It is said that it is one of the best antimilitarist novels. Its author, Kurt Vonnegut, like the main character, Billy Pilgrim, was a witness of the destruction of Dresden (Germany) by the Allied bombers when the Second World War was close to finish. The “reason” was to hasten the end of the war. For that reason 135,000 people were killed in a town which was not a military target (it was an open city, it was undefended, and contains no war industries or troop concentrations of any importance).
Billy was a war prisoner and was locked up in the slaughterhouse of the town, in the building number 5. He was one of the few survivors, survived?
When we meet the main character, he is already a mad man because of the war. In fact he lives travelling along the time and mixes reality with fiction inside his crazy mind. However, the reality is more unreal than his imaginations. He said that he has been abducted by the Tralfamadorians. They are alien beings and appear to be very interesting in the Earthling people. The Tralfamadorians know that the time doesn’t go by, they know that everything happens at the same time so they see all the moments, all the ages, simultaneously.
Billy speaks the same about the cruelty of the was, about his sweet childhood in a small village of the USA, about his marriage for money, about the dead of his father, the dead of his wife, about his daughter who cares for him, about his son who is a green beret in the Vietnam War, about his interstellar travels, about his ridiculous admiration for a mediocre science fiction writer, and about the delirious arguments of statesmen comparing the number of killed people because of atom bombs with the number because of “conventional” bombs.
This novel is really good. The rhythm captures you and the humour, the irony which is very well used by him, makes you smile. Step by step the pace envelopes you and you do not know if you should smile or… For example, you can imagine Billy clothed like a clown with odds and ends (given by his guards), walking on the moonscape of the destroyed Dresden and mixing the facts of his calamitous life in his sick mind and then, he suddenly remember you that the teen girls who he described nudes a few pages before are dead, burned and quartered… by the Allied attack.
You finish the book. You close the book. You continue thinking
So it goes