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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world's great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

275 pages, Paperback

First published March 31, 1969

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About the author

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

302 books31.7k followers
Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in World War II.

After the war, he attended University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a police reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He left Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York in public relations for General Electric. He attributed his unadorned writing style to his reporting work.

His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden, Germany whilst a prisoner of war, would inform much of his work. This event would also form the core of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, the book which would make him a millionaire. This acerbic 200-page book is what most people mean when they describe a work as "Vonnegutian" in scope.

Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana's own Eugene V. Debs) and a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat's Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 35,328 reviews
Profile Image for Simeon.
Author 1 book370 followers
February 26, 2019
There are some terrible reviews of SH5 floating around Goodreads, but one particularly awful sentiment is that Slaughterhouse-Five isn't anti-war.

This is usually based on the following quote.

"It had to be done," Rumfoord told Billy, speaking of the destruction of Dresden.
"I know," said Billy.
"That's war."
"I know. I'm not complaining"
"It must have been hell on the ground."
"It was," said Billy Pilgrim.
"Pity the men who had to do it."
"I do."
"You must have had mixed feelings, there on the ground."
"It was all right," said Billy. "Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does. I learned that on Tralfamadore."
For context, Mr. Rumfoord is an old military historian described as "hateful and cruel" who wants to see weaklings like Billy exterminated.

On Tralfamadore, Billy was introduced to the revelation that all things happen exactly as they do, and that they will always happen that way, and that they will never happen any other way. Meaning, time is all at once. The aliens, incidentally, admit to destroying the universe in a comical accident fated far into the future, and they're very sorry, but so it goes. <- passive acceptance

The entire story up to this point has been about Billy, buffeted like a powerless pathetic leaf in a storm, pushed this way and that by forces entirely outside his tiny purview. He lays catatonically in a hospital bed after the plane crash and the death of his wife, and all the time traveling back and forth from Dresden where toddlers and families and old grannies and anti-war civilians were burned alive in a carefully organized inferno (so it goes), and Billy is about ready to agree to absolutely anything.

It can't be prevented. It can't be helped.

You're powerless, after a while. What hope have we, or anyone caught in the middle of a war, or even the poor soldiers who are nothing but pawns and children (hence the children's crusade), to influence these gigantic, global events?

Therefore, Billy agrees with the hateful, the cruel Mr. Rumfoord, who is revising his military history of WWII, having previously forgotten to mention the Dresden bombing. Women and children, not evaporated instantly, but melted slowly by chemicals and liquid flame, their leftovers, according to Billy, lying in the street like blackened logs, or in piles of families who died together in their little homes.

Incidentally, how can anything be pro-war or anti-war? Because being anti-war is a bit like being anti-conflict, anti-death, and anti-suffering. Is there a book that's pro these things? Is there a book that touches on the subject of war and is not against it?

We don't support wars, though we are sometimes forced to accept them. Anyone who thinks that the bombing of Dresden was necessary is delusional.

It's like saying, "yo, look how they bombed these innocents - that shit was wrong! Let's go bomb some innocents, too."

That's the sad truth of it.
Profile Image for Martine.
145 reviews657 followers
January 3, 2010
I have to admit to being somewhat baffled by the acclaim Slaughterhouse-5 has received over the years. Sure, the story is interesting. It has a fascinating and mostly successful blend of tragedy and comic relief. And yes, I guess the fractured structure and time-travelling element must have been quite novel and original back in the day. But that doesn't excuse the book's flaws, of which there are a great many in my (seemingly unconventional) opinion. Take, for instance, Vonnegut's endless repetition of the phrase 'So it goes.' Wikipedia informs me it crops up 106 times in the book. It felt like three hundred times to me. About forty pages into the book, I was so fed up with the words 'So it goes' that I felt like hurling the book across the room, something I have not done since trying to read up on French semiotics back in the 1990s. I got used to coming across the words every two pages or so eventually, but I never grew to like them. God, no.

I found some other nits to pick, too. Some of them were small and trivial and frankly rather ridiculous, such as -- wait for it -- the hyphen in the book's title. Seriously, what is that hyphen doing there? There's no need for a hyphen there. Couldn't someone have removed it, like, 437 editions ago? And while I'm at it, couldn't some discerning editor have done something about the monotonous quality of Vonnegut's prose -- about the interminable repetition of short subject-verb-object sentences? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all authors should use Henry James- or Claire Messud-length sentences. Heaven forbid. I'm actually rather fond of minimalism, both in visual art and in writing. But Vonnegut's prose is so sparse and simplistic it's monotonous rather than minimalist, to the point where I frequently found myself wishing for a run-on sentence every now and then, or for an actual in-depth description of something. I hardly ever got either. As a result, there were times when I felt like I was reading a bare-bones outline of a story rather than the story itself. Granted, it was an interesting outline, larded with pleasing ideas and observations, but still, I think the story could have been told in a more effective way. A less annoying way, too.

As for the plot, I liked it. I liked the little vignettes Vonnegut came up with and the colourful characters he created (the British officers being my particular favourites). I liked the fact that you're never quite sure whether Billy is suffering from dementia, brain damage or some kind of delayed post-traumatic stress disorder, or whether there is some actual time-travelling going on. I even liked the jarring switches in perspective, although I think they could have been handled in a slightly more subtle manner. And I liked the book's anti-war message, weak and defeatist though it seemed to be. In short, I liked the book, but it took some doing. I hope I'll be less annoyed by the two other Vonnegut books I have sitting on my shelves, Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle.
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,184 followers
July 29, 2011
I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

He hasn't been gone all that long. Of course he isn't gone, yet he is gone. He has always been alive and he will always be dead. So it goes.

Slaughterhouse-five is next to impossible to explain, let alone review, but here I am. And here I go.

What is it about?

It's about war.
It's about love and hate.
It's about post traumatic stress.
It's about sanity and insanity.
It's about aliens (not the illegal kind, the spacey kind).
It's about life.
It's about death.
so it goes.

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

This is how I live my life. This is how I get through the day. Most days I am successful, some days I'm not. Today is one of the "not" days. Like so many Americans these days, I feel I'm in a rut. Like so many Americans I don't understand why I am where I am. This was not the plan. This was not what I had in mind......

Oh poor me....boo hoo.

This book. This book got me thinking. So much about life sucks, true, but not many of us want to give up on it that easy. Why? because of the "good ones". And what makes "good ones" is our ability to create and enjoy creating.....at least I think so.

"Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE."
— Joss Whedon

If you make something, a painting, a poem, a novel, a good meal, a person.....you continue to live even after death. I think that's what Mr. Vonnegut was getting at. Maybe.

