one of the best living American writers, Kurt Vonnegut is one of the definitive voices in American literature in the second half of the 20th century. Born in Indianapolis in 1922 and a veteran of World War II (Billy Pilgrim of Slaughterhouse Five is his exact contemporary), he worked for General Electric before publishing his first story in 1950 and turning to writing full time. From the beginning, science fiction was an important element in Vonnegut's writing -- his early stories were published in science-fiction magazines -- though his work is in no way merely generic. A scathing and dark wit, a sly intelligence and a richly evolved sense of the absurd make Vonnegut's writing like no one else's. Doris Lessing called him one of the writers who map our landscapes for us, who gives names to the places we know best.

    Vonnegut's first novel Player Piano was published in 1952, and his novels, stories and essays began to appear regularly in the years that followed. It was the publication of The Sirens of Titan (1959) and, ultimately, Cat's Cradle (1963) that established Vonnegut as a major new writer with the general public, both in the U.S. and internationally. The appearance of Slaughterhouse Five six years later brought him an increasingly rare double distinction for a serious writer -- critical acclaim and bestselling success. Vonnegut's other notably titles include God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; Welcome to the Monkey House; Breakfast of Champions; Slapstick; Jailbird; Deadeye Dick; and Hocus Pocus. Time magazine has described Kurt Vonnegut as George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer ... a zany but moral mad scientist.
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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