Saturday, May 3, 2008

Armageddon In Retrospect-- Kurt Vonnegut, Review

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut is a posthumous collection of his work. It opens with a letter dated May 29, 1945 about his stay as a prisoner of war near Dresden. He decries what happened there.

The short stories in this collection are about war and conflict. There is nothing about peace. Many of them are set in the immediate aftermath of World War II. There is often a simple brutality to these stories. These stories are not so much about combat, but about occupation, prison camps, and the psychology of war.

In the story, Guns Before Butter, we find three American Prisoners of War discussing what food they will eat when they get home. They are so hungry, they can think of little else. In Just You and Me Sammy, we get a story about a collaborator in a German P.O.W. camp.

The stories have a biting humor to them and a degree of sadness. Kurt Vonnegut questions the motives of the firebombing of Dresden by the United States in World War II but not the overall motives for the war.

There are numerous simple drawings, almost doodles between the stories. Some are in color. One says "There should be a secretary of the future." I rather like it.

I think some of the writings were clearly meant to be published posthumously. The Commandant's Desk is an interesting story which questions patriotism and occupation. I think it would have generated quite a bit of vitriol if Kurt Vonnegut was still alive. But, he is dead so there is little that can be said.

In Kurt Vonnegut at Clowes Hall, April 27, 2007 he gives a speech. There are numerous one liners. I think it would have been better if it was heard. The speech feels like he is trying to emulate Mark Twain. In the second part of the speech, he mentions his son Mark Vonnegut is also a writer. Mark Vonnegut wrote the introduction to this book.

A number of stories are clear statements against war and political manipulation. Armageddon In Retrospect seems to make a statement about the cold war. Happy Birthday 1951 is about attempting to live free of war in a war zone.

I enjoyed reading this collection. It was very easy to read. The craft of the writing was beautiful. Not all of the stories will be for everyone, but at least a few of the stories will get you thinking about the meaning war, violence, and political manipulation.

I wrote this short review using folded in half 8 1/2 inch by 11 inch plain white paper. This is just about the size of a hardback book cover. The cover of Armageddon In Retrospect was my tablet. Like most library books it has a plastic cover over the dust jacket. I labeled each section of the paper with a circled number as I finished it. I wrote this on the train with a black ballpoint pen. I am typing it into the computer right now.


Lulubelle B said...

Vonnegut's "Welcome To The Monkey House" includes other post-war stories you might enjoy:

> D.P.
> The Manned Missiles
> Adam

Book Calendar said...

I haven't read Welcome to the Monkeyhouse. Thanks for the suggestion. I did read Slaughterhouse Five though.