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Title: Matka noc
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Publisher: Published 2004 by Zysk i S-ka (first published 1961)
ISBN: 9788386180127
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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"Matka noc" jest pierwszą "polityczną" powieścią Kurta Vonneguta. Napisana w epoce rozkwitu zimnej wojny (1962), ukazuje dramat człowieka uwikłanego w grę sił, które go przerastają. Amerykański pisarz Howard W. Campbell jr, umieszczony podczas II wojny światowej przez amerykański wywiad w samym sercu nazistowskiej machiny propagandowej, po latach staje przed sądem państwa I "Matka noc" jest pierwszą "polityczną" powieścią Kurta Vonneguta. Napisana w epoce rozkwitu zimnej wojny (1962), ukazuje dramat człowieka uwikłanego w grę sił, które go przerastają. Amerykański pisarz Howard W. Campbell jr, umieszczony podczas II wojny światowej przez amerykański wywiad w samym sercu nazistowskiej machiny propagandowej, po latach staje przed sądem państwa Izrael jako zbrodniarz wojenny. Jego osobą interesuje się również wywiad radziecki... Życie Howarda W. Campbella jr. zmienia się w koszmar, z którego jedynym wyjściem może okazać się śmierć...

30 review for Matka noc

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    The thing I love best about Kurt Vonnegut is that he was both the ultimate cynic and the ultimate humanist. What better character for him to create to embody those views than a Nazi with good intentions? Howard W. Campbell Jr. was an American citizen who grew up in Germany and became a prominent Nazi thanks to his virulent anti-Semitic propaganda. However, Howard had actually been recruited before the war began to be an American spy who provided vital intelligence to the Allies via codes hidden i The thing I love best about Kurt Vonnegut is that he was both the ultimate cynic and the ultimate humanist. What better character for him to create to embody those views than a Nazi with good intentions? Howard W. Campbell Jr. was an American citizen who grew up in Germany and became a prominent Nazi thanks to his virulent anti-Semitic propaganda. However, Howard had actually been recruited before the war began to be an American spy who provided vital intelligence to the Allies via codes hidden in his frequent radio broadcasts. Years after the war has ended, Howard recounts the story as he is being held in Israel awaiting trial for war crimes. As he explains what happened before, during and after the war Howard repeatedly touches on the unasked question that haunts his life: Does pretending to be evil in the service of a good cause still make you evil? I had always felt alone in thinking that his was actually Vonnegut’s best book so I was happy to be validated by the comments of several other Goodreaders sharing the same thought. Vonnegut’s gift was looking at the world with clear gaze and acknowledging that people were pretty much shit, but still having enough compassion and empathy to look for moments of dignity. He did it with that that unique bittersweet sense of humor that allowed him to write about the horrors of something like the Holocaust and give it a tone of a very wise man shaking his head with a bitter chuckle at a dark, sick joke.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Luca Ambrosino

    English (Mother Night) / Italiano Probably Vonnegut will never be one of my favourite writers. However, I must say that "Mother Night" is a good novel. Howard W. Campbell Junior is an American playwright emigrated to Germany of the Third Reich, become the symbol as well as the radio personality of Nazi propaganda. Campbell Junior brings us his memories from an Israeli jail, waiting to be tried for crimes against humanity.The tragicomic story that comes out gives us totally grotesque characters, m English (Mother Night) / Italiano Probably Vonnegut will never be one of my favourite writers. However, I must say that "Mother Night" is a good novel. Howard W. Campbell Junior is an American playwright emigrated to Germany of the Third Reich, become the symbol as well as the radio personality of Nazi propaganda. Campbell Junior brings us his memories from an Israeli jail, waiting to be tried for crimes against humanity.The tragicomic story that comes out gives us totally grotesque characters, motivated by the most diverse ideals. The personal reflection about the war by the author is interesting, and the protagonist's mental paths that define the epilogue of the novel are interesting too.Vote: 7. Probabilmente Vonnegut non è e non sarà mai uno dei miei autori preferiti. Tuttavia devo ammettere che Madre Notte è un bel romanzo. Howard W. Campbell Junior, commediografo americano emigrato nella Germania del terzo Reich, simbolo nonché voce radiofonica della propaganda nazista, ci narra le sue memorie da un carcere israeliano, in attesa di essere processato per crimini contro l'umanità. Il racconto tragicomico che ne viene fuori ci consegna personaggi decisamente grotteschi, mossi dagli ideali più disparati. La riflessione personale sulla guerra da parte dell'autore è interessante, e interessanti sono i percorsi mentali del protagonista che definiscono l'epilogo del romanzo.Voto: 7

