Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut


I’m struggling to think of a more inventive anti-war novel; Billy’s extra-terrestrial and temporal explorations, Vonnegut’s casual (or is it percipient, borne from experience?) disregard of form and the author’s willingness to bring down the fourth wall without hesitation.

The novel begins and ends with something akin to Vonnegut’s memoirs, and we get, what seems to be, an unimpeded insight into both his journey in writing this book and his journey through trauma in recovering from his experiences in WWII. It’s a deeply affecting portrait of a man who saw the horrors of war firsthand, and how that, even now, with a family, a good job and a peaceful and prosperous life, he is still haunted. It’s quite a jolt, therefore, when the memoir ends and Billy arrives on the scene.

It’s a very challenging book. The phrase meta gets chucked around but Slaughterhouse 5 almost feels sentient at times. That the character Kilgore Trout’s novels cohere almost precisely with Billy’s experiences, a man who experiences time not linearly but in a four dimensional selective sense, who also happens to resemble the author, but who we know does not represent the author because the author has inserted himself into the novel at quite random instances, all adds up to make this more than a simple condemnation of war.

I’m still thinking about this one. But what I don’t have to think about is the rating. 5 stars!


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue online here.

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