Last week we all lost a literary great, Kurt Vonnegut: war hero, anthropologist, and writer of such greats as Breakfast of Champions and Cat’s Cradle. He’s left us a legacy of quotable writing, humor, and thought provoking literary scenes. And so this week we are rereading Slaughterhouse-Five in tribute to Vonnegut.
The semi-autobiographical novel recounts Vonnegut’s own days as a prisoner of war in World War II, when he witnessed the massive bombing of Dresden that burned and debilitated the entire city. The bombing killed—according to some estimates—up to 135,000 people in a matter of hours. In true Vonnegut fashion, the novel is a work of stylistic genius, brilliant comedic relief, and thought-provoking richness.
We’ll say no more. We will, however, note that several years ago, on a trip to the (now beautifully restored) Dresden, we took a bus out to Schlachthofring, the circle of slaughterhouses in which Vonnegut was imprisoned during his time in Dresden. Though our guidebook listed this desolate place as an attraction, we found nothing but abandoned buildings, with not even so much as a plaque. Moral of the story: go to Dresden for the beauty of the city, and then read the book for all the rest.
Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut, for making everything a little more beautiful.