  3. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Vastly underrated piece of black comedy, about a World War 2 double agent whose cover is a Nazi propagandist in the style of Lord Haw-Haw. Vonnegut says in the preface that this is the only one of his books where he knows what the moral is. You are what you pretend to be, so be careful about who you pretend to be. For my money, Vonnegut's second best book, running Cat's Cradle very close. It's not just me - the great Doris Lessing also wrote once that she couldn't quite understand why this book Vastly underrated piece of black comedy, about a World War 2 double agent whose cover is a Nazi propagandist in the style of Lord Haw-Haw. Vonnegut says in the preface that this is the only one of his books where he knows what the moral is. You are what you pretend to be, so be careful about who you pretend to be. For my money, Vonnegut's second best book, running Cat's Cradle very close. It's not just me - the great Doris Lessing also wrote once that she couldn't quite understand why this book wasn't more famous. Her speculation was that the literary world simply refuses to take anything seriously that is first published in paperback. Now that she's finally received the Nobel Prize, maybe people will listen more carefully :)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    When most people think of Kurt Vonnegut, the novels Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle immediately come to mind. It's a shame that more people aren't familiar with Mother Night, a novel in which Vonnegut explores the nature of moral ambiguity and what high-minded ideals we sacrifice on the altar of war. It's a skillful blend of Vonnegut's trademark dark humor and philosophical musings about human morality as observed through the lens of war. To put it simply, this is some good stuff. Sitting in When most people think of Kurt Vonnegut, the novels Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle immediately come to mind. It's a shame that more people aren't familiar with Mother Night, a novel in which Vonnegut explores the nature of moral ambiguity and what high-minded ideals we sacrifice on the altar of war. It's a skillful blend of Vonnegut's trademark dark humor and philosophical musings about human morality as observed through the lens of war. To put it simply, this is some good stuff. Sitting in an Israeli jail and writing his memoirs, Howard Campbell awaits trial for war crimes as a Nazi in World War II. As Howard himself says, "I am an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination" (1). And this is the root of Howard's problem: he has no true identity. As he ruminates on his past, we see how the apolitical Howard was drawn into events that eclipsed the simple life he longed to live as an artist writing plays for his muse and wife, the lovely Helga. Howard's situation is a unique one. An American who moved to Germany as a child and seamlessly assimilated into German culture prior to any rumblings of war, Howard makes the perfect candidate for an American spy. However, to remain above suspicion, Howard must align himself with the Nazi cause by pretending to be a Nazi propagandist, eventually becoming the voice of the Reich through his radio broadcasts. Through a series of coughs, sneezes, and sniffs, Howard sends coded information out to the Americans at the same time he spews vile invective against the Jewish people. So what's the problem? He was a good guy, right? That's how it would normally be perceived, but as Vonnegut cautions, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be" (v). Maintaining this dual identity weighs heavily upon Howard in the years after the war which robbed him of everything: his family, his friends, his art, and his Helga. Howard excelled as a propagandist--so good, in fact, his father-in-law tells him that Howard, not Hitler and not Goebbels, convinced him to become a Nazi. Howard's American handler even claims Campbell "was one of the most vicious sons of bitches who ever lived" (188). Knowing that it was his words and his voice that convinced so many to hate in the name of God is a guilt that Howard can never alleviate, especially given that his communications with the Americans never took the form of words. He never knew what information he was passing on to the Americans, nor what, if any, good came from it. In the end, he can never be certain if the good he did outweighed (or at least balanced out) the evil his words inspired in the hearts of men. The question is, do pure motivations absolve heinous outcomes? As Howard's past begins to catch up with him, he must confront these questions and try to determine who Howard Campbell has become in the shadow of war. I think what is most intriguing about the novel is that Howard Campbell is the ultimate unreliable narrator. A man who is skilled with words and at shaping the perceptions of others, it's important to remember that, in this metafiction, it is Howard Campbell writing his own life's story. Even in the end we cannot be certain whether or not we come to know the real Howard Campbell as the resulting narrative may be Campbell's masterwork of propaganda--rewriting his own history with an eye to posterity. Howard Campbell may be a fiction created by the man himself, a constantly shifting personality recreating himself to fit the times in which he lives. After all, we become what we pretend to be. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  5. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Spotting Fake News Fake news did not arise with Donald Trump’s tweets. Propagandists of the Left and the Right have used it since before there was a Left and Right. America has always had a fascist edge. 19th century Nativists, Know-Nothings, Klansmen, Red Shirts, White Leaguers, and Constitutional Unionists invented fake news long before the John Birch Society, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs or the alt-Right of Steve Bannon claimed that mass media routinely hide the truth about immigrants, Jews, and Blac Spotting Fake News Fake news did not arise with Donald Trump’s tweets. Propagandists of the Left and the Right have used it since before there was a Left and Right. America has always had a fascist edge. 19th century Nativists, Know-Nothings, Klansmen, Red Shirts, White Leaguers, and Constitutional Unionists invented fake news long before the John Birch Society, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs or the alt-Right of Steve Bannon claimed that mass media routinely hide the truth about immigrants, Jews, and Blacks. Fake news has been an American tradition since the first Federalists attacked Thomas Jefferson as a dupe of French radical revolutionaries.   Vonnegut's Mother Night is about fake news from the inside, and what it does to the insides of the man on the inside. Howard J. Campbell, a writer born in America, wrangles himself a job as chief copy-writer for Joseph Goebbels's Nazi Propaganda machine. His American-grown copy about the inhumanity of Jews impresses his boss because it goes beyond even what Nazi ideology had to say about Jewish perfidy. He is promoted to the position of lead radio-broadcaster of the Reich, and therefore tagged as a war criminal after the war, wanted by the Israelis. But Campbell is a double agent, recruited by the Americans to relay secret messages hidden in his propaganda broadcasts. So, he is protected after the war but not acknowledged for diplomatic reasons. Returned to the United States, Campbell lives for fifteen years an open but shabby life in New York City on a private soldier's salary. Outed by a Soviet agent, he is targeted not just by the Israelis, but also by old soldiers who can't understand what they fought and suffered for but believe that Campbell is the cause of their distress. Campbell realises that his participation in the creation of fake news requires a certain form of schizophrenia. Therefore, he recognises somewhat too late, one must be very careful about what one pretends to be. He equates his condition to the defective mechanism of the "cuckoo clock from hell". The clock occasionally tells the truth, but only unpredictably as its gears with missing cogs speed up or stop the works.  This mechanical analogy, Campbell says, refers to a mental illness, one which is passed from generation to generation. He's right of course. The fascist tendency is a familial and widespread cultural tradition which has power because it has persisted at least as long as the American republic. There aren't just precedents, there are statutory requirements to support the idea of the conspiracy of the world against the American Way: The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Jim Crow laws of the American South, the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1918.  It seems like the prototype of every American right wing populist lunatic from Huey Long to Father Coughlin finds his place somewhere in Mother Night. Groups like The Iron Guard of the White Sons of the Constitution and Moral Rearmament would be ludicrous if they didn't exist. But they do exist at precisely the nexus of religion and right wing ideology, with a little help from the Russians, that Vonnegut foresaw over a half-century ago. Today, these groups, as well as the Russians, seem to be in the ascendancy in the United States from the North Carolina Tea Party to the Neo-Nazi Montanans, and not forgetting the Republican Party.   Campbell finds a kind of salvation in his own disillusionment. One can only hope for similar personal revelations to the mass of Americans who have fallen for the latest version of fake news. But this seems unlikely to Campbell, who notes that: "The dismaying thing about the totalitarian mind is that any given gear, though mutilated, will have at its circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined." Check out Trump next time he smiles.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Mother night, Kurt Vonnegut Mother Night is a novel by American author Kurt Vonnegut, first published in February 1962. The title of the book is taken from Goethe's Faust. It is the fictional memoirs of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American, who moved to Germany in 1923 at age 11, and later became a well-known playwright and Nazi propagandist. The action of the novel is narrated (through the use of metafiction) by Campbell himself. The premise is that he is writing his memoirs while awaiting trial Mother night, Kurt Vonnegut Mother Night is a novel by American author Kurt Vonnegut, first published in February 1962. The title of the book is taken from Goethe's Faust. It is the fictional memoirs of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American, who moved to Germany in 1923 at age 11, and later became a well-known playwright and Nazi propagandist. The action of the novel is narrated (through the use of metafiction) by Campbell himself. The premise is that he is writing his memoirs while awaiting trial for war crimes in an Israeli prison. Howard W. Campbell also appears briefly in Vonnegut's later novel Slaughterhouse-Five. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه دسامبر سال 2001 میلادی عنوان: شب مادر؛ نویسنده: کورت ونه گات جونیور؛ مترجم: علی اصغر بهرامی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، روشنگران و مطالعات زنان، 1380، در 240 ص، شابک: 9789645512987؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20 م داستان هاوارد کمپبل است که در پایان جنگ جهانی نخست به آلمان رفت و سپس به عنوان مبلغ نازی‌ها فعالیت کرد. این رمان از زبان خود کمپبل روایت شده‌ است. کمپبل پس از مهاجرت والدینش، بر خلاف میل آنها، در آلمان می‌ماند، و به نوشتن نمایشنامه ادامه می‌دهد. به دلیل اینکه از پدر و مادری آریایی به دنیا آمده‌ است، او را متعلق به حزب نازی می‌دانند. در عین حال به او پیشنهاد جاسوسی برای ارتش ایالات متحده می‌شود، و بعدها وی اطلاعات را به صورت رمز، از رادیو برای آمریکایی‌ها، امی‌فرستد. همسر او در میانه ی جنگ، به شرق آلمان می‌رود، و به هاوارد خبر می‌رسد، که او احتمالاً در آنجا کشته شده‌ است. بعدها هاوارد توسط نیروی نظامی ایالات متحده دستگیر می‌شود، و با وساطت وارتنن، افسری که به او پیشنهاد جاسوسی کرده بود، آزاد و به آمریکا فرستاده می‌شود. مضمون اصلی «شب مادر» هویت است. هر یک از آدم‌های رمان، دو یا بیش از دو شخصیت دارند: اینان کدامیک از این دو شخصیت‌ هستند؟ یکی؟ هر دو؟ هیچ کدام؟ و با کدام ترازو؟ که پاسخ بدین پرسشها بازمی‌گردد به متن رمان و البته مقدمه ی ونه‌ گات. ا. شربیانی

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    This is the best Vonnegut I’ve read so far. American Nazi Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is awaiting trial on war crimes. A traitor to the American people, Campbell is responsible for the deliberate spread of damaging propaganda throughout Germany and its occupied territories during World War II. He is an evil, dangerous man who is undoubtedly guilty of high treason. Or is he? As the account of Campbell’s life in Germany unfolds, much is revealed about his motives, the benign sequence of events leading t This is the best Vonnegut I’ve read so far. American Nazi Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is awaiting trial on war crimes. A traitor to the American people, Campbell is responsible for the deliberate spread of damaging propaganda throughout Germany and its occupied territories during World War II. He is an evil, dangerous man who is undoubtedly guilty of high treason. Or is he? As the account of Campbell’s life in Germany unfolds, much is revealed about his motives, the benign sequence of events leading to his becoming a member of the Nazi Party, and the identity of the actual organization from which he draws his paycheck: United States intelligence. So as it turns out, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is a spy! He is an American hero, wrongly accused and undoubtedly deserving of complete exoneration. Or is he? The distinction here between villain and hero is a line that is wonderfully blurred by Vonnegut, who delivers his story with perfunctory prose and offers up one surprising twist after another until the novel’s depressing conclusion. Interestingly, Vonnegut introduces this story with a quote that comes to define Campbell and the ultimate “moral” of Mother Night perfectly: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. As an aside, I’ve heard a lot of reviewers refer to Campbell as a double agent. Although I’m not exactly sure what qualifies for “double agency,” I do think it involves being a secret member of the secret organization you are trying to secretly infiltrate...so you can learn their secrets. So having cleared that up, I think it’s more likely that Campbell is just a plain old mole.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ɗẳɳ 2.☊

