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Slaughterhouse-Five – Critical Comments From Tony Tanner_ City of


									                               Slaughterhouse-Five – Critical Comments

                From Tony Tanner, City of Words: American Fiction 1950-1970 (1971)

“It is a novel about a novelist who has been unable to erase the memory of his wartime experience and
the Dresden fire-storm, even while he has been inventing stories and fantasies in his role as a writer
since the end of that war….The result, among other things, is a moving meditation on the relationship
between history and dreaming cast in an appropriately factual/fictional mode.”

“Given the overall impact of Vonnegut‟s work I think we are bound to feel that there is at least
something equivocal about Billy‟s habit of fantasy, even if his attitude is the most sympathetic one in
the book. At one point Vonnegut announces: „There are almost no characters in this story, and almost
no dramatic confrontation, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless
playthings of enormous forces.‟”

                    From Malcolm Bradbury, The Modern American Novel (1992)

“In Tralfamadorian novels there is „no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes,
no effects,‟ and so all messages are synchronic, but, „seen all at once, they produce and image of life
that is beautiful and surprising and deep.‟ This could be read a Vonnegut‟s manifesto for postmodern
fiction, or black humour itself. It certainly describes Vonnegut‟s own methods for both representing
and deconstructing the world of the actual, in order to create new „harmless untruths‟ that attempt to
produce an image of life that is surprising and deep. It is Vonnegut‟s complex mixture of tones,
techniques, genres, and culture levels that makes Slaughterhouse-Five both a great work of popular
science fiction and a „postmodern‟ novel.”

              From Peter Freese, “Slaughterhouse-Five; or, How to Storify an Atrocity”
                  Kurt Vonnegut: Modern Critic Views, ed. Harold Bloom ((2000)

“His narrative reduction of a massive historical event to the multiple-refracted interplay between a
traumatized narrator who needs to keep his experiences at bay, and a helpless protagonist who hardly
understands what is happening to him, turns out to be a highly successful way of translating a historical
atrocity, which transcends all human imagination, into the realm of individual empathy and of thus
confronting the puzzled reader with the task of co-authoring the shocking meaning of a tale which is an
accomplished example of how a historical event can be imaginatively storified by means of advanced
fictional strategies.”

                          From Morris Dickstein, Leopards in the Temple:
                     The Transformation of American Fiction, 1945-1970 (2002)

“The book‟s lugubrious tone can be wearing; its numbing, fatalistic refrain („so it goes‟) is repeated
when anyone dies, when anything awful happens. This seems to reflect the depressive mood of the
author as much as the muted anguish of his Everyman protagonist. By giving us someone who „comes
unstuck in time,‟ however, someone whose experiences seem to be happening all at once, whose
memories cannot be sorted out or exorcised, Vonnegut at last finds a way of writing about the
unthinkable – events that surpass the limits of „realism‟ and unhinge a novelist‟s usual approach to
character and individuality.”

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