At least that is how he has remained alive for me.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.3k followers
May 6, 2020
Every so often you read a book, a book that takes everything you thought created an excellent novel and tears it to pieces; it then sets it on fire and throws it out the window in a display of pure individual brilliance. That is how I felt when I read this jumbled and absurd, yet fantastic, novel.

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. So it goes.

Billy Pilgrim is a poor tortured soul who after the fire-bombing of Dresden is in a state of flux. His mind cannot remain in the present and darts back and forth in time like the narrative. He was never the most assertive of men, and after the war became a shadow of his already meek self. The war has left him delusional, which is manifested by his abduction by aliens. This may or may not have happened. Vonnegut leaves it up to the reader to decide. What decision they make effects what genre the novel belongs to.

Is it science fiction?

If Billy was abducted by aliens then this is sci-fi, but if it is a figment of his imagination then this becomes something much deeper. It’s up to the reader how they interpret it, but I personally believe that he wasn’t abducted. I think he made it up, unconsciously, as a coping strategy for the effects of war, and that the author has used it as a tool to raise questions of the futility of free will, but more importantly to further establish the anti-war theme.

Vonnegut draws on a multitude of sources to establish this further, such as the presidential address of Truman. He ironically suggests that the A-bomb, whilst devastating, is no worse than ordinary war; he points out the fact that the fire-bombing of Dresden killed more than the nuking of Hiroshima. Through this he uses Billy Pilgrim’s life as a metaphor for what war for the effects of war on the human state.

So it goes.

Vonnegut himself is a character within the narrative as the life of Billy Pilgrim is, in part, an autobiographical statement. The narrator addresses the reader and informs them of this. He tells them that this all happened more or less. This establishes the black humour towards war and the inconsequential deaths of those that are in it. Hence the motif “so it goes” at each, and every, mention of death whether large or small. He ends the book on the line “poo-te-weet.” He even tells the reader he is going to do this, but at the same time demonstrates that there is nothing intelligible to be said about war.

I warn you, if you’ve not read this, it is one of the most bizarre books you will ever read. The main character time travels, in his mind, and has no real present state. The narrative initially appears random and completely confusing. But, once you reach the end you’ll see this book for what it is: the most individual, and unique, statement against war that will ever be written.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Kirstie.
262 reviews128 followers
February 15, 2008
I read this book first in 1999 when my grandfather passed away. It was a bit of a coincidence as his funeral occurred between a Primate Anatomy exam and a paper for my Experimental Fiction class on Slaughterhouse Five. I was frantically trying to remember the names of all kinds of bones when I picked this up in the other hand and tried to wrap my head around it.

Basically, Vonnegut has written the only Tralfamadorian novel I can think of. These beings, most undoubtedly inspired in Billy Pilgrim's head by the scattered science fiction plots of Kilgore Trout, experience time as a continuum that is constantly occurring...and when they look at time, even though in their version of history, the world is in a constant state of being destroyed for example, they choose to see the things that make them happy...the good moments.

What Billy learns from these creatures is that each traumatic event that has happened in his life fits very precisely into a state of meticulous nature. It has always happened and always will happen and so it goes (on and on and on). What Billy Pilgrim truly experiences over and over in his life is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He exists throughout his memories traveling back and forth with the knowledge of what will happen and how precise it all is. Dresden is bombed in every moment and his friend Derby is put in front of a firing squad. At every second, he is the only survivor of a plane wreck, he is getting married, and he is fighting a Children's Crusade. It's the only way he can look at the despair that has happened and make sense of it.

When my grandfather died and I read this, I felt as if it was just what I needed because I could escape back into time and remember the good memories of my grandfather...if they existed (even if in some fourth dimension) then he was just as dead as he was alive and eating peanut butter chocolate ice cream. At the same time my grandfather had a heart attack, I was watching him play cards with my grandma at the kitchen table. But which one to think of? Well, that was easy. Death can't be prevented and so it goes but you can always try to change which moment you live in. It's a little bit different than a memory and if you go far into it, you'll end up like Billy Pilgrim, which is to say, you will go insane because the rest of the world sees time as linear and counts seconds and minutes and hours.

Once and awhile, it doesn't hurt. I re-read this again on the plane rides home and back before and after my grandmother's funeral on Monday and last night. My grandma was a strong and intelligent woman and she always read everything she saw. My recent memories of my grandmother were of her at the holidays. She always had her mind but her physical condition had deteriorated and she was dependent on oxygen. It made me sad to think of her like this a bit.

It's really hard for me to think that my grandma is no more but then I tell myself...well, it's silly for me to keep crying on and on about this. My grandma is right now reading at 4am in her living room chair and I am a child creeping down the stairs hoping she's still up. She is telling me that one day I'll come around and like green onions. She is reminding me to keep my feet off of the davenport and about being "tickled" by something. She lives in a jungle of houseplants and watches musicals all of the time, always pointing out when some distant relative of mine appears briefly in The Greatest Show on Earth. My grandma can't be dead and be doing all of those things, can she? It doesn't make sense. She will always be alive in some moments just like I will always be seven and nine and twenty eight and perhaps past thirty and forty. So, she'll always be here.

I just wish I could dream about her.
Profile Image for Kenny.
490 reviews849 followers
September 22, 2022
“All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.”

My junior year of college, I had a roommate, Don, his nickname was Har Don ~~ which he hated; Har Don loved Kurt Vonnegut ~~ no, he worshiped Kurt Vonnegut. It’s ironic since everything Har Don believed in was the antithesis of what Vonnegut stood for. Har Don insisted I read Vonnegut's SLAPSTICK. He told me it was the greatest novel ever written. I did, and it isn't. He insisted I was wrong. I wasn't. But, I was done with Vonnegut; there were authors I was craving to read and Vonnegut was not one of them.

Skip ahead to my joining Goodreads. Friends here, people whose opinions I truly respect, kept telling me I had to read SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE. So, I broke down, and picked up a copy. And? Well, it is hard to put into words how much I loved the world ~~ no worlds ~~ inhabited by Billy Pilgrim.

I can honestly say I have not read anything like SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE. That's a good thing. I had just finished NORWEGIAN WOOD and LIE WITH ME, two tales of young love gone wrong so I was looking to inhabit an entirely different world. SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE definitely was that world, or should I say worlds???


SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE is based on Vonnegut's experiences as a POW during the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE is considered a modern literary masterpiece, as it should be. It propelled Vonnegut, who had been largely ignored by both critics and the public, to fame and literary acclaim. So it goes.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE follows Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes "unstuck in time," and brings together different periods of Billy's life ~~ his time as an ill-fated soldier, his post-war optometry career, and a foray in an extraterrestrial zoo where he served as an exhibit ~~ with humor and deep insight.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE was published on March 31, 1969 and became an instant and surprise hit. It spent sixteen weeks on the New York Times best seller list and went through five printings by July of 1969.


SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE has not been without controversy. The American Library Association listed the book as the 46th most banned or challenged book of the first decade of the 21st century. "It was banned from Oakland County, Michigan public schools in 1972. The circuit judge there accused the novel of being “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.” No wonder I loved it!

“My books are being thrown out of school libraries all over the country—because they’re supposedly obscene," Vonnegut told the Paris Review. "I’ve seen letters to small-town newspapers that put Slaughterhouse-Five in the same class with Deep Throat and Hustler magazine. How could anybody masturbate to Slaughterhouse-Five?” I'm starting to like this Vonnegut character!

"In 2011, Wesley Scroggins, an assistant professor at Missouri State University, called on the Republic, MO school board to ban SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE. He wrote in the local paper, 'This is a book that contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The ‘f word’ is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.' The board eventually voted 4-0 to remove the novel from the high school curriculum and its library."

In response to this ban, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis gave away 150 free copies of SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE to Republic, Missouri students who wanted to read it. As a kid who was not allowed to give book reports in front of the class because my reading choices were "morally questionable" I now officially love the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library!


SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE is the strange tale of Billy Pilgrim. As i said previously, Billy becomes "unstuck" from the linear nature of time and takes us along on his journey. Billy Pilgrim is the anti-everyman while engaging in love, ethics, war, science, and aliens. SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE's main theme is man’s inhumanity to man throughout history.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE is not without its own heartfelt themes. It is most definitely an anti-war book. It is in many ways an anti-death book. It presents a philosophy questioning the purpose of life amidst determinism. Ayn Rand would have hated SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE ~~ yet another reason to love this book.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE is often insensitive and dark, and yet, you can't help but laugh at the world Vonnegut has created. SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE is full of contradictions that only serve to make Vonnegut's points.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE -- FIVE doesn't end with the death of Billy Pilgrim. That would far to simple an ending for something as brilliant as this; Billy lives on reliving this strange existence, learning and relearning the lessons of his life, unstuck from time.


So, have I revised my opinion of Vonnegut? Most definitely. Will I read more Vonnegut in the future? Yes, but selectively. Will I reread Slapstick? NEVER ...

Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,400 reviews3,280 followers
December 24, 2021
Kurt Vonnegut always had his own unique attitude to society and history. Therefore Slaughterhouse-Five is a special story of man and his place in war and peace.
Shells were bursting in the treetops with terrific bangs showering down knives and needles and razorblades. Little lumps of lead in copper jackets were crisscrossing the woods under the shellbursts, zipping along much faster than sound.

War is a wonderful thing – it presents a man with a gift of madness. And madness is even a more wonderful thing – it allows a man to travel in time, to go through space to distant planets, to see things others can’t see.
‘Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, here we are… trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.’

So it goes… Then it stops…
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
July 31, 2021
(Book 375 from 1001 books) - Slaughterhouse-Five = The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969) is a science fiction-infused anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut about the World War II experiences and journeys through time of Billy Pilgrim, from his time as an American soldier and chaplain's assistant, to postwar and early years.

It is generally recognized as Vonnegut's most influential and popular work. A central event is Pilgrim's surviving the Allies' firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner-of-war. This was an event in Vonnegut's own life, and the novel is considered semi-autobiographical.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه می سال 2011میلادی

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «سلاخ‌خانه شماره پنج»؛ نویسنده: کورت ونه‌گات؛ انتشاراتیها: (روشنگران و مطالعات زنان)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش نوزدهم ماه می سال2011میلادی

عنوان: سلاخ خانه شماره پنج؛ نویسنده: کورت ونه گات؛ مترجم: علی اصغر بهرامی، تهران، روشنگران، 1372؛ در 263ص؛ چاپ دیگر 1380؛ چاپ بعدی سال1381؛ شابک 9646751490؛ چاپ ششم سال1389؛ موضوع: جنگ جهانگیر دوم - از سال 1939میلادی تا سال 1945میلادی از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

کورت ونه گات: (زادروز: یازدهم ماه نوامبر سال 1922میلادی، ایندیاناپولیس، ایالت ایندیانا، درگذشت: روز یازدهم ماه آوریل سال 2007میلادی) در شهر «نیویورک، ایالت نیویورک»؛ ملیت: آمریکایی؛ پیشه: نویسنده از سال 1950میلادی تا سال 2005میلادی؛ همسران: «جین مری کاکس» از سال1945میلادی تا سال1971میلادی، «جیل کرمنتز از سال 1979میلادی تا سال 2007میلادی)، دارای چهار فرزند؛ والدین: «کورت وانگات سینیور، ادیت لیبر»؛

آثار: رمان‌ها: ‍«پیانوی خودنواز (1952میلادی)»، «آژیرهای هیولا (1959میلادی)»، «شب مادر (1961میلادی)»، «گهواره گربه (1963میلادی)»، «خدا شما را حفظ کند، آقای رزواتر (1965میلادی)»، «سلاخ‌خانه شماره پنج (1969میلادی)»، «صبحانه قهرمانان (1973میلادی)»، «اسلپ استیک (1976میلادی)»، «محبوس (1979میلادی)»، «مجمع الجزایر گالاپاگوس (1985میلادی)»، «ریش آبی (1987میلادی)»، «زمان لرزه (1997میلادی)»، «مرد بی‌وطن (2005میلادی)». مجموعه داستان‌ها: «قناری در خانه گربه (1961میلادی)»، «به خانه میمون خوش آمدید (1967میلادی)»، «انفیه ­دان باگومبو (1999میلادی)»، «خدا شما را حفظ کند، دکتر کورکیان (1999میلادی)»، «جوجو را نیگا (2009میلادی)». نمایش‌نامه: «تولدت مبارک وندا جون (1971میلادی)».؛

کورت وانگات جونیور، در رشته زیست‌ شیمی، از دانشگاه «کورنل» فارغ‌ التحصیل شدند، در ارتش نام‌نویسی کردند، و برای نبرد در جنگ جهانی دوم به «اروپا» اعزام شدند؛ ایشان خیلی زود به دست نیروهای «آلمانی» اسیر، و در «درسدن» زندانی شدند، پس از پایان جنگ و بازگشت به «ایالات متحده آمریکا»، در «دانشگاه شیکاگو» به تحصیل «مردم‌شناسی» پرداختند، و سپس به عنوان تبلیغات‌چی در شرکت «جنرال الکتریک» مشغول به کار شدند، تا سال1951میلادی که با نهایی شدن انتشار نخستین کتاب ایشان، «پیانوی خودکار»، آن کار را ترک کردند و تمام‌ وقت مشغول نویسندگی شدند؛ آثار ایشان ترکیبی از طنز سیاه، در مایه‌ های علمی‌ تخیلی ه­ستند؛