    What the . . . this surely wasn’t penned by Kurt Vonnegut, right? Where’s that bizarre sci-fi slant? Where are those Tralfamadorians, or that confusing, time shifting narrative? We aren’t seriously “stuck in time” for the entire story here? What about all those absurd characters? No Kilgore Trout, Dwayne Hoover, or Billy Pilgrim? Ah but some of these guys are pretty odd, and I couldn’t help but notice a few references to Schenectady, New York. That’s all rather curious, but I’m still not entirel What the . . . this surely wasn’t penned by Kurt Vonnegut, right? Where’s that bizarre sci-fi slant? Where are those Tralfamadorians, or that confusing, time shifting narrative? We aren’t seriously “stuck in time” for the entire story here? What about all those absurd characters? No Kilgore Trout, Dwayne Hoover, or Billy Pilgrim? Ah but some of these guys are pretty odd, and I couldn’t help but notice a few references to Schenectady, New York. That’s all rather curious, but I’m still not entirely convinced. I should point out that, while it is rather surprising to get a straight forward narrative from Mr. Vonnegut, for the uninitiated, this may actually be his most accessible novel. Our narrator is Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American awaiting trial in Israel for war crimes committed as a Nazi propagandist. Howard was born in American, but moved to Berlin at a young age. His early career is that of an author and playwright. He eventually joins the Nazi party, in name only. He sees himself as an “American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination.” His only real loyalty is to that of his wife and their “Nation of Two.” As he rises through the party, his recognition as an American Nazi leads him to become the voice of the Nazi propaganda broadcasts aimed at converting Americans to the cause. Howard claims to have been recruited as an American spy, but there’s no proof to verify his claim. His handler apparently used a fake name, and no one has ever seen the two together. No government official will either confirm or deny the possibility. Howard asks, “Can I prove I was an American spy? My unbroken, lily-white neck is Exhibit A, and it’s the only exhibit I have.” Even if that’s true, how can it possibly balance the scales with all the horrible atrocities his words helped to propagate? And here in lies the moral of the story, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” This is the struggle that weighs heavily on Howard. Throughout the story, he’s rescued from prosecution time and again by his handler/“Blue Fairy Godmother.” But in the end he chooses to stand trial—not as much for war crimes as for crimes against his own conscience. While this started off as a pretty solid three to four star read for me, the last quarter of the book is true genius. The commentaries and philosophies presented therein are quite remarkable—some of which border on poetry. The analogy of the totalitarian mind as system of gears whose teeth have been filed off at random is particularly insightful. I’m not sure if this is my favorite Vonnegut—I do miss some of his trademark wackiness—but its right near the top. 5 Stars all the way!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    In Stanley Kubrik's film, Full Metal Jacket, one of the most highlighted scenes is where the protagonist is asked to explain the peace symbol and "Born to Kill" slogan on his helmet. His response:“I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man.” Cannot help but wonder if the writer for Full Metal Jacket had been thinking of Mother Night when he wrote that line. One of the darker novels in Vonnegut’s collection, but still with the humor and blithely irreverent tone that is his In Stanley Kubrik's film, Full Metal Jacket, one of the most highlighted scenes is where the protagonist is asked to explain the peace symbol and "Born to Kill" slogan on his helmet. His response:“I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man.” Cannot help but wonder if the writer for Full Metal Jacket had been thinking of Mother Night when he wrote that line. One of the darker novels in Vonnegut’s collection, but still with the humor and blithely irreverent tone that is his trademark, Mother Night asks a lot of questions and leaves many unanswered, inviting deep introspection for the reader and for our society as a whole.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    I'm going to make an unpopular statement right now: This is the best of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. Okay Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five fans, fling your dung at me, I understand. The characters, setting, plot, all of it comes together in a well-wrapped tale in which a man fights the truth of his own identity under the pressing weight of the author's imposed moral law that states you are what you pretend to be. In Mother Night, the story of an American spy working undercover within Germany duri I'm going to make an unpopular statement right now: This is the best of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. Okay Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five fans, fling your dung at me, I understand. The characters, setting, plot, all of it comes together in a well-wrapped tale in which a man fights the truth of his own identity under the pressing weight of the author's imposed moral law that states you are what you pretend to be. In Mother Night, the story of an American spy working undercover within Germany during WWII as a Nazi propagandist, Vonnegut intentionally portrays his main character with so much ambivalence that by the end you're not sure whether to root for or against him. Vonnegut's oft used theme, the struggle within, is at its strongest here where the main character is pitted against a real monster of an antagonist: the preponderance of evidence against himself. In other Vonnegut books I understand and sympathized with the self doubt his characters felt, but in some cases their struggles felt light to me. I should add that I read most of the author's works when I was a fresh-faced twenty year old with few cares in the world, so I don't think I understood his subject matter, that of the life-wearied, often middle-aged person whose accumulated weight of stress, daily concerns and self doubt brought on by crises endured through a life rife with experiences with horror, love, hate and, worst of all, ennui. So perhaps one day, maybe when I turn 50, I will reread Player Piano and it will rocket from my least favorite to most favorite of all of Kurt Vonnegut's wonderful novels, but for right now Mother Night stays there.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine

    As much as I enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut expound upon Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country not that long ago, it didn't quite satisfy the craving I've had for his fiction. Sure, there is something to be said for watching a favorite author turn his fine-tuned gallows humor on himself and the society in which he both lives and has lived but sometimes I just want to be told a story, damnit. Before launching into the novel proper, Vonnegut introduces Mother Night as the only story of his with As much as I enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut expound upon Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country not that long ago, it didn't quite satisfy the craving I've had for his fiction. Sure, there is something to be said for watching a favorite author turn his fine-tuned gallows humor on himself and the society in which he both lives and has lived but sometimes I just want to be told a story, damnit. Before launching into the novel proper, Vonnegut introduces Mother Night as the only story of his with a moral he knows: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." He then spends 269 pages proving what a haunting, damning and dangerous moral it is, with enough self-awareness and dark jocularity to keep this tale -- the fictional memoirs of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American-born German playwright who hides in plain sight as a propagandist for WWII-era Nazis while all too convincingly infiltrating their ranks to aid the American government that employs him as a spy -- from getting too distastefully morbid. It is, at first glance, a moral that stands in direct, fundamental conflict with what I believe to be true. Nothing galls me quite like the lazy assumption that a thing goes no deeper than its surface, that what it looks like is what it is and nothing more. To look no further than appearances subscribes to a flagrant disregard for motivation, circumstances, and any one thing's or person's capacity for multidimensional existence and purpose. To ignore the fact that there is almost always something working in the hidden recesses of the unspoken and unseen realms is, to me, the ultimate display of egotism, a perilous assumption that the observer knows more about a situation in which he plays no part and can't be arsed to offer it the courtesy of deeper contemplation or understanding by way of delving beyond the easy veneer. But because this is Vonnegut, a message that seems to be an idealogical slap in the face of my own personal philosophy is, at its core, a confirmation that I'm not wrong. (And, really, what's the point of reading literature if not to find validation at the hands of greater minds?) If the Faustian origin of this novel's title heralds the eventual hellward saunter of one's bargaining-chip soul, the tale following such an exchange (that is, safety from the Nazis within their ranks as they believe him to be their loyal, hate-spewing voice) shows exactly why the road paved with good intentions leads to where it does. This isn't fake-it-'til-you-make-it terrain: This is a disturbing account of why hiding one's true goodness beneath layers of protective and necessary deceit without leaving a breadcrumb trail for others to find the way back to your honest intentions will always backfire, often with tragic consequences. The story's moral shapes every character in this tale. Starting with the hero himself, who has an entire world convinced that his broadcasts of deliberately ludicrous anti-Semitic vitriol are spoken in earnest rather than in code, he comes to find that everyone who holds a more-than-fleeting place in his life after he is secreted away to anonymous but tenuous safety in a New York City apartment is hiding their true identities, too. From his doctor neighbor who refuses to acknowledge that his childhood detoured through a concentration camp to the woman he believes (and who has deceived herself into believing) to be his long-presumed-dead wife, from the friend who is really a spy who obliterates Campbell's incognito existence to the white supremacist whose retinue includes a black man and a Catholic who would otherwise be his sworn enemies if he hadn't become selectively blind to their egregious differences by converting them to his cause, absolutely no one is who they really are by virtue of self-denial. There is a love story desperately trying to proclaim itself as a last bastion of hope in Campbell's apathetic post-war existence. While his beloved wife and muse, Helga, the actress for whom he wrote some of his finest plays as vehicles to showcase the essence of the adored and adoring woman who comprises the other half of his Nation of Two, is declared dead, it is clear that a part of the widower died with her. I don't feel like I'm spoiling anything by revealing that the woman who later finds Campbell in New York and claims to be his Helga isn't for two reasons: One, the truth, which is foreshadowed quite obviously though adeptly, is revealed fairly quickly; and two, it illustrates how desperately Campbell wants his wife to be alive and, when that is proven to be impossible beyond all rational thought, he then desperately wants to pretend this woman is his wife, if not a more-than-adeqaute stand-in for one person who has ever given his life meaning. The dangers of such doggedly perpetuated tunnel vision that thrives by casting off all ties to reality is a theme that drives home the novel's moral. Leave it to our humanist friend to sum up the problems of both this novel of his and the world at large: "Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile." Campbell knew what he was doing all along. Along his journey to the Israeli jail cell from which he spins his autobiographical tale, he collides with those who have no reason to doubt that he's their brother in arms against the lesser races, a mouthpiece whose convictions are evident in the words he reveals only to three other men and his memoir's audience to be nothing more than caricature on the surface and cipher in their meaning: These run-ins with his in-appearance-only compatriots provide crushing proof that they have warped their own perspectives to allow for the atrocities they've committed while Campbell had his wits about him all along. Rather than making the former apologetic victims of circumstance and the latter a heinous, calculating monster, Vonnegut accomplishes quite the opposite. Stylistically, subtlety and understatement are the driving forces of a narration that relies more on a preference for telling rather than showing, a cardinal sin that anyone who's ever enrolled in a even one creative-writing class should recognize immediately; however, as any writer worth his ink will tell you, such rules exist to be broken for those who can break them with aplomb. While Campbell does allow images to speak for themselves, he is writing a memoir that is filled with his own observations, thoughts, conclusions and dot-connecting. What makes his propensity for telling successful is his succinctness: He doesn't dwell on a moment until its emotional resonance has been beaten into even the densest of reader, which is so often the unfortunate result of not trusting the audience to draw its own conclusions and extrapolating the significance of a scene to maximize the devastating impact. It's an an effect that not only showcases Vonnegut's talent but also hints at Campbell's own prowess as a man of words. Vonnegut may have showed his hand early in terms of the overriding moral of Mother Night, though he peppers his novel with less emphasized though equally important truths that make the human condition a flawed but beautiful thing. The dangers of hate -- "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting... but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive" -- are all but impossible to address in a novel that traverses so deeply and unflinchingly into one of the darkest stains on humanity's historical conscience. But as I've stated (probably ad nauseam) in other reviews, one of my other dearest personal beliefs is that one extreme cannot exist without a contrasting opposite to offer a counterbalance, which is another truth Vonnegut seems to agree with by the equalizing, comforting force his message of love delivers in these same pages: "Make love when you can. It's good for you."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Algernon

