“We accepted their congratulations with good grace and proper modesty, but I felt then as I feel now, that I would have given my life to save Dresden for the World’s generations to come. That is how everyone should feel about every city on Earth.”
“Armageddon in Retrospect” by Kurt Vonnegut
Slowly, but surely, my exposure to Kurt Vonnegut, an author I’ve always wanted to read more of, is growing. This time, the exposure increases with Armageddon in Retrospect, a post-humus publication of previously unpublished pieces on the themes of war and peace. The collection is mostly short stories, though it includes a letter from Vonnegut to his family, a speech, and a letter from his son Mark. Having read Mother Night earlier this year, I find his pieces of World War II particularly poignant; Vonnegut has written several times about his experience in the bombing of Dresden, Germany, and his regard for the beauty of that city can almost make a person ache. The scope of the stories scan from personal war to world wars, wars against innocence and wars against the devil. There is a chilling tale of a future and a time machine, as well as one in the medieval countryside. Interspersed through the stories are little vision of Vonnegut’s artwork, as well, as light and stylistic and poignant as his writing.
This was an excellent read and I’ve glad to have stumbled upon the publication. Much of the artwork easily recalls Mother Night, and some of the stories are just spectacular. When it comes to things like war, I’ve been fortunate in my life that it has never really affected me personally, but it’s easy to feel Vonnegut’s first hand experience through many of these vignettes, and it just makes you admire the man even more than you did before. I still adore the gristly ending to “The Unicorn Trap,” and “Happy Birthday, 1951” is such a simple tale that really just hits you upside the head with a sledgehammer. I find it interesting that the two that struck me the most tend to be about war and the complete and utter loss of innocence in a child. Not all of them are sad, though; some of them have an amazing humour, albeit dark in Vonnegut tradition.
This book is definitely worth a look, even if only for the transcription of a speech made in 2007 that I feel, really, encompasses so much Vonnegut as I’ve come to understand him thus far.
Books Read: 26 out of 100.