از آثار ایشان: «گهواره گربه»، «سلاخ‌خانه شماره پنج» و «صبحانه قهرمانان» بیشتر مورد ستایش قرار گرفته‌ اند.؛ در سال1999میلادی آستروئید یا سیارک 25399، را، برای بزرگداشت ایشان «ونه گات» نامیدند.؛

چکیده این داستان: «بیلی پیلگریم»، قهرمان داستان، در زمان خدمت خود در آرتش «آمریکا» در جنگ جهانگیر دوم، قابلیت حرکت در زمان را پیدا می‌کند، و از آن لحظه به‌ طور همزمان در زمین، و در یک سیاره ی دور، به نام «ترالفامادور»، زندگی خویش را پی می‌گیرد؛ او به فلسفه سرنوشت «ترالفامادور»ی ها باور پیدا می‌کند؛ آنها قادر به دیدن محیط خود در چهار بعد هستند؛ بنابراین از همه ی رخدادهای بگذشته و آینده باخبر هستند؛ واکنش او به رخدادهای ناخوشایندی که رخ می‌دهد، گفتن این جمله است: «بله! رسم روزگار چنین است.»؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 31/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 07/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book835 followers
October 6, 2020
Don’t be fooled: this is a short novel, but a pretty difficult one! Kurt Vonnegut, like his protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, witnessed long ago one of the most dreadful (and now almost forgotten) events during the crepuscular spring of 1945, when the Allies, pretending to eradicate Nazism, utterly destroyed the German city of Dresden and killed tens of thousands of civilians (comparable to the Hiroshima bombing). This event is the bleeding core of the novel. So it goes.

What is more bewildering about this book is its disjointed time structure: very soon in the story, Billy Pilgrim, a former prisoner of war, gets “unstuck in time”, thanks to the intervention of a Tralfamadorian flying saucer. He then keeps travelling in time from one paragraph to the next, going back and forth from the days before the Dresden destruction, to his childhood years, to his postwar life as an optometrist who is writing a book about Dresden and suffers a plane crash, to the time of the Vietnam War and Ronald Reagan (the present time when Vonnegut was writing), to a geodesic sphere on the far-off planet of Tralfamadore, to Times Square, and back to the firestorm of World War II.

In doing so, we get to know a gallery of quaint yet pitiful characters Billy meets along the way: Weary the bully, Lazzaro the enraged sadist, Campbell the American Nazi, Kilgore Trout the crook sci-fi writer, the Spinozist four-dimensional Tralfamadorians, Montana the porn star, the rich and fat Valencia who dies in her car, Derby the teacher who dies before a firing squad, Jesus Christ a “nobody” who dies on a piece of wood. So it goes.

Added to this sense of disorientation (which indeed is that of Billy/Kurt), Vonnegut uses a dry, detached and fatalistic humour, when describing the most unspeakable, even unthinkable, moments of this war experience, that, if amusing, truly conveys a sense of utter despair. So it goes.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,854 reviews16.4k followers
November 1, 2019
A fun visit with cantankerous old Uncle Kurt.

Vonnegut is on a short list of my favorite authors and this is perhaps his most famous work. Not his best, but most recognizable. Billy Pilgrim is also one of his best characters.

(Kilgore Trout is his best).

I liked it as I like everything I have read of him. The recurring themes and characters, use of repetition for emphasis and comic relief, his irreverence and postmodern lack of sensitivity shine bright as ever here.

Vonnegut can be funny and grim on the same page, same sentence even, and not lose relevance or sincerity.

** 2018 - My wife and I visited Dresden, Germany this year and I could not help think of Vonnegut as a young POW who miraculously survived the firebombing and lived to tell the tale.

***** 2019 reread

Perhaps his most celebrated and recognized this is also considered one of his best and I’d agree. This 1969 publication was nominated for a Hugo and a Nebula and was also a finalist for the National Book Award. I think maybe only Ursula K. LeGuin could also pull that off. This was made into a 1972 film directed by George Roy Hill (who also directed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting) and the film won the Hugo and the Cannes Grand Prix.

Billy Pilgrim has become “unstuck” in time. We all walk through life with a film of our past raging in our minds, but Vonnegut had Billy go one step further, in that he actually lives random moments in time, from his famous prison time in Dresden to his airplane crash, to his kidnapping and zoo sentence on Tralfamador.

Yes, Tralfamador. And we have another Kilgore Trout sighting, and also Elliot Rosewater and Howard W. Campbell Jr. We are surrounded and encompassed in the world Kurt made.

We must play a drinking game of sorts, every time death is mentioned we must say “so it goes”. In his introduction, we are told that this is to be a novel against war, an anti-war novel, and the ubiquitous phrase is used as an existential (and ironic) reminder that we live in each moment of time but that freewill is an intangible thing, as flimsy as dry rubber bands. The novel is also ripe with situational irony throughout, peppered with his inimitable dry humor and wit.

An observant reader will also note that when Pilgrim’s wife Valencia is in a car wreck, there is a bumper sticker that said, “Reagan for President”. Since this was first published in 1969, seven years before Reagan would be mentioned in the Republican primaries and eleven years before he would be elected, one wonders if KV had some time travel experience.

An absolute must read for his fans, a good introduction to his work, and an excellent book for all readers.

Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
947 reviews17.6k followers
February 26, 2023
Life can be so unutterably sad.

That in a nutshell was my early life; and Kurt Vonnegut’s life.

And young Billy’s too.

But Vonnegut was American, and so was I (by birth at least) - and so is Billy Pilgrim.

And Americans always jazz up their sadness.

And that’s what they all did to get themselves through the War. Big Bands became the perfect anodyne to stark terror.

And zany behaviour - my own, Vonnegut’s and Billy’s - became the preferred personal way for American bullied innocents to jazz up their sadness.

Living in a meat cooler under a city while your country is Decimating that city can only leave a traumatic scar.


So you jazz it up big time yourself - you start to prefer your mini-vacations on Trafalmador over more mundane hot spots.

Like, for example, foxholes.

So it goes, with Kurt and Billy, and me, and with cringing, bullied kids like us EVERYWHERE. Because where there is carrion like us there the crows gather. And crows don’t even chew you before swallowing.