    Future civilizations - better civilizations than this one - are going to judge all men by the extent to which they've been artists. You and I, if some future archeologist finds our works miraculously preserved in some city dump, will be judged by the quality of our creations. Nothing else about us will matter. Mother Night is one of the author's favorites, so according to the above quote extracted from the book, it is how he would want to be judged by posterity. I believe I read somewhere tha Future civilizations - better civilizations than this one - are going to judge all men by the extent to which they've been artists. You and I, if some future archeologist finds our works miraculously preserved in some city dump, will be judged by the quality of our creations. Nothing else about us will matter. Mother Night is one of the author's favorites, so according to the above quote extracted from the book, it is how he would want to be judged by posterity. I believe I read somewhere than Vonnegut disliked being dismissed by the literary establishment as a genre writer, dealing with aliens and spaceships. Mother Night may be his answer to these critics, as it is a straightforward story without any Science-Fiction gimmicks and few stylistic experiments, a powerful denunciation of Nazism that transcends its initial borders to address universal questions about the use of power, propaganda, government secrecy, the role of art in the modern world. The absence of the SF elements may be one reason why the book is less appreciated by the author's usual readers, but for me it was just as good as his more popular titles. I admire form. I admire things with a beginning, a middle, an end - and whenever possible, a moral, too. As I said, the novel is the closer Vonnegut comes to non-genre fiction: straight up storytelling, clear prose, unambiguous message. The satire and the black humour are here of course, but I found them toned down compared to his other books I've read. The style is appropriate to the subject here, as Vonnegut explores the events of his youth that would mark and come to define his whole career: the atrocities commited in time of war, in particular the firebombing of Dresden and the revelations about the concentration camps. The Beginning Howard Campbell is writing his confession in an Israeli prison as he waits to be tried for war crimes commited during World War II. Campbell is an American playwright who married a German actress, moved to her country in the 1930's and became succesful with his plays and his poetry. During the war he was the most famous renegade American voice of the Nazi propaganda machine, his speeches full of aryan / white supremacy dogma and hatred for the Jews. The Middle Campbell was allegedly working as an undercover agent for an American Agency and his radio speeches contained hidden messages from the German spies. So, after his capture at the end of the war, his handler gets him free and arranges for his return to the US. But given the secret nature of his mission, the government keeps mum about his real activities and the rest of the world still regards Howard as a criminal. He keeps a low profile for years, living alone in a cheap New York apartment, until his identity is leaked to the press and things start to get hot. American white supremacists want to claim him as a hero figure, discharged soldiers want to kick his butt for fallen comrades and hardships endured in the war, the Russian and the Israelis are racing to get their hands on him first. His only friend is a painter living in the same building. They are brought together by a common passion for chess, and they like to debate art and current events. This section of the book was a bit dragging, with numerous flashbacks to Howard's time in Germany, cameos and anecdotes of famous Nazi leaders, internal monologues and thoughts on art. The two aspects of Howard Campbell's personality that Vonnegut wants to underline here are : his willing participation in the creation of the Nazi propaganda materials (he never denies being the author of the reprehensible materials) and his refuge from dealing with the morality of these actions by in the love for his wife. Together they are citizens of a Nation of Two (the title of one of his plays). lost in a sensual world where politics and power games are insignifiant (Memoirs of a Monogamous Casanova is the title of his one novel describing Howard's infatuation with his wife). In his later years, Howard's conscience drives him to seek punishment for what he perceives as his errors in judgmement. Before coming to trial in Israel, he already has reached a verdict on his own. One particular passage about his radio transmission send a chill up my spine, as I couldn't help noticing how the peddlers of hate and intransigence, the chickenhawks who never served but loudly rattle the sabres of war, right wing extremists ans religious zealots still feature prominently on the present radio waves and television programmes, not only in the US, but in France, Austria, Russia and elsewhere: I had hoped, as a broadcaster, to be merely ludicrous, but 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. So many people wanted to believe me! Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile. The End The pacing really picks up, as the different factions converge on Howard and verbal and physical violence rise to new heights, forcing the protagonist to leave his ivory tower and take a stand for what he believes in. As he is forced to confront his tormentors and his betrayers, Howard puts on the cloak of the author's secular humanism and lashes back at their stupidity and narrow mindedness: - "You hate America, don't you?" - "That would be as silly as loving it. It's impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn't interest me. It's no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can't believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will." in dealing with another zealot: There are plenty good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservations, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limits, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive. It's that part of an imbecile that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly. Vonnegut lashes at us because he cares about us, and he wants us to do better. He is not simply concerned with exposing the comfortable lies we tell ourselves to justify doing nothing to change the world and stand up to the bullies, he also points the way forward. There's an impassionate plea about education that I forgot to bookmark, but you will find it in the book, towards the end. There's also the power of art to reveal and to give hope and direction to our efforts, something he still believed in in 1961. The Moral This is given in the introduction of the novel instead of in the last pages. I see in this choice Vonnegut the teacher, who provides his students with useful tips for decoding the book right from the start: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. and also: Make love when you can. It's good for you. In other words, be true to yourselves and Make Love, Not War! . Finally, the question of Howard Campbell's truth (patriot or war criminal) is left to the reader to decide, after he is handed all the facts of the equation. I remember in Breakfast of Champions there was a recurring theme of messages on tombstones. The concern about posterity is part of the present novel too, and I will close my review with a fragment of Howard Campbell's poetry, written on the trunk containing his non-propaganda writings: Here lies Howard Campbell's essence, Freed from his body's noisome nuisance. His body, empty, prowls the earth, Earning what a body's worth. If his body and his essence remain apart, Burn his body, but spare this, his heart.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    “This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don’t think it’s a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Before I started writing this review I quickly scanned other reviews of this book on Goodreads just to see if many of them start off with the above iconic quote. I did not find one so I went ahead with putting in the quote. Probably not that great an idea, that is why nobody want to do it! I “This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don’t think it’s a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Before I started writing this review I quickly scanned other reviews of this book on Goodreads just to see if many of them start off with the above iconic quote. I did not find one so I went ahead with putting in the quote. Probably not that great an idea, that is why nobody want to do it! I had no idea what Mother Night is about, it appears to be one of Vonnegut's top five most popular titles according to the ranking on GR’s Kurt Vonnegut page. So it goes? Mother Night is about Howard W. Campbell Jr., American author, and playwright working in Germany during World War II. He is married to a beautiful actress called Helga. The Nazi employed him to make propaganda broadcasts for them, his broadcasts were very popular among the Third Reich, and very effective in fueling the anti-Semitic feelings among the population. However, Campbell only took the broadcasting job to work for the US as a spy. He uses the broadcasts to relay the American secret messages, coded through coughs, pauses and other verbal tics. At the end of the war, the US intelligence pretty much disowns him and he is living a secretive and lonely life in New York, his wife having been captured by the Russian army. Nobody knows Campbell was a US spy during the war, and he is wanted for war crimes for the hatred he instigated through his broadcasts. Credit Englishmajeure.com Mother Night is different from the five other Vonnegut books* I have read. All the others feature an element of sci-fi, or sci-fi spoof, and includes the character Kilgore Trout, an obscure sci-fi author. Mother Night feels more serious and melancholy than all of them. Yes, even more than Slaughterhouse-Five. This is not to say that Mother Night is not humorous, it is often very funny but there something melancholic behind most of the jokes. For example: “Generally speaking, espionage offers each spy an opportunity to go crazy in a way he finds irresistible.” Funny and sad. I suppose Campbell is not meant to be a likable protagonist, I like him anyway, he is very pitiful and his biggest mistake is that he is too good at his job, both as a spy and a Nazi propagandist. Both sides made good use of him, and in the end, nobody likes him, except eccentric fascists. Mother Night is, as I said, melancholy, yet it also made me laugh and smile from time to time. The chief moral of the story seems to be that if you pretend to be someone evil and despicable and you do too good a job of it, you will eventually become that character you pretend to be. Being an actually good person inside will not rescue you from that, and you will have to live with the consequences of what you have done while you were playing that role. From my past experience with his works, I was expecting some element of sci-fi madness and Tralfamadorians cameos, being a sci-fi nerd I enjoy Vonnegut’s unique brand of sci-fi parody. However, I would not change a thing about Mother Night, it is a funny, sad, romantic, touching, thought-provoking story. It is both passionate and compassionate, and it does not need any kind of special effects. I certainly look forward to reading lots more Vonneguts. * The other Kurt Vonnegut books I read and reviewed: Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle (bad review, needs rewriting, don’t read it!), Breakfast of Champions, The Sirens of Titan, Galápagos. 