Monday, August 25, 2008

Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the best absurdist novels I have read.

Kurt Vonnegut with his sharp prose strips down war to its basics and makes us realise how stupid the idea of war is. The novel deals with the allied bombing of Dresden, but it is hardly a run of the mill war novel. Vonnegut takes the reader back and forth, shifting from 1944 to 1968 and back, from Illium, a small town in America to Dresden to the planet Tralfamador, the hero is an optometrist who goes to war as an assistant to the chaplain, a group of Prisoners of War hoard tonnes of food sent to them due to a clerical error by Red Cross - at every turn Vonnegut surprises you. Generally with any absurdist novel, the reader is tired after a barrage of absurd situations. But Vonnegut makes sure that it never happens in this novel. He doesn't invent absurdities, just points out them as they occur in real life.

He makes sure that we remember even the random characters that populate the novel. The science fiction writer who works as a newspaper delivery manager, the retired US Air Force chief historian who doesn't want to acknowledge Dresden and many others add to the rich story that has no point other than to say shit happens. My favorite was the English soldier whose spoils of war is a plaster of paris Eiffel Tower with a clock in it - "a real smashing thing" he exults.


theanalogkid said...

i have seen the movie but haven't read the book. you should check it out if you haven't. the war is totally done away with though and more importance given to the sci-fi element.

Krishnan said...

I have read Vonnegut's Player Piano, yet to lay my hands on Slaughterhouse 5. Is it available easily ?a

Chenthil said...

TAK - While checking that IMDB link I learnt that the hero of the movie is now a big wall street financier - in true trafalmadore fashion.

Krishnan - I found it in Landmark, Chennai citi center.