One hundred years of Kurt Vonnegut, the writer who satirized the war with wild optimism

Kurt Vonnegut and his most famous work: “Slaughterhouse Five”

It is often said that the atomic bombs that USA they threw on him Japan were, rather than a strategy to hasten the end of the Second warthe demonstration of warlike power in front of its still —but less and less— allies soviet. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay piloted by Paul Tibbets threw at “little boy” on hiroshima. On August 9, “fat man” devastated nagasaki. A week later, the Japanese army signed the surrender and the Americans made their message clear: don’t mess with us.

From the very moment the bombs were dropped, the American propaganda machine began to operate. It was filmed, documented, articles were written, commented on radio and television. There are countless movies and books about bombs and their consequences: above and beyond, Hiroshima beyond the ashes, Hiroshima my love, rhapsody in august, Pale light on the hills, first lighta long etcetera.

Everything that is known about Hiroshima and Nagasaki finds its counterpart in the bombing that the Americans and the British unloaded on the German city of Dresden. Between February 13 and 15, 1945, they fired some four thousand tons of weapons that devastated the city with a storm of fire causing the death of among 25,000 and 40,000 people. It is logical that Dresden does not have the publicity of the atomic bombs: it is still debated if the incursion was necessary or if it was, in fact, a war crime.

Kurt Vonnegut's books
Kurt Vonnegut’s books

History has shown that silence can be maintained for a while, but is finally broken. Kurt Vonnegut he was one of the first to speak. The writer, who was a war veteran and was imprisoned in Dresden during the bombing, took fifteen years to tell the story. He did it with a science fiction novel, but with certain autobiographical overtones.

For lack of space, the Nazis had kept him in a slaughterhouse and, in fact, that’s what the novel is called: slaughterhouse 5. To understand the relevance of the book in terms of impact and sales, it must be considered that the publisher Anagram had at the time the rights to a good part of the work of vonnegutand then he was abandoning them, but the only title he always kept was slaughterhouse 5.

If all the novels of vonnegut is a statement against war and the dehumanization of technology, slaughterhouse 5 he takes it to the extreme from a position in which the war is something as frightful as child slavery. The book is subtitled “The Children’s Crusade” in reference to the sale of children in the 13th century to prepare them as soldiers.

The protagonist of slaughterhouse 5 called Pilgrim —like the spy from terry hayes— and is a kind of alter ego of vonnegut who lives an experience between delusional and mystical when interacting with some beings from the planet tralfamadore —who appears with different avatars in several Vonnegut novels— capable of living in several temporalities at the same time and also responsible for destroying the universe in the future, while seeking to develop new, more powerful energies. The Fatalism of the Tralfamadorians It is not nostalgia or quietism, but a wild optimism to live each moment. slaughterhouse 5 was made into a movie George Roy Hillwho also directed The hit (Oscar for the best film of 1973 and Butch Cassidy, but the result does not do justice to an excellent book. It is said that there is a project to take it to serial format on a streaming platform.

Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut

german garcia said that fogwill imitated vonnegut even in the hairstyle. It could be, in the photo of head birds He has a resemblance: the mustaches, the tousled hair, the bulging eyes, the sarcastic laugh. But the pichiciegos It is not slaughterhouse 5.

vonnegut found in satire the exact vehicle to talk about excesses, contradictions, spoils and the abuse of a power that turns men into machines or pawns. The protagonist of mother night, for example, is a broadcaster who passed encrypted messages to the resistance while reading the apparent propaganda of the occupation, and, due to the inaction of his superiors, ends up being accused of being a collaborator. They say—it says Ana Prieto in an excellent review—that vonnegut he had asked for a skeleton posing as a provocative prostitute for the cover. The design that was finally left shows a man behind bars with an expression that could be both pain and pleasure. This is how his books are read: with a smile that is about to be a twitching gesture.

Two years ago, Unlimited Shipping Company published a volume of collected essays and texts under the title A man without a country, which shows Vonnegut’s enormous intelligence. Between responses to readers, cartoons, jokes, writing tips, and furious criticism of George Bush’s policies, vonnegut shows an almost Cartesian system of how to interpret a fiction. With an axis of time and another of good/bad luck, it analyzes Cinderella, Metamorphosis Y Hamlets.

"A man without a country"by Kurt Vonnegut (Ed. Unlimited Shipping Company)
“A man without a country”, by Kurt Vonnegut (Ed. Unlimited Shipping Company)

Cinderella: at the beginning the father meets an evil stepmother (bad luck), but the narrative progresses and Cinderella meets the prince at a party (good luck), then she returns to her life of servitude (bad luck) until the prince finds her and they get married (infinite good luck). Metamorphosis: Samsa wakes up turned into a cockroach (bad luck) and everything goes from bad to worse (infinite bad luck). Whereas in Hamletsit is impossible to determine if the appearance of the ghost, the murder of Polonius, the pirates, the outcome represent good or bad luck for the character.

“I just showed you,” he says then vonnegut“that Shakespeare was as bad a storyteller as any Arapahoe Indian.. But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlets like a masterpiece: is that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people rarely tell us the truth about these booms and busts. And the truth is that we know so little about life that we don’t really know how to distinguish what is good news and what is bad news.

One cannot but feel that in those words is the key to reading slaughterhouse 5. vonnegut He died at the age of 84 in New York on April 11, 2007. He was born in Indianapolis on November 19, 2022: these days are one hundred years old.

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One hundred years of Kurt Vonnegut, the writer who satirized the war with wild optimism