Thursday, 8 May 2008
This is a really good novel about men and war and happiness and freedom.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was an American soldier in World War II, and he was a prisoner of war in Dresden when the RAF firebombed the city. Many years later, he wanted to write a novel about war which portrayed soldiers as like frightened children. Slaughterhouse Five was that novel.
My father was also a prisoner of war, somewhere in east Germany. At the time of the bombing of Dresden, my dad would have been either in a Nazi POW camp, or a fugitive, walking across mountains and fields, trying to reach the American army before the Nazis recaptured him.
I don't think my dad would have liked Slaughterhouse Five. It wouldn't have been heroic enough for him. He wouldn't have liked the way Vonnegut mixed science fiction with historical facts. But I knew my dad was frightened. Even in the seventies, he still had nightmares about the war. He used to wake up in a panic, and my mother would try to comfort him.
The science fiction part of Slaughterhouse Five involves time travel to a planet called Tralfamadore. The Tralfamadorians don't believe in free will, and they mock
humans because we do. They can see the future and the past, and because they believe they can't change them, choose to focus on the moments in their lives that they value most.
So it goes.