“There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time.”—Tralfamadorian explaining their books, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughterhouse Five
Words to live by.
Issued from a difficult place, though.
We think we have it tough coming to grips with things, consider Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Enlisting in the United States Army at the age of twenty he was captured by the Germans in December of 1944, aged twenty-two. Transported across Europe he and his fellow prisoners of war were deposited in a makeshift prison camp on the edge of Dresden. It was a converted meat packing plant and his barrack number was Slaughter House Five, the title of his best selling novel of 1969.
Starting on February 13th, the allies for unaccountable reasons decided to make an example of the Medievally beautiful city of Dresden. For several nights running they dropped thousands of tons of incendiary bombs, causing a fire storm that would burn the city and a variably estimated population of a hundred thousand souls to the ground.
Vonnegut and fellow prisoners and guards survived the conflagration by taking refuge in a meat locker three stories underground. When they emerged the city and its inhabitants were gone.
Then, to top it off, the Germans forced the prisoners over the following weeks to dig up and properly cremate the city’s dead.
One prisoner, a likeable fellow as depicted in the novel