And they have gizzards to take care of your bones.

You know, had Kurt Vonnegut been a believer he might have considerably mollified his trauma.

Or even reading books by and about declared Aspies, like I do now, may have helped do the trick.

But alas, dear Kurt, back then they shot first and asked questions later.

If they’d have heard you were an Aspie back then they would have leered and just told you to keep marching and shut up.

No wonder their Jazz was in as much demand as a good, stiff drink back then.

For you too, Kurt - you picked up their old-time jazzy zaniness...

And just marched on into doomed Dresden -

Dreaming of long-lost Tralfamador.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
727 reviews11.6k followers
April 13, 2022
“And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.”

When you find yourself in the middle of horror, enormity that defies rational understanding, and survive despite everything, can you ever leave that place and that time behind? Can you ever let it go, and can it ever set you free? Can you help looking back, like Lot’s wife, at the pain and destruction that are calling to you through time and distance? Can you ever?
“It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds.
And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like “Poo-tee-weet?”

“All this happened, more or less.” In 1945, at the end of brutal World War II, the Allies firebombed the German city of Dresden and almost 25,000 people died in the inferno. Kurt Vonnegut was in the city as a prisoner of war, and years later wrote his most famous book about Billy Pilgrim, an American POW in Dresden who lives through the war and survives Dresden bombing, and gets “unstuck in time”, moving between different periods of his life, seeing “his memory of the future” through the disorienting now, always now.
“Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

It’s a book that to me defies explanations. It’s science fiction inasmuch as there are aliens that see all the time simultaneously. It’s an anti-war book insomuch as it shows the absolute atrocity and monstrosity of mindless destruction. “So it goes,” continues the constant refrain — and yes, so it does.

And it is a book about trauma of war that stays with you no matter what else happens, because after such enormity how can life ever be the same? How can you ever come to grips with things that happened? War is absurd, and absurdity becomes reality.
“Derby described the incredible artificial weather that Earthlings sometimes create for other Earthlings when they don’t want those other Earthlings to inhabit Earth any more. Shells were bursting in the treetops with terrific bangs, he said, showering down knives and needles and razorblades. Little lumps of lead in copper jackets were crisscrossing the woods under the shellbursts, zipping along much faster than sound.”

This book combines farce and seriousness, surreal experiences and crushing reality, and is perfect example of comedy and tragedy combining into something much greater than the sum of its parts.

“Was it awful?”
“Sometimes.” A crazy thought now occurred to Billy. The truth of it startled him. It would make a good epitaph for Billy Pilgrim—and for me, too.”

Vonnegut’s language isn’t wasted in a single line here. It’s economical and spare; it says just as much with words on the page as with the words left unspoken but implied. The sentences are short, the syntax is simple, but beyond the deceiving simplicity lies the world of complex thought and feelings it evokes in the reader. And that quiet feeling of detachment punctuated with “So it goes” at the moments of death affected me more than any number of likable identifiable-with characters of other books have. After all, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

It does it to me, this book. It gets to me.
“People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore.
I’ve finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun.
This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt.”

5 stars.

Buddy read with Dennis.

Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
451 reviews3,229 followers
January 23, 2022
Now for something completely different , stating it mildly ...Billy Pilgrim is not just another time travelling man, kidnapped by aliens from the unknown planet Tralfamadore and put in their zoo, he's an eyewitness to the destruction of Dresden, during World War Two. Our Billy an optometrist, (eye doctor) marries the boss's slightly overweight daughter Valencia (who no one else wanted, people are so unkind) . The couple have two disrespectful children, Barbara and Robert, the truth that he becomes very rich through his nuptials, doesn't make him a bad guy, lucky, I guess is the proper adjective . Billy is no prize either , a tall, skinny weakling, an ordinary looking man , with a peculiar tendency for nervous breakdowns... welcome to modern life. The only unique thing about him, is the fact he visits rather reluctantly different stages of his life, by way of an unexplained and altogether involuntary power , by time travel. Yet for a while at least, life doesn't become endless and boring, still not as much fun as you'd think, repeating situations again and again, ouch . IT DOESN'T MATTER HE'D RATHER NOT GO...Past, Present and Future, are all the same to poor Pilgrim, he can be at his daughter's wedding and in a few moments, be back as a P.O.W. in Dresden, Germany on February 13th, 1945, when 1,200 allied bombers from England and America, dropped thousands of explosives on the city. Causing fires to spread quickly and kill (fry) thousands, anywhere from 30,000 to 130,000 humans, nobody will ever know the exact amount. "So it goes ". Then poor Billy is back in Illium, New York, talking to his only friend, Kilgore Trout an unsuccessful science fiction writer, (75 unread novels) I understand you can get his books at the local library, if you are diligent . The cosmic flying saucer that took Mr.Pilgrim secretly to that strange world...(not sure if it's the right word for the weird planet) millions of light years away, through a wormhole, did Billy a favor. The very curious people of Tralfamadore like to watch and how. They are not embarrassed by any kind of activity, providing him with a young, beautiful, and eager movie starlet Montana Wildhack, for the prisoner. The salacious activity gives the inhabitants of this planet many hours of entertainment...Billy will never really die, he will always travel through time and space forever."So it goes".
Profile Image for Garima.
113 reviews1,765 followers
July 20, 2016

I finally read Vonnegut. I finally read a war novel. And after a long time I finally read something with so many GR ratings and a decent number of reviews which is precisely the reason I have nothing much to add to the already expressed views here. So I urge you to indulge me to state a personal anecdote. Thank You.

My Grandfather was a POW during Indo-China war and remained in confinement for some six months. By the time I got to know about it I had already watched too many movies and crammed endless number of answers about when and where such n such war was fought. But I was naïve and let’s assume innocent and someone who was yet to learn to ask the right questions. So the fact that someone so close in the family had witness something I only read in schoolbooks was utterly fascinating for me. Thus began my streak of stupid questions.

Me: Did you kill someone? Did they torture you? Did you dig some sort of tunnel to escape? And so on.

My Grandpa gave this hearty laugh he is famous for and said that I’m missing one important question: Why the war happened at first place? I thought for a while and answered: Because it always happens.

I can’t recall properly what he replied to that but it was something on the lines of this: I wish the answer changes when you’ll grow up because as of now that’s exactly how it is. War always happens.

With books like Slaughterhouse-Five (Schlachthöf-fünf), it’s not the writing which matters but simply the ideas and thoughts it carries which transgresses the literary boundaries and create a place in the heart of the readers as a humble reminder that Love happens, Hate happens, Life happens, Death happens, Peace happens, War happens and sometimes Shit happens.
Profile Image for Annemarie.
249 reviews682 followers
September 12, 2018
This book is an absolute masterpiece and it makes it clear in every single sentence. I think it is best to go into it without knowing too much about the plot. You just got to take it as it comes, so to say.

