Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does.

I've always been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut's short stories, but this is my first full-length novel of his that I have read. Slaughterhouse-Five is a semi-autobiographical account of Kurt Vonnegut's experience in WWII told through the eyes of Billy Pilgrim. It combines the bombing of Dresden with Billy's capacity to be "unstuck" in time, time-traveling to Tralfamadore and living among aliens.

Vonnegut explores time and memory, and the human desire to explain the world around us and understand what we don't know. He writes about the human condition brilliantly, highlighting the twinkles of bliss and humor that shine through the darker occasions. He explores the human passion for life and the experience of living. But the book isn't hopeful, as we are left without any resolution or moral. Rather, Vonnegut exposes the follies and the misjudgments that humans experience as we try to cope with life, which to him, is insignificant.
If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still--if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice.
The book is fractured and written in a muted language, which adds to the non-romanticized, indefinable view of war. While it very clearly satirizes war and exposes it's absurdities, it also speaks to it's inevitability. Slaughterhouse-Five raises existential questions without slapping you in the face with them. We aren't left with answers, but Vonnegut surmises through an exploration of fate and free-will that we can chose our own path, however trivial it may be.
All time is all time. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all... bugs in amber.
 Publisher: Dial Press, 1969


  1. I've never read any Vonnegut *hangs head in shame* but I have a few of his works on my shelf. I keep meaning to get around to it him but...maybe next month?

  2. Bevinso, I haven't read very much Vonnegut so it's ok. But I would suggest you read something of his sooner rather than later!

  3. You've really made me want to pick this book up again. I haven't read it since high school and I realize I hardly remember it. Great review!