Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mother NightMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although Kurt Vonnegut's "Mother Night" shares some common themes - unspeakable horrors of World War II - with his "Slaughterhouse-Five", it does not rise to the greatness of that novel. In fact, while to me "Slaughterhouse-Five" is an unquestionable masterpiece of world literature, "Mother Night" is not even a good book. The novel contains plenty of examples of the author's trademark hilarious black humor and heavy sarcasm about the utter stupidity of the human race, yet it feels muddled, a little incoherent, and aiming at too many targets.

Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American, becomes one of the top propagandists of Nazi Germany. He works directly for Joseph Goebbels in the Propaganda Ministry, spewing racial hatred. He manages to escape to the U.S. after the war, where he spends many years in obscurity. Eventually he is brought to a trial in Israel for crimes against humanity, while he is treated as a saint by several groups of American morons who aim to "keep American bloodstream pure" and want to get rid of the Jews, blacks, Catholics, and Unitarians.

However, we soon learn that things are not as they seem, and many people, including Howard W. himself, are not at all what they pretend to be and not what they seem to be. Mr. Vonnegut conveys the motto of his novel at the beginning: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." In a show of arrogance I will disagree with Mr. Vonnegut. To me the motto (if one needs a motto in a literary work, which I doubt) would be hinted at by the following sentences: "All people are insane [...] They will do anything at any time, and God help anybody who looks for reasons." And "[...] this is a hard world to be ludicrous in, with so many human beings so reluctant to laugh, so incapable of thought, so eager to believe and snarl and hate."

A mediocre book by a great author.

Two stars.

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