Before reading, I was worried that I might have trouble with the writing style. English isn't my first language and the older a book is, the more trouble I seem to have with the writing (because of obsolete words, unusual sentence structures, ect.). However, my worry was totally for nothing in this case. I found the entire book very easy to read (which is even more surprising considering the heavy topics that get dealt with). I also loved how there were many little passages and repetitions of certain phrases. It seemed fitting somehow.

I would have never guessed that the blend of a war story with Science Fiction could work so well! It gives it so much room for analysing and interpretation.
Honestly, I could write a thousand more reasons why I loved this book, but in the end I would just repeat myself, because I seriously just loved every.single.little.thing! I highly recommend everyone to give it a shot.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
June 26, 2019
The God of Accidents

Only God knows all of time as if it were the same instant; only God can annihilate the Universe; only God knows our innermost thoughts: so contends Judaic, Christian, and Muslim theology. For God, therefore, there is no cause and effect; everything just is. And because there is no cause and effect, there is no issue of free will. Free will is an idea created by human beings who can't imagine any other way to escape the mechanical inevitability of causality.

In Slaughterhouse 5, the alien race of Tralfamadorians are not just god-like in their ability to transit the Universe, they are collectively God in their power over time and existence itself. The book is a subtle and very clever theology that has fundamental implications for morality and ethics.

Billy Pilgrim is the recipient of important revelations from the divine Tralfamadorians. The first revelation is that although death is a real certainty, it doesn't matter because one can revisit moments in one's life ad infinitum; resurrection is part of existence.

Second, God is neither external to the Universe, nor pantheistically distributed throughout it; rather God is a very discrete presence in the Universe, as well as in charge of it. Importantly for the fate of everyone, God is also as hapless as human beings; he can't change himself or his fate.

The most significant revelation is that Kilgore Trout, the famous science fiction writer and newspaper delivery boss, is God's prophet, whose every pronouncement is sarcastic.

It's difficult to say what portion of these revelations come directly from the divine source and what portion comes through Kilgore Trout's explorations into Billy's consciousness. Nevertheless the bottom line is clear: “Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does.” In other words, life is so screwy that it can neither be analysed nor rationalised. Not the best of all possible worlds, but the only one possible. Accident willing.
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,047 reviews1,696 followers
October 14, 2019
کتاب رو دو بار خوندم. یه بار خلاصهٔ کتاب رو که برای رادیو تنظیم شده بود، با اجرای بهروز رضوی گوش دادم. و حس کردم داستان بی نظیرتر از اونه که فقط اجرای رادیوییش رو گوش بدم. به خاطر همین برای تولد برادرم کتابو براش خریدم. خودش هنوز که هنوزه کتاب رو نخونده اما من همون موقع خوندمش.

کتاب بی نظیره. لحن طنز برای توصیف کشتارهای وحشتناک، ترکیب داستان جنگ با داستان علمی تخیلی و فانتزی، و وقایع و شخصیت های زیاد. همه و همه کتاب رو تبدیل به یه اثر لذت بخش کرده‌ن. یه جای داستان صحنه‌اى فوق العاده هست که راوی داستان که در زمان پخش شده و ناخواسته به عقب و جلو میره، یک فيلم مستند راجع به تولید بمب تماشا مى کنه، اما همون موقع در زمان به عقب حرکت می کنه و فیلم رو از آخر به اول می بینه: كارگرها بمب ها رو به مواد اوليه تجزيه مى كنن و معدنچى ها اين مواد اوليه رو به زير زمين مى برن و با دقت زير سنگ ها مخفى مى کننن تا اين مواد خطرناک به كسى آسيب نزنه.
بعد از چند سال مرور این صحنه هنوز برام لذت‌بخشه.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,671 followers
February 7, 2017
“Everything is nothing, with a twist.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five


I've read Slaughterhouse-Five several times and I'm still not sure I know exactly how Vonnegut pulls it off. It is primarily a postmodern, anti-war novel. It is an absurd look at war, memory, time, and humanity, but it is also gentle. Its prose emotionally feels (go ahead, pet the emotion) like the tug of the tides, the heaviness of sleep, the seduction of alcohol, the dizziness of love. His prose is simple, but beautiful.

Obviously, part of the brilliance of this novel is born from the reality that Vonnegut is largely playing the notes of his own song (obviously, obscured by an unreliable narrator, time that is unstuck, and generous kidnapping aliens). It is the song of someone who has seen horrible, horrible things but still wants to dance and smile (so a Totentanz?).

Emperor, your sword won't help you out
Sceptre and crown are worthless here
I've taken you by the hand
For you must come to my dance

I had to work very much and very hard
The sweat was running down my skin
I'd like to escape death nonetheless
But here I won't have any luck

It is essentially art pulled out of the tension between despair and hope, grief and celebration, love and death. It is a classic not because it has a message about war, but because it has a message about life. Vonnegut aimed at war and hit everything.
Profile Image for Matthias.
107 reviews331 followers
February 10, 2017

This reviewer is stuck in time. He is unable to escape the narrow confines of the invisible, intangible machinery mercilessly directing his life from a beginning towards an end. The walls surrounding him are dotted with windows looking out on darkened memories and foggy expectations, easing the sense of claustrophobia but offering no way out. The ceiling is crushing down on this man while he paces frantically through other people's lives and memories in hopes of shaping his own and forgetting the enormity of oblivion looming above his head. He reads book after book after book. He reads Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. He gets immersed, he gets lost in the pages. He smiles. He wonders. He tumbles. He laughs a laugh that seems to come from somewhere deep within him, telling him that everything is beautiful. A laugh that shoots up from a dark place and illuminates the universe, bathing it in colour, showing all the hidden threads in a fraction of a second. The man is consoled, recognizing that fraction as an eternity. He closes the book and looks around him. The space got bigger, the windows show a clearer picture. He sees his situation with a new light emanating from his own eyes and, looking up, notices the oppressive ceiling is no longer there. It made way for the sky, sometimes blue, sometimes painted with stars and clouds. He ruminates on this new canvas for his thoughts as a bird flies by and calls to him.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,106 reviews3,882 followers
September 18, 2016
A strange and intriguing book that I found very hard to rate: a mixture of wartime memoir and sci fi - occasionally harrowing, sometimes funny and other times thought-provoking.

