“And I asked myself about the present:
how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
I could never have imagined how much I would like this book. When the words ‘absurdist’ and ‘aliens’ pop up in a description of a book, it’s enough to put me off reading it. I’m so happy I decided to pick this one up anyway.
As you can gather from the little blurb, this is the story of Billy Pilgrim who is thrown around his own time-line. One minute he’s in 1965 with his family, the other he’s on a transport train heading to Dresden during the Second World War. You get the real sense of hopelessness, the feeling of just giving up. You see the ugliness of the war.
But this is also Kurt Vonnegut’s story. He gives you a bit of insight into the writing of the book. He’s always wanted to write a book about Dresden but he can’t seem to put the right words on paper. When he manages to write Slaughterhouse-5, he puts himself in the book (which is one of my favourite things about this story). He literally says: “The guy in the back, that’s me, that’s the writer of this book.”. It’s brilliant, genius, perfect.
As for the aliens. Don’t let them scare you away from this book. They add a whole different look on things. They don’t see life as a series of events, they see everything at once. When someone dies, humans are sad because that person is gone. They don’t understand the way we feel because to them, that person is still alive at a different moment in time. Since everything is happening at once, he’s alive right now, a year ago.
I loved that idea, that time is not just start to finish but happening all the time.
There is so much more I like about this book. The writing was perfect for me. I loved that every time someone (or something) dies, he wrote “So it goes.“. I loved “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.“and even “Poo-tee-weet” (If you’ve read the book you’ll understand, if you haven’t read it-go and find out!)
To say that I liked this book is an understatement. It touched me and even thinking about it now, when it’s been a month since I read it, still makes me so happy. Although the subject matter is horrible, the book is beautiful and I love it so very, very much.
Some books just stay with you and this is one that will stay with me forever because “All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.“.