1996 movie poster Quotes: “Here lies Howard Campbell’s essence, Freed from his body’s noisome nuisance. His body, empty, prowls the earth, Earning what a body’s worth. If his body and his essence remain apart, Burn his body, but spare this, his heart.” “Life’s been too hard for me ever to afford much guilt. A really bad conscience is as much out of my reach as a mink coat.” “In order to contrast with myself a race-baiter who is ignorant and insane. I am neither ignorant nor insane. Those whose orders I carried out in Germany were as ignorant and insane as Dr. Jones. I knew it. God help me, I carried out their instructions anyway.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    I've always considered Vonnegut to be one of my favourite writers but I keep forgetting to read his books. Mother Night is quite a different novel from what you'd expect with Vonnegut. There is no mind-bending science fiction or metafictional madness. Instead we have the story of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American accused of being a Nazi due to his radio broadcasts from Germany during the war. He was actually a US counter-spy leaking Nazi secrets to the US but that little caveat is not well-know I've always considered Vonnegut to be one of my favourite writers but I keep forgetting to read his books. Mother Night is quite a different novel from what you'd expect with Vonnegut. There is no mind-bending science fiction or metafictional madness. Instead we have the story of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American accused of being a Nazi due to his radio broadcasts from Germany during the war. He was actually a US counter-spy leaking Nazi secrets to the US but that little caveat is not well-known, so he is now sitting writing his memoirs in a jail cell in Israel awaiting his trail for war crimes. Oh and this book is comic. Even Eichmann is in here cracking jokes. The overall tone of the novel is typically Vonnegutian but it is a departure. Campbell is an odd character to be stuck with for 176 pages. I found him somewhat uncomfortable to be around. Then of course there is the chance that since this novel was written essentially as a confession before Mossad that everything in it could be a lie. Maybe Campbell was a Nazi. We'll never know. I've been somewhat critical of Vonnegut's penchant for fractures narratives before. This short novel is split into 45 sections, most not lasting more than two pages. Vonnegut loved doing this. But whereas I felt that it somewhat ruined the experience of reading Cat's Cradle, here it works quite well. Don't ask me how. I just feel this book flows better. As you can see I am struggling to write about this book. Something which happens with every Vonnegut novel (oh I've just had a sudden flashback to trying to discuss Vonnegut's uses of metafiction in Breakfast of Champions in one of my final exams of university). I find everything I have to say can be summed up by simply stating 'it is good'. Which it is. And which I shall state again. It is good.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    "You are the only man I ever heard of," Mengel said to me this morning, "who has a bad conscience about what he did in the war. Everybody else, no matter what side he was on, no matter what he did, is sure a good man could not have acted in any other way." Poor Howard Campbell, Jr., an American living in Germany, is recruited to spew on air Nazi propaganda that is laced with coded information for the Allies. "You'll be volunteering right at the start of the war to be a dead man. Even if you live t "You are the only man I ever heard of," Mengel said to me this morning, "who has a bad conscience about what he did in the war. Everybody else, no matter what side he was on, no matter what he did, is sure a good man could not have acted in any other way." Poor Howard Campbell, Jr., an American living in Germany, is recruited to spew on air Nazi propaganda that is laced with coded information for the Allies. "You'll be volunteering right at the start of the war to be a dead man. Even if you live through the war without being caught, you'll find your reputation gone - and probably very little to live for," he said. "You make it sound very attractive," I said. Now reviled worldwide, he has become a man without a country, hiding in an attic apartment in Greenwich Village. Some authors can take themes like war, injustice, cruelty and suffering, and turn them into good fiction. Only Vonnegut can craft these horrors into something you actually enjoy reading; novels that don't make you feel completely devastated at the conclusion, but wryly amused and possibly even a bit hopeful. My copy has this review by Rich Schickel: "Over the years Vonnegut has advanced from diagnostician to exorcist, finding in intensified comic art the magic analgesic for the temporary relief of existential pain." I can't possibly think of a better description than that. And as always, Vonnegut offers some sort of warning that the reader would be wise to heed: Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Opening in 1960, former Nazi Howard W. Campbell Jr. is sitting in a Jerusalem jail awaiting trial (a la Adolf Eichmann did in real life) for his part in the Third Reich’s crimes as a radio propagandist - except he was really an American double agent, sending coded messages to the Allies through his broadcasts. But is he a hero for working to defeat Hitler or damned for furthering the Nazis convictions against the Jews in the process? Mother Night is the best Kurt Vonnegut novel I’ve read (though Opening in 1960, former Nazi Howard W. Campbell Jr. is sitting in a Jerusalem jail awaiting trial (a la Adolf Eichmann did in real life) for his part in the Third Reich’s crimes as a radio propagandist - except he was really an American double agent, sending coded messages to the Allies through his broadcasts. But is he a hero for working to defeat Hitler or damned for furthering the Nazis convictions against the Jews in the process? Mother Night is the best Kurt Vonnegut novel I’ve read (though that’s not saying much as I’ve always thought he was overrated). I think that’s in part due to him not using stupid gimmicks like childish drawings (Breakfast of Champions) or hokey sci-fi elements (Slaughterhouse-Five); he’s telling a more-or-less straightforward and very interesting story and doing it really well too. I liked reading Howard’s journey from famous playwright to secret agent in Nazi Germany to the dark and tense post-war years trying to live under the radar in New York. Also, the cast are a colourful bunch ranging from his artist neighbour (who’s also a secret Russian spy) to a demented racist dental publisher to the mysterious American who recruited him as an agent. The only part of the novel that didn’t work for me was the nuanced depth Vonnegut attempts. Is Howard irredeemable because of his disguise as a Nazi propagandist or is it acceptable because he was really working for the Allies? For me the answer is clearly the latter, which is partly what makes him a likeable protagonist, but to Vonnegut Howard is guilty because “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Are we what we pretend to be though – can we be what we are when we’re not pretending? What about Howard’s apoliticism, his only allegiance being to his beloved wife Helga, their “Nation of Two”, and his true vocation as a playwright? Does none of that truth count because of the mask Howard wore for a few years, especially considering that it was in service to a higher cause? See, this is what’s always bothered me about Vonnegut: he’s too fucking cynical! Granted, Howard’s circumstances are complex and unique but Vonnegut always comes down on the negative side because he’s pessimistic, almost nihilistic, in his worldview. It’s a quality that makes him a compelling writer but it’s also quite limiting as his stories tend to always go in one direction - they become a little too predictable and repetitive in their overall themes. And the abrupt ending to this novel felt so pointless and uninspired. While I appreciated the thoughtful moral dimensions, they weren’t that engaging and I enjoyed Mother Night the most for being an entertaining, well-written and briskly-paced story. I’d definitely recommend this to new Kurt Vonnegut readers over his more famous novels and to any Vonnegut fans who’ve not gotten around to this yet.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    My sister, a librarian and crazy mad Vonnegut fan (when he passed away she actually wrote the eulogy for her town's local newspaper), said to me when she suggested this book, that Mother Night is probably Vonnegut's most underappreciated novel, while Vonnegut himself considered it one of his best. His other personal favorites?: Slaughterhouse 5, and Cat's Cradle. She is a librarian with a PhD, so I don't argue literature with her; and Vonnegut is her favorite. When a reader can claim A favorite My sister, a librarian and crazy mad Vonnegut fan (when he passed away she actually wrote the eulogy for her town's local newspaper), said to me when she suggested this book, that Mother Night is probably Vonnegut's most underappreciated novel, while Vonnegut himself considered it one of his best. His other personal favorites?: Slaughterhouse 5, and Cat's Cradle. She is a librarian with a PhD, so I don't argue literature with her; and Vonnegut is her favorite. When a reader can claim A favorite author, I know it's an almost holy connection. In fact, she hasn't seemed the same since he left this world, I think when he turned off the lights, he took a little of her spark with him. Having finally read this, I have to agree with my little sis, and say this is my second favorite Vonnegut book. He backs into this read, starting the story with the moral: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Howard Campbell proceeds to narrate his story from inside an Israeli jail cell, where he is about to be tried for war crimes, "I am an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination." The book examines moral ambiguity, and in true Vonnegut style, provokes the reader to a powerful, and emotional indictment against the crimes of complacency, apathy, and omission. Even from the antagonist himself we get a sense of ambiguity as we question his reliability; so apathetic about his own integrity, does anything he says have validity. Towards the ending of his story, and possibly his life, I had the sense that Howard finally looked into himself, called out for answers, and realized he heard only empty echoes--the loneliness is painful and devastating. Vonnegut's hallmark nonchalance appears, but as the sinister version of nonchalance - complacency, and his usual gallows humor seems to question whether it is too dark to allow any brevity. So what is there to enjoy in a story so bleak? The answer is in the very essence of Vonnegut's writing -- to feel yourself respond so strongly to the quiet evil you experience in this story -- it is hearing your own conscience speaking back to you, affirming your integrity, as Vonnegut intends. This may be his most contemplative book--it will definitely exercise your own morality, even leave you with a little cerebral after-burn. "All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing"... *so it goes,* ...always. *This is my first review for Goodreads. I reprinted what I wrote for Audible, and hope to join the community of excellent reviewers here on Goodreads.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kirstine

    Before this, I'd never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut. From this day forward, consider me a fan. It's strange, really, how some books fall into your life at exactly the right time. I don't know how it happens. If we somehow unconsciously know that this is the book we need and pick it up and let it take us places. Perhaps. All I know is this particular book came into my life at the most opportune moment. I say opportune, because I just recently acquired the skills to really understand this book, Before this, I'd never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut. From this day forward, consider me a fan. It's strange, really, how some books fall into your life at exactly the right time. I don't know how it happens. If we somehow unconsciously know that this is the book we need and pick it up and let it take us places. Perhaps. All I know is this particular book came into my life at the most opportune moment. I say opportune, because I just recently acquired the skills to really understand this book, or at least to add some depth to it. I just finished A Philosophy of Evil, and it deals with a many similar themes to this one, that is, the many shades of evil, and the most destructive variation of them all: banality. Indifference. Some people simply, no matter what you do or how it's presented, don't see that what they've done is a bad thing. Can you blame them for it? I say yes, but it is difficult to truly punish them. Does it make them truly evil? No, but it makes them dangerous. They lack a moral compass. These people are the worst. Some might say it's best to not know that you've been evil. I beg to differ. I would always say it's preferable to know, to posses the ability to decide for yourself and reflect on your actions, even if it doesn't always turn out to your liking. That said, this is an outstanding book. Kurt Vonnegut is a rare talent, and I understand now why I've been hearing his name all over. This is not a look into the mechanics of war, but rather the mechanics of a man at war. And to do that with wit and an undercurrent of intelligence and sarcasm... Yes, I am definitely a fan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Heart-breakingly sad, utterly horrific; if funny, then savagely so. I can’t write about people writing about Nazis and WWII without feeling that I diminish the power of their work. If you read one thing about the period, this short novel would do just fine. I will leave it at that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Howard W. Campbell Jr, a name that will now live long in the memory, for while behind bars in an Israeli prison awaiting trial for crimes against humanity during the second world war he sets out his memoirs, and so unfolds a remarkable story. Living in Berlin with his German wife he writes and spreads Nazi propaganda over the airwaves all the while being a spy for the U.S military, and after the war is holed up in an apartment in New York. But with his name now recognized as a war criminal, and Howard W. Campbell Jr, a name that will now live long in the memory, for while behind bars in an Israeli prison awaiting trial for crimes against humanity during the second world war he sets out his memoirs, and so unfolds a remarkable story. Living in Berlin with his German wife he writes and spreads Nazi propaganda over the airwaves all the while being a spy for the U.S military, and after the war is holed up in an apartment in New York. But with his name now recognized as a war criminal, and many allies at his side ( some who have such great names they would fit nicely in a spoof movie! ) who can he trust?. With a Quick-fire prose and the ease to read this held me in a vice-like grip right up until the last chilling words. Using his own experiences of the war, Kurt Vonnegut brings to light such issues of sanity, guilt, identity and even love during a time when it seemed the whole world was on a knife edge. This is surely one of his best novels hidden in an already great collection of work. Compelling stuff!.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    God, this book is so devastating. Vonnegut is so chameleonic, or something, how the lightness of his prose brilliantly belies the darkness of his themes, but oh my god, I can't even think how to express how sad this one made me. Everything is so sharply focused, every word is so perfectly, harrowingly placed. The loops and recursions and double-agents and plots within plots: all perfect. All awful. All honed for maximum pathos and horror without becoming maudlin or overdramatic. I feel punched i God, this book is so devastating. Vonnegut is so chameleonic, or something, how the lightness of his prose brilliantly belies the darkness of his themes, but oh my god, I can't even think how to express how sad this one made me. Everything is so sharply focused, every word is so perfectly, harrowingly placed. The loops and recursions and double-agents and plots within plots: all perfect. All awful. All honed for maximum pathos and horror without becoming maudlin or overdramatic. I feel punched in the gut. Gah. (Here is the summary I wrote for myself the last time I read this, two years ago, not for work. I'm leaving it because I cycle through Vonnegut books every few years, and I often forget which was which, and this will help me. Feel free to ignore it; it's slightly spoilery.) It's about a former Nazi radio propagandist, who now sits in jail awaiting trial for war crimes. Campbell claims he was a double agent, using his broadcasts to send coded messages to the Americans, but no one in the United States will come forward to confirm that he was working for them. The whole thing is told in flashback, about Campbell's life as a celebrated Berlin playwright before the war, his importance during it, his flight to New York as it was ending, and several years of living in total anonymity in the U.S., until he is finally discovered by – yup – a crazed White Supremacist. His nextdoor neighbor in New York is a Russian, a chessmaster, and maybe a spy? There's of course a love story, and plenty of hijinx, and on and on.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Right up front Kurt Vonnegut explains the moral of this short novel: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. We then are shuffled rapidly through a cast of post-war men and women wearing masks, decked out to publicly play an adopted role, whilst concealing their true feelings and being underneath. The champion dissembler is Howard W. Campbell Jr., a former deep-cover American operative in the heart of Nazi Germany, who so brilliantly espoused propaganda and spa Right up front Kurt Vonnegut explains the moral of this short novel: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. We then are shuffled rapidly through a cast of post-war men and women wearing masks, decked out to publicly play an adopted role, whilst concealing their true feelings and being underneath. The champion dissembler is Howard W. Campbell Jr., a former deep-cover American operative in the heart of Nazi Germany, who so brilliantly espoused propaganda and spat venom he did not believe in that he convinced the world of his rabid support for a cause he was secretly fighting against. Years later he is living a quiet and faceless existence in New York City, his service to his country never acknowledged, the damage of his words reverberating still. As is its wont, life decides to alter the tempo of the music of its pageant, and whilst this new dance steers Howard inexorably towards a date with the hangman, a parade of new and old faces enter and re-enter his life; love once more warmly kisses and then coldly bites; and certain old truths and beliefs are shown to have been lies and illusions all along. My expectations for Mother Night were quite high, having read so many glowing reviews over the years. I feel like I should have loved it, whereas I could only muster up an appreciative like. I knew I wanted something further from the story and yet couldn't quite assemble a concrete grievance from my lingering dissatisfaction; perhaps it's that I didn't find Campbell a particularly compelling character, his story a bit too abstract to hold close; perhaps Vonnegut confounds through an ability to impart a relatively simple and straightforward prose with a humor and meaning that, compacted so efficiently, lends itself to to being underestimated, underappreciated. It will be interesting to see if Slaughterhouse-Five—whenever I finally give it its overdue due—will affect me in the same manner. In any case, Mother Night, like so many books, should benefit from a second reading down the road and a reappraisal made of its more mature charms.

