January 30th, 2023

Slaughterhouse-Five has been on my ‘To Read’ list for a few years now, so while on a flight to Bangkok, I sorted my Audible library by length–to find something that I could make a dent in and Kurt Vonnegut’s classic popped up.

I’m glad I finally got round to listening to this this gem instead of letting it die in the abyss of my ‘To Read’ book graveyard like so many others. So it goes.

Right, so what’s the book about what did I think of Slaughterhouse-Five?

When I watch a new movie or read/listen to a new book, I like to avoid knowing anything about it and go in as uninformed as I can be on the plot–so I presumed this novel was horror-themed. I guess you could kind of classify it this genre depending on your perspective, but no it’s not a classic horror book, it’s an anti-war novel.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, first published in 1969. The novel follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran who becomes “unstuck in time”, and is randomly experiencing different moments of his life. Through his travels in time, Billy is able to observe the horrors of war and its devastating effects on both himself and the people around him. The novel’s plot is purposely disorganised, which reflects the chaos and confusion of war. In the end, Billy is left with a deep understanding of the consequences of war, and the importance of looking beyond the surface of things. Slaughterhouse-Five is a powerful story that emphasises the importance of peace, acceptance, and understanding.

The book has no structure or at the very least a perceivable one: it’s all over the place. But, it works so well. It cements the book’s message and purpose underlining its meaning. Indeed, this book is an anti-war novel, which is asserted (in part) through its random and confusing organisation. The story is “jumbled and jangled” such as the meaning of war. It appears pointless to the reader, again alluding to the meaning of war. It also suggests that after the war a soldier’s life is in ruins and has no clear direction, which can be seen with the sad case of Billy Pilgrim.

At first I was drawn in, with Vonnegut’s writing style, then became disengaged and confused when aliens were introduced, and enthralled as I read on further and further. At the end of the book, I was left staring at the ceiling about what the hell I had just listened to. It is funny, sad, thought provoking, messy, and horrific – I can’t seem to put it into words, but all I know is I will have to re-read this in the future.

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Some quotes I liked

“All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.”

“I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses.”

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

“That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.”

“When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.”

“Trout, incidentally, had written a book about a money tree. It had twenty-dollar bills for leaves. Its flowers were government bonds. Its fruit was diamonds. It attracted human beings who killed each other around the roots and made very good fertilizer.”

“But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes.

“I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that.”

“All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist…It’s just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once that moment is gone it is gone forever.”


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