Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse-five, Or, The Children’s Crusade
by Kurt Vonnegut

Billy Pilgrim serves as a chaplain’s assistant in the Second World War, is captured by the Germans, and survives the fire bombing of Dresden to contemplate the human condition.

Slaughterhouse-Five
by Kurt Vonnegut

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
 
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 World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had witnessed as an American prisoner of war. It combines historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, and satire in an account of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son turned draftee turned optometrist turned alien abductee. As Vonnegut had, Billy experiences the destruction of Dresden as a POW. Unlike Vonnegut, he experiences time travel, or coming “unstuck in time.”

An instant bestseller, Slaughterhouse-Five made Kurt Vonnegut a cult hero in American literature, a reputation that only strengthened over time, despite his being banned and censored by some libraries and schools for content and language. But it was precisely those elements of Vonnegut’s writing—the political edginess, the genre-bending inventiveness, the frank violence, the transgressive wit—that have inspired generations of readers not just to look differently at the world around them but to find the confidence to say something about it. Authors as wide-ranging as Norman Mailer, John Irving, Michael Crichton, Tim O’Brien, Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Strout, David Sedaris, Jennifer Egan, and J. K. Rowling have all found inspiration in Vonnegut’s words. Jonathan Safran Foer has described Vonnegut as “the kind of writer who made people—young people especially—want to write.” George Saunders has declared Vonnegut to be “the great, urgent, passionate American writer of our century, who offers us . . . a model of the kind of compassionate thinking that might yet save us from ourselves.”

Fifty years after its initial publication at the height of the Vietnam War, Vonnegut’s portrayal of political disillusionment, PTSD, and postwar anxiety feels as relevant, darkly humorous, and profoundly affecting as ever, an enduring beacon through our own era’s uncertainties.

“Poignant and hilarious, threaded with compassion and, behind everything, the cataract of a thundering moral statement.”—The Boston Globe


Slaughterhouse-Five
by Kurt Vonnegut

Adapted for a magnificent George Roy Hill film three years later (perhaps the only film adaptation of a masterpiece which exceeds its source), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW, who has in the later stage of his life become “unstuck in time” and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously. Traumatized by the bombing of Dresden at the time he had been imprisoned, Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut’s usual large cast of continuing characters (notably here the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralmafadorians who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The “unstuck” nature of Pilgrim’s experience may constitute an early novelistic use of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; then again, Pilgrim’s aliens may be as “real” as Dresden is real to him. Struggling to find some purpose, order or meaning to his existence and humanity’s, Pilgrim meets the beauteous and mysterious Montana Wildhack (certainly the author’s best character name), has a child with her and drifts on some supernal plane, finally, in which Kilgore Trout, the Tralmafadorians, Montana Wildhack and the ruins of Dresden do not merge but rather disperse through all planes of existence. Slaughterhouse-Five was hugely successful, brought Vonnegut an enormous audience, was a finalist for the National Book Award and a bestseller and remains four decades later as timeless and shattering a war fiction as Catch-22, with which it stands as the two signal novels of their riotous and furious decade. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut’s audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II. Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels–Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan–were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak. Now that Vonnegut’s work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut’s work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut’s reputation (like Mark Twain’s) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made. ABOUT THE SERIES Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut’s World War II POW experience) and Cat’s Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut’s work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut’s work as well as newcomers.

Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five
by Ervin E. Szpek, Frank J. Idzikowski

Shadows of Slaughterhouse Five chronicles the story of 150 American POWs captured in the Battle of the Bulge and eventually caught up in one of the greatest tragedies of World War II—the firebombing of Dresden. This collection includes oral histories, previously unpublished memoirs, and letters from home and from the front that together tell their compelling story in their own words. From simple hometown beginnings through the awakenings of military life in basic training, from assignment on the supposed “quiet zone” in Belgium to the unexpected Battle of the Bulge, from forced march and entrainment to eventual assignment on work details in Dresden — the “Florence of the Elbe,” to the inferno of Dresden on February 13-14, 1945, and the gruesome work details to follow, the individual and collective recollections and reflections of these 150 young men, the men housed in the famed Slaughterhouse Five, reveal a very personal side of war and the struggle for survival. Yet repatriation did not bring closure to this chapter of their young lives for like shadows their memories would forever be part of them.

Today more than sixty years after the firebombing of Dresden, the statue of a steer wishing health and happiness to the citizens of Dresden still stands at the entrance to the public slaughterhouse, a silent witness to the maelstrom that descended upon Dresden and this group of 150 American POWs housed within, Now after more than 60 years of silence for most of these men, Kurt Vonnegut’s fellow POWs tell their story of Slaughterhouse Five, in their words as they saw it — dog face young soldiers assured that the war was soon to be over!


Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five
by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Captured by Germans after World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, soldier Kurt Vonnegut and other prisoners were taken to Dresden, Germany, where they were confined in a cement enclosure used for butchering livestock and called “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Several weeks later, American and British planes firebombed Dresden, killing 135,000 civilians and leveling the city. Amazingly, the prisoners survived, by taking cover in an underground meat locker. Vonnegut spent two decades coming to grips with the experience, producing this classic American novel as his ultimate response to the ordeal. In this new collection of critical essays, students of literature will find information about the author’s life and other works, an index for quick reference, notes on the contributing writers, and an introductory essay by noted literary scholar Harold Bloom.


Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five
by Harold Bloom

A study guide to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five,” featuring a biographical sketch of Vonnegut, background on the story, a list of characters, plot summary and analysis, and a selection of critical views.

A Study Guide for Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five
by Gale, Cengage Learning

A Study Guide for Kurt Vonnegut’s "Slaughterhouse Five," excerpted from Gale’s acclaimed Novels for Students.This concise study guide includes plot summary; character analysis; author biography; study questions; historical context; suggestions for further reading; and much more. For any literature project, trust Novels for Students for all of your research needs.

Kurt VonNegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five As Historiographic Metafiction
by Markus Schneider

Seminar paper from the year 2008 in the subject American Studies – Literature, grade: 2,3, University of Bamberg (Professur für Amerikanistik), course: American Historiographic Metafiction, 10 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: The representation of history depends mainly on the perspective, attitude and cultural background of the beholder; which at the same time marks the major flaw of historiography. One topic or event will never be identically described by two historians, even if they are given the very same materials and sources to work with. As a consequence, historiography can only try to create an image, as true and original as possible, but is never able to depict everything that happened as it actually was in its full scope. So there were and always will be fictional elements and interpretations in the reports and writings about past events. This assumption leads us to historiographic metafiction, a style of writing that emerged during the postmodern era. If there is fiction in scholarly historiography, where is the difference between that and a novel that deals with history? This term paper will try to give an answer to that question and examine features and characteristics of historiographic metafiction, which eventually will be applied to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. In postmodern literature and, of course, especially in historiographic metafiction, authors tried to find new ways of telling stories and particularly representing history. I will take a closer look at the narrative frame and especially the concept of time Vonnegut used in the novel. But how is history represented in Slaughterhouse-Five? This will be the second part of the analysis that will attempt to find answers why Vonnegut wrote the novel the way he did. The third part will deal with intertextual elements in the novel. All citations from the novel and the pages indicated in brackets are taken from the edition cited below.


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