Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
Kurt Vonnegut himself was present in Dresden in 1945 when the Allies bombed the city. He survived the attack by sheltering with his fellow prisoners in the cellars of the slaughterhouse where he was employed as a prisoner of war. He processed this traumatic experience in the initially controversial but nowadays classical war novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The book truly shows the absurdity of the war.
Billy Pelgrim, the main character, is not bound by time. He goes to sleep as a an old widower and wakes up on the day of his wedding. He enteres a door in 1955 and returns to 1941. He has seen his own birth and death many times, he says, and regularly visits all the events in between. Only in that strange way, completely detached from reality, Billy succeeds in processing the horrors of Dresden. A staggering masterpiece that everyone has to read.
Book reviewKurt 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 (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is 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.