  23. 4 out of 5

    FeReSHte

    شب مادر پنجمین تجربه ونه گات خوانیم بود. به خاطر فضای جنگ جهانی دومی که داره کمی یادآور "سلاخ خانه شماره پنج" ه...داستان با همون طنز همیشگی و لحن سرخوشانه ونه گات روایت میشه ولی تو این کتاب، برخلاف سه اثر فیکشن قبلی که از ونه گات خوندم از نشانه های آخرالزمانی یا علمی تخیلی اثری نیست داستان جالبی داره.مردی اصالتا امریکایی ولی بزرگ شده ی آلمان در طول جنگ جهانی دوم صدای رایش رو از طریق رادیو به مردم انتقال میده و با شهرت و محبوبیتی که نزد ملت آلمان کسب کرده ازطریق پیام ها و سخنرانی های شورانگیزش ، م شب مادر پنجمین تجربه ونه گات خوانیم بود. به خاطر فضای جنگ جهانی دومی که داره کمی یادآور "سلاخ خانه شماره پنج" ه...داستان با همون طنز همیشگی و لحن سرخوشانه ونه گات روایت میشه ولی تو این کتاب، برخلاف سه اثر فیکشن قبلی که از ونه گات خوندم از نشانه های آخرالزمانی یا علمی تخیلی اثری نیست داستان جالبی داره.مردی اصالتا امریکایی ولی بزرگ شده ی آلمان در طول جنگ جهانی دوم صدای رایش رو از طریق رادیو به مردم انتقال میده و با شهرت و محبوبیتی که نزد ملت آلمان کسب کرده ازطریق پیام ها و سخنرانی های شورانگیزش ، ملت رو برای شرکت و ادامه جنگ تحریک می کنه. اما کاری که در واقع در حال انجامش بوده جاسوسی برای امریکا و ارسال اطلاعات از طریق سرفه و عطسه و تغییر لحن و ...است. حال سال ها بعد از پایان جنگ، بی هویت و بی پشت و پناه در حالی که بخش عظیمی از زندگی، خوشی، کار، هنر و عشقش رو از دست داده، در یکی از زندان های اسرائیل منتظر محاکمه و مشغول نوشتن خاطراتشه... پیام کتاب همون جمله ای که ونه گات در ابتدای کتاب و حتی قبل از شروع داستان صریح و مستقیم می نویسه: مراقب باشید که به چی تظاهر می کنید چون در واقع شما همون چیزی هستید که بهش تظاهر می کنید سوال کتاب اینجاست: اخلاقیات و درستی و نادرستی اعمال ما رو کی مشخص می کنه؟ شخصیت اول قصه آدم خوبه س یا آدم بده؟ استتوس هایی که از کتاب آپلود کردم رو هم می تونین مطالعه بفرمایین

  24. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is one of the most important propagandists of the Third Reich, and he is an American spy. While sending coded messages to the U.S. during WW II, he is also contributing to the German war machine. "Mother Night" is the memoir this fictional character writes in a Jerusalem prison, while awaiting trial for war crimes. This is an equally dark and funny metafictional novel, full of clever ideas, puns, j "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is one of the most important propagandists of the Third Reich, and he is an American spy. While sending coded messages to the U.S. during WW II, he is also contributing to the German war machine. "Mother Night" is the memoir this fictional character writes in a Jerusalem prison, while awaiting trial for war crimes. This is an equally dark and funny metafictional novel, full of clever ideas, puns, jokes, satire, and quirky twists - but as this is Vonnegut, there is a melancholy core at the heart of this text: Vonnegut's humor does not cover ugly truths about history and human nature, it highlights them. The title "Mother Night" refers to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play Faust: First Part, the ultimate German literary text about the fight between good and evil. This is an interesting reference (and it seems like many English-speaking readers are unfamiliar with this play), so I'd like to elaborate on it a little: The status of "Faust I" in the German literary canon could be compared to a piece like "Hamlet" in the English-speaking world - it is extremely well-known. Probably the most famous part is the first encounter between the protagonist, Dr. Heinrich Faust, and Mephisto, the devil. Faust asks him who he is, and Mephisto starts to talk about the nature of evil (this is absolutely fantastic, go read it). Here's an excerpt: "I am a part of the part that at first was all, part of the darkness that gave birth to light, that supercilious light which now disputes with Mother Night her ancient rank and space and yet can not succeed; no matter how it struggles, it sticks to matter and can't get free." Faust clearly does not want to stick to matter anymore: He makes a pact with the devil, "So that I may perceive whatever holds / the world together in its inmost folds" - i.e., Faust wants to attain universal knowledge. Although Faust's goal is not evil per se, he trades off his moral standards, and his hubris will lead to terrible consequences. And what Faust doesn't know: God and the devil made a bet whether Faust will ultimately side with good or evil - so who will finally win the fight for the human soul? Just as Goethe, Vonnegut lets the battle between good and evil take place within individual people, reminding the reader that "the Nazis" and "the allies" were not monolithic masses, but groups composed of individual people who made individual decisions - and Vonnegut comes up with rather relevatory decisons and reasonings! What makes his text so exciting is that he introduces an unreliable narrator who tries to be both good and evil and a cast of characters who bent the idea of good and evil in every possible direction, thus showing how people deceive themselves in order to conform to ideologies or to evade personal responsibility. Who will win the fight for their souls? And what will the consequences of Campbell's Faustian pact with the Nazis be? Many thanks to fellow Goodreader Tim (the Swiss one, not the one residing in Faust's hometown of Leipzig ;-)) for recommending this book to me!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Caro the L. of the H.

    “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Howard W. Campbell, Jr., the protagonist of the story, is a perfect example of someone who tried to do "as the Romans do" in Germany at the inhuman time of Third Reich and World War II and to get rid of his own conscience, yet got completely outplayed by it. It's absolutely impossible not to laugh at his attempts to please everyone and agree with everything his life brought upon him. At the same time his awareness o “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Howard W. Campbell, Jr., the protagonist of the story, is a perfect example of someone who tried to do "as the Romans do" in Germany at the inhuman time of Third Reich and World War II and to get rid of his own conscience, yet got completely outplayed by it. It's absolutely impossible not to laugh at his attempts to please everyone and agree with everything his life brought upon him. At the same time his awareness of his own wrongdoings and those of anybody else was scary, because he did nothing to stop it. Or didn't he? Was he really a double-agent for the sake of "good guys"? Or was he just another raving schizophrenic? The irony and cynicism is high in this book, but so is the humour and - as always with Vonnegut - you get to be sad and giggling at the same time. The gallery of characters is quite colourful too and impossible to forget. Read this book and you will learn everything about human madness and absurd of war and politics, maybe even better than from Slaughterhouse-Five. Unless you think that aliens from Tralfamadore are more fun than The Black Führer of Harlem... Read it after Slaughterhouse then. It's brilliant.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    It's been a long, long time since I read Mr. Vonnegut. I remember his satire being funny. I didn't laugh this time around. Maybe it was just me, but Mother Night was deadly serious. Guilt. Not the state of being physically guilty of committing a negative action, a "crime" if you prefer, but the feeling of guilt that festers in one's soul for a lifetime. That's the guilt, that Raskalnikovian guilt, that interested me in Mother Night I liked Howard J. Campbell Jr., Joseph Goebbels best radio propa It's been a long, long time since I read Mr. Vonnegut. I remember his satire being funny. I didn't laugh this time around. Maybe it was just me, but Mother Night was deadly serious. Guilt. Not the state of being physically guilty of committing a negative action, a "crime" if you prefer, but the feeling of guilt that festers in one's soul for a lifetime. That's the guilt, that Raskalnikovian guilt, that interested me in Mother Night I liked Howard J. Campbell Jr., Joseph Goebbels best radio propagandist, creator of vast amounts of anti-Semitic media, playwright and poet, American agent, lover in a "Nation of Two," post-War ghost, moralist. He seems the sort of man I could sit and have a drink with while talking about literature or politics or culture. But he contributed to terrible things, maybe even did terrible things himself, yet I'd still share that drink with him. I think I'd rather be his confessor, though. But not a confessor in the way Mother Night structures the position. I'd want to be a priest with the ability to grant absolution to the pseudo-Nazi. Perhaps not a Roman Catholic priest, but any sort of quasi-priest that would enable me to provide succour to Campbell, to ease his pain, because it seems to me that those people who feel guilt deeply, who look back on their actions, despite the fact that they must have felt justified in their motivations when undertaking their actions, are those who need us most. No matter what they've done, they need forgiveness, or at least the permission to forgive themselves. Guilt. What if I put that aside and approach Mother Night from another direction? If I do that I feel despair. Hopelessness becomes the word rather than guilt. It's a powerful thing Vonnegut has done here. My mood is black today.

  27. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    As a deliberate contrast to Jonathan Littell’s 1000-page monster The Kindly Ones, I re-read this early Vonnegut masterpiece. The 1997 Robert B. Weide adaptation with Nick Nolte is one of my favourite movies, and where the novel is structured in typical nonlinear fashion, the movie embellishes and adds colour to the novel in its linear form. The two mediums compliment each other perfectly, so if you haven’t seen the film version, do it soon! And if you haven’t read this brilliant novella, the co As a deliberate contrast to Jonathan Littell’s 1000-page monster The Kindly Ones, I re-read this early Vonnegut masterpiece. The 1997 Robert B. Weide adaptation with Nick Nolte is one of my favourite movies, and where the novel is structured in typical nonlinear fashion, the movie embellishes and adds colour to the novel in its linear form. The two mediums compliment each other perfectly, so if you haven’t seen the film version, do it soon! And if you haven’t read this brilliant novella, the confessions of Howard W. Campbell Jr, an American spy posing as a high-ranking American Nazi whose talent for writing propaganda makes him one of the most powerful fascists of the war, do it soon too! Some criticise Vonnegut’s writing for its Twain-like simplicity, but Vonnegut is a great economiser, and his novels demonstrate a perfect mastery of tone, rhythm and moral rightness, never shying away from the moving humanism that underpins his greatest work. This novella is so freaking wonderful it’s unreal. Read me!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    Like many other Goodreads reviewers, I think this is one of Vonnegut’s best works, on par with Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five, perhaps even better. It is a straight-up story, without any SF or surreal elements, and what it has to say about morality amid the atrocities of war is not comfortable to swallow. In every way, it’s black gallows humor of the highest order, and only Kurt Vonnegut could deliver it with such pathos and wisdom. Who is Howard W. Campbell, Jr? Well, he was born in the US Like many other Goodreads reviewers, I think this is one of Vonnegut’s best works, on par with Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five, perhaps even better. It is a straight-up story, without any SF or surreal elements, and what it has to say about morality amid the atrocities of war is not comfortable to swallow. In every way, it’s black gallows humor of the highest order, and only Kurt Vonnegut could deliver it with such pathos and wisdom. Who is Howard W. Campbell, Jr? Well, he was born in the US but moved to Germany as a young boy. He becomes a playwright as the Nazis grow in power in the 1930s. He is not interested in Nazi politics, just his work and his wife Helga, the star of all his plays. But the Nazi’s love his work and take him in. So he becomes a popular Nazi propagandist, an American demagogue who denounces the Jews and promotes the Aryan race. But things are not that simple. He has also been recruited to be a double-agent for the US War Department, hiding critical info in his vitriolic broadcasts against Jews, Blacks, Catholics and other enemies of the Third Reich. So it goes… When WWII ends, he is granted amnesty by his covert US contact, allowed to escape to NY and live a monastic but anonymous existence in a small attic in a run-down building. He befriends the painter downstairs, George Kraft, with whom he plays chess three times a day and keeps loneliness at bay. However, this drab existence is ruined when his cover is blown and the Reverend Doctor Lionel J.D. Jones, dentist, embalmer and white supremacist publisher of The White Christian Minuteman, comes to his apartment. Campbell is a hero to Nazi fascist supporters in the US, and Dr. Jones is ecstatic to discover this reluctant hero after so many years. He also brings with him a shocking surprise – Campbell’s wife Helga, missing in the Crimea and assumed dead or lost in a Russian gulag. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of Cambell, both supporters and enemies, even the German and Russian governments. The action converges in the basement of Dr. Jones, during a meeting of the Iron Guardsmen of the White Sons of the American Constitution. Everyone is arrested by G-men, but Campbell is released thanks to his covert spy work during the war. Faced with unwanted freedom and the loss of his only friends, he decides to turn himself over to the Israeli government to face trial for his war crimes. And this is where the story begins… Mother Night pulls no punches in demolishing our easy platitudes about morality. Is Campbell a war criminal? Or did his spywork absolve him of all his hate-filled propaganda? Is he just an artist caught in events beyond his control, trying to survive and devoted to his wife Helga, a self-professed Nation of Two? Just following orders to survive? Isn’t that the same excuse that every Nazi leader and soldier professed? Or for that matter all the collaborators who survived the war or benefited from it? Is it not justice to take revenge on such people? Vonnegut spells out the moral in the first sentence of the introduction: “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” He also has some pretty incisive comments throughout the book, and I was amazed to discover that almost everything I highlighted was also cited in Algernon’s excellent and superior review. Here are my favorite quotes: “Future civilizations – better civilizations than this one – are going to judge all men by the extent to which they’ve been artists…Nothing else about us will matter.” “We all cling to the wrong things, and we start clinging too late. I will tell you the one thing I really believe out of all the things there are to believe. All people are insane. They will do anything at any time, and God help anybody who looks for reasons.” “The people she saw as succeeding in a brave new world were, after all, being rewarded as specialists in slavery, destruction, and death. I don’t consider people who work in those fields successful.” “You hate America, don’t you?” she said. “That would be as silly as loving it,” I said. “It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to a human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.” “I had hoped, as a broadcaster, to be merely ludicrous, but this is a hard world to be ludicrous in, with so many human beings being so reluctant to laugh, so incapable of thought, so eager to believe and snarl and hate. So many people wanted to believe me! Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.” “As a friend of the court that will try Eichmann, I offer my opinion that Eichmann cannot distinguish between right and wrong – that not only right and wrong, but truth and falsehood, hope and despair, beauty and ugliness, kindness and cruelty, comedy and tragedy, are all processed by Eichmann’s mind indiscriminately, like birdshot through a bugle.” “My case is different. I always know when I tell a lie, am capable of imagining the cruel consequences of anybody’s believing my lies, know cruelty is wrong. I could no more lie without noticing it than I could unknowingly pass a kidney stone.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    I have a soft spot for Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse-Five was my entry point (or perhaps re-entry point after a very long hiatus) into literature. I read it just over a year ago, and I loved Vonnegut's straightforward, witty and cynical style. But really, it was the way that he combined so many strange and unique elements in such an original way to express something very powerful, that so captivated me. The book was unlike anything I had read before, and it hinted at the great potential of liter I have a soft spot for Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse-Five was my entry point (or perhaps re-entry point after a very long hiatus) into literature. I read it just over a year ago, and I loved Vonnegut's straightforward, witty and cynical style. But really, it was the way that he combined so many strange and unique elements in such an original way to express something very powerful, that so captivated me. The book was unlike anything I had read before, and it hinted at the great potential of literature to express a depth of meaning and emotion that I had not seen reached by other means. Slaughterhouse-Five prompted my very first review on Goodreads, and a subsequent drive to recreate and expand on that experience by seeking out and reading as much great literature as possible. A short time later, I read two more of his novels and loved them both. But I have read 158 books since Cat's Cradle and I have been increasingly reluctant to revisit Vonnegut, lest I find that I have outgrown him. Alas, reading Mother Night, I did find that a lot of the old lustre was gone. Vonnegut's prose did not hit me with quite the same brilliance that it once did. My exposure and my tastes have grown, and Vonnegut must now compete with the likes of Faulkner, McCarthy, Woolf and Nabokov. He still stands tall, but can no longer tower over figures such as these. This is not to say that Mother Night is anything but an excellent novel. It has all the charm of Vonnegut's voice, along with the usual Vonnegut weirdness and moments of true poignancy. The novel is the study of a moral ambiguity: of how right and wrong are relative concepts - as much contingent on environment and circumstances as they are on the character of a person (though in this capacity it is perhaps not entirely successful in that the protagonist is too damn likable - despite the role he played in creating and disseminating Nazi propaganda, we rarely feel anything but sympathy for him). I do not think this is a profoundly important novel, but it is one that addresses this single question in a compelling, insightful and above all thoroughly entertaining way. I have a couple more unread Vonnegut novels sitting on my shelf, which I expect to pick up in a year or two. When I do, I hope it will be like spending time with an old friend.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    This is one of my favorite books. I picked this book up and read it through in one sitting. I couldn't put it down I was so engaged. This book presents the moral dilemma of Howard W. Campbell Jr. an American who became a Nazi propagandist. However, he only became a Nazi propagandist because he was spying for the USA. Yet, he was a really good propagandist. His dilemma is this: Does the good of spying for America obviate and out weigh the evils he did by making propaganda for the Nazis or do his s This is one of my favorite books. I picked this book up and read it through in one sitting. I couldn't put it down I was so engaged. This book presents the moral dilemma of Howard W. Campbell Jr. an American who became a Nazi propagandist. However, he only became a Nazi propagandist because he was spying for the USA. Yet, he was a really good propagandist. His dilemma is this: Does the good of spying for America obviate and out weigh the evils he did by making propaganda for the Nazis or do his sins and virtues in both roles exist independently? I had never considered a moral dilemma like this before. It is a great story about how a person can do evil when they are trying to do good as well as how one man can be destroyed in the clash of two countries. This book is amazingly well written, thought provoking and powerful. I recommend it to everyone. I read this book because my roommate recommended it and because I like Kurt Vonnegut.

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