It is the episodic story of Billy Pilgrim, a small town American boy, who is a POW in the second world war, later becomes a successful optometrist and who occasionally and accidentally travels in time to other periods of his life, so he has "memories of the future". Oh, he also gets abducted by aliens, along with some furniture. "So it goes." (That is the catchphrase of the book, and I found rather annoying after the umpteenth time. It's used in Philip K Dick's "Ubik" (review here), which I assumed was a nod to Vonnegut, until I discovered both were published in the same year).

It starts with an old man reminiscing about his life. He is asked about the point of writing an anti-war book, "Why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?" After that, it jumps about, much as Billy does, "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time... he is in a constant state of stage fright".

The most thought-provoking bits for me were Billy's mother who tried "to construct a life that makes sense from things she found in gift shops", the bathos with which some war events were described (e.g. being executed for stealing a teapot), and the alien Tralfamadorian's multi-dimensional and multi-sexual world. For instance, they have five sexes, but their differences were in the fourth dimension and they couldn't imagine how time looks to Billy (they also told him that seven sexes were essential for human reproduction!).

A main message is surprisingly positive: if we could only see or feel the fourth dimension, we would realise that "when a person dies he only appears to die. He is very much alive in the past".

Spoons are mentioned oddly often, as a description of how people lie (lovers or fallen soldiers). Then, near the end, actual spoons are briefly important. I have no idea whether this is significant.

UPDATE: Thanks to a comment from Matthias on his excellent review (read it here), I have, not an answer, but a great spoon reference in The Matrix:
"Do not try and bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: There is no spoon."
Spoon Boy

It has strong links with several other books: as it's Vonnegut, the "fictitious" sci fi writer, Kilgore Trout, gets several mentions.

The mode of time travel clearly influenced Octavia Butler's Kindred, review here,
and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, review here.

When he watches a WW2 film in reverse, it's very like Amis's Time's Arrow, review here.

For a more linguistic and philosophical take on the implications of Tralfamadorians living in all time, simultaneously, see the heptapods in Ted Chiang's The Story of Your Life, review here.

Also compare it with the Borges short story A Weary Man’s Utopia, which is in The Book of Sand, review here

It also left me wanting to read a Tralfamadorian book with its simultaneous threads, "no beginning, no middle, no end... What we love in our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time", which is surely what Vonnegut was trying to create for mere human readers.

Profile Image for jessica.
2,510 reviews31k followers
October 18, 2018
here it is. yet another book that i didnt read in school but decided to pick up later in life. and i think this is one of the rare instances where i think i would have benefited from some educational instruction to supplement my reading, because i did not seem to get this on my own.

i mean, on a surface level, i understood the anti-war tones and commentary on society in general, but anything deeper than that eluded me. so taking this at face value, i think its safe to say this is a really weird book. lol.

also, i wasnt really a fan at how women were portrayed in this. they were always noted as being ugly, or dull, or only good for sex. and i know many people might say thats vonneguts signature satire, but it definitely rubbed me the wrong way.

overall, i get that this story evokes much needed discussion on several important issues. however, this didnt impact me as significantly as it was probably meant to. so it goes…

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Fabian.
940 reviews1,546 followers
March 26, 2019
No one really introduced me to this work, despite its resonant presence in the literary canon.

I adore books that reek of marvelous postmodern perfume. This is one original, enthralling, always-relevant novel. Vonnegut is brave & cowardly because he makes the material his own, yet he is but scenery... his main character is an Everyman who is sooo affected by the Dresden bombings that he "becomes unglued from time." Yes: war is complete, utter chaos... it becomes something more powerful than physics because it is so closely related to the complete termination of life, spirit, & earthly happiness.

"Maus" reminded me of this because it mixed humor with tragedy... something super hard to pull off because the events are real. The Children's Crusade is still being fought today & this personal statement cannot go out of style-- maybe presidents/dictators/rulers/monarchs should read it as a by law prerequisite?
Profile Image for TK421.
554 reviews257 followers
December 4, 2013
There are only a few books that I ever really try to revisit. Sherlock Holmes and his stories are one. Some Shakespeare. And Slaughterhouse-Five.

I have read this book every year since my first reading almost ten years ago. I read it as an undergraduate; I read it as a graduate student. I've written three or four papers about it. And, yes, I have tried to pawn this book off on as many people as I could over the years.

You see, this book does something to me whenever I read it. It takes me places. Sure there is the time travel, other-world element to the novel, but the places it takes me are not physical in nature. I can't rightly say that they are spiritual either. Basically, the best way I can describe it is where I am taken is if my heart, mind, soul, education, fears, desires, and dreams were all placed in a blender and set to liquefy. And then this slosh of material is constructed into whatever semblance of a structure can be created from this amalgam.

This novel gets me to question not only life, but what it means that I was the lucky sperm to reach the egg, or that I was the lucky egg that was implanted. Oh dear, I fear I am convoluting what it is I am trying to say.

Okay, here goes: This book questions war. It questions as to why humans feel it is imperative to destroy. It questions what it might be like to live a completely different life than the one you live now. But it doesn't try to give bullshit answers. In fact, it really doesn't try to give answers to anything. And since this book is based on actual experiences Vonnegut suffered during WWII, it might be better said that this novel is really a science fiction memoir.

Dammit, I am screwing this up. I cannot seem to say it is that I want to say.

Enough already! Read the book. Or don't read the book. I know what it does to me.

So it goes.

Profile Image for Shannon .
1,221 reviews2,133 followers
January 21, 2008
Contains spoilers
Slaughterhouse-Five is about a man called Billy Pilgrim who time-travels frequently. He was in the Second World War and, captured, was sent to Dresden to work in a malt syrup factory before the city was bombed. He studied optometry and had a nervous breakdown. He married the daughter of a rich optometrist, and became rich as well. He was abducted by aliens called Tralfamadorians, who put him in a zoo with a young porn actress, Montana Wildhack, whom they also abducted. He had a daughter called Barbara and a son called Robert. He was in a plane crash that killed everyone except him and the co-pilot. Rushing to the hospital in frantic worry, his wife Valencia dies in a car accident. He gets to meet his favourite author, an unsuccessful sci-fi writer called Kilgore Trout. "Slaughterhouse-Five" is the name of the building where the American POWs lived in in Dresden.

Because the narration jumps around as frequently as Billy does, you learn everything early on and then simply revisit it all. The fractured narrative is worse than watching ads in a commercial break, or those horrible pop songs where the scenes and costumes change every two seconds - it gives you a headache. It's extremely boring, and hollow, and unsatisfying.

I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, as you know. But I do like time-travel stories. Billy is nothing like Henry from The Time Traveler's Wife. For a start, not even a second seems to pass in "real" time while he is travelling - no one ever notices. It seems less like time-travelling than like reliving the past, present and future of your life, all at once, because it's his consciousness that does the travelling. What isn't clear, at all, is which is the real Billy? He moves so much, you have to wonder how he doesn't become completely dislodged from his own corporeal self and go mad.

The time-travelling predates the abduction-by-aliens, but the aliens themselves see the past, present and future simultaneously, and teach Billy their philosophy of not really caring about anything, since nothing can be changed etc. etc. Fatalism.

I think I hated this book, but not quite. Hate is a strong emotion and I don't think it brought that out in me. It wasn't even frustrating, nor even particularly confusing, though the repetition of the Tralfamadorian expression "so it goes" was so irritating I saw red a few times. The bits about the 100 American POWs being welcomed by the British POWs in a German prison camp was delightful, though boldly stereotyped, and I loved the excerpts from the work on American soldiers and prisoners-of-war by the American-turned-Nazi, forget his name, something Campbell. A lot of it - and it's a small, short book - could easily be skipped. The temptation was very strong.

In short, it's a very "postmodern" story, and like all things postmodern, it's impractical, disjointed, a bit wanky, tries too hard, is extremely out-dated and, at the end of the day, rather useless. Vonnegut is also very heavy-handed and bangs you on the head with his messages. It doesn't really inspire me to read more of Vonnegut's work. I guess he's a love-him-or-hate-him kind of story-teller.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
659 reviews840 followers
November 11, 2019
At first, the absurdity of Slaughterhouse-Five (now read 5 times) makes it difficult to take seriously.

Image result for slaughterhouse five meme

However, part of Vonnegut's magic is that this absurdity becomes impossible to ignore (and increasingly powerful as the narrative moves forward). Vonnegut actually wants you to focus on the absurd. It works itself not only into the narrative, where our protagonist becomes unstuck in time and is abducted by aliens, but also into questions about war, civilization, identity and theories of time (and how this impacts perceptions of life and death). Slaughterhouse-Five didn't grab me right away, but as I continued to read, Vonnegut's explorations become more intriguing and insightful. I know I've commented on Vonnegut's perspective on the world in other reviews. You wonder how Vonnegut made the leaps he did and when you think about them there's something completely rational about these leaps (which are taken to possibly irrational extremes). In any event, Slaughterhouse-Five is a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend; Vonnegut's unique perspective continues to be fresh and interesting...And so it goes!
Profile Image for Adina.
800 reviews3,074 followers
February 22, 2017
Update: I decided to upgrade the rating to 5*. Still on my mind after more than 1 year.

This was such a pleasant surprise. This book has been on my to-read list since the beginning of my activity on Goodreads and I did a good job avoiding to read it. I was sure I would not like it since: 1. I am not a fan of books/movies about war and 2. I thought this science-fiction satire style was not for me. I only wanted to read it because it is a classic and I resolved to read more of those (modern or not). This book kept bumping on different lists so I could not escape its lure.

Oh, I judged this book so wrongly. Actually, I liked it a lot. I thought the time travelling, the fractured prose and the detached tone of the narrator were very effective to portrait the Dresden atrocities and how to witness this can impact your life forever.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,530 reviews790 followers
June 29, 2022
A stunning piece of science-fiction audaciously centred around the Allied fire bombing of Dresden at the end of World War II. Slaughterhouse five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim as he time travels back and forth within his own lifetime, a life forever marked and tainted by his experience of being a POW and then being stationed in Dresden at the time of the fire bombing. A postmodern, meta-fictional satirical novel, that has often been censored (especially in the United States) for being seen to be so laid back about homosexuality and being perceived as being disrespectful to American soldiery. A true modern classic. 7 out of 12

2010 read
102 reviews279 followers
January 27, 2010
This novel has a pretty basic and consistent structure: a few paragraphs of humorous (I think) writing that has the presumed purpose of loosening you up before you get to the sucker-punch paragraph that contains something disturbing/death-related followed by "so it goes." And if the "so it goes" wasn't there to remind you that this is the part where death happens, Vonnegut hammers the point home by relaying it an inhumanly cool, dry, and nonchalant manner. How coy and provocative. Maybe Vonnegut could have helped the reader along a little more with a footnote: "See what I did there? By having my narrator relate stories of war and death in an apathetic manner, I made you really think about these issues. Didn't I? Huh? Huh?" Yes, we get it, Kurt.

Part way through reading this book, I was sharing my disappointment with a friend who mentioned that Vonnegut, like the narrator, had actually witnessed the Dresden bombings. This apologia left me momentarily chastened as I considered the sobering impetus for the story. Then I mentally slapped myself for even considering that sympathy could cover for the stylistic bludgeoning that Vonnegut inflicted. I suppose there was a well thought out reason for making the prose stuttering and choppy, but I can't imagine what that would actually be (nor would I care to). Interestingly enough, Vonnegut may have been aware of this stylistic shortcoming: speaking of Billy's favorite obscure sci-fi author, he writes that "Trout's prose is frightful. Only his ideas are good." Kilgore Trout and his writing apparently feature in other Vonnegut books, and a Washington Post reviewer in the mid 70s contended that "Trout's prose is at least as good as Vonnegut's." Exactly.

And were the philosophical musings on time and fate, revealed primarily through unimaginative and silly sci-fi ramblings, supposed to be novel or even vaguely interesting? It's like he took Tolstoy's ruminations on fate and free will in War and Peace and then removed all the complexities and internal dissonance.

In the second half of the story, I did find myself mildly interested in what was happening. Perhaps I became accustomed to the writing or the pain just dulled after a while. Regardless, this book crossed the overrated line so egregiously that I can't muster a second star. Heavy-handed, prosaic, unfunny. So it goes.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,862 reviews1,897 followers
January 28, 2020
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you - Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters."

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy - and humor.

My Review: The Doubleday UK meme, a book a day for July 2014, is the goad I'm using to get through my snit-based unwritten reviews. Today's prompt is to select your very favorite American novel in honor of the Fourth of July. Well! That would take a few zillion hours of internal debate, creation of endless lists, rebellious actions like breaking things down into genre lists, muttering over who counts as American (Teju Cole is, but Henry James isn't: Discuss), etc. etc.

Decision made for me, in this case, by the fact that I'm trying to strong-arm myself into making a dent in the embarrassingly long list of things I've read, re-read, or abandoned since I got all grumpus. And here we are!

If anyone has not read this book, and is under the age of 90 while over the age of 17/senior year of high school, go immediately forth, procure this book, and read it.

Why? Beacuse:
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?' There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

That is all.
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