Ever since reading Cat’s Cradle four years ago, I’ve wanted to read more of Kurt Vonnegut’s work. But it’s taken until now for me to have the chance to do so. I’ve just finished Slaughterhouse Five, and I must say, it was… interesting.
Let’s put it this way, if you’ve ever read anything by Vonnegut, you probably have some idea what to expect — black humor, satire, biting sarcasm, etc. You also probably expect some surrealism. It’s the latter that makes Slaughterhouse so interesting. It’s the strangest historical fiction I’ve ever encountered, because I’ve never before seen historical fiction written through the lens of science fiction.
The novel is considered an anti-war story, and I suppose in some ways this is true. Certainly it shows the horrors faced by prisoners of war, and it contains a pretty terrifying portrait of the bombing of Dresden. But in a lot of ways, it’s not at all a story about war, but a story about the life of a single man, who just happened to go to war. It’s a story about the inevitability of death and the nebulous nature of time. Sure, there’s war, and aliens, and time travel, but there’s also life, and love, and healing. The are moments of darkness and despair, but there are moments of hope and happiness.
I know Vonnegut isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He writes strange, sometimes nonsensical tales that can be hard to understand. But he also instills these tales with an intense pathos and more life than most novels can usually handle. There’s a lot to be learned from Vonnegut, and perhaps the world would be better to listen. He’s a man who tells us to just relax, to accept things and move on, and to revel in the silliness of life. Because in the end, that’s all we really have. And there can be no treasure greater than stepping out into the sunlight and hearing the sweet call of a songbird.