Friday, March 17, 2017

Slaughter House Five: 25 years later

Revisiting Slaughter House Five after more than twenty-years is an instructive read.  In this, considered Vonnegut’s greatest novel, you see his strengths and weaknesses combine as a writer work in tandem to make a very powerful statement about the nature of time, loss, and the persistence of human pain. 

Like all works laced with irony, it is hard to know this narrative at its "core"; is the view of the extraterrestrials, who do not see the sequential nature of time like humans, and therefore do not feel loss or pain, an escape valve, a gag, if you will, that highlights how helpless people are in the face of fate?  Or are we to take this seriously as a real ontological view of the world -- almost a new article of faith?

There is no way to know.  All that is certain is that we are trapped in a human world, with a human world-view.  The novel ends in a firebombed Dresden with the chirp of a bird to highlight human helplessness  ­– thousands of civilians are burned to death, a great city lay in ruins – yet life goes on, without an overarching commentary or elegy.  In the face of such destruction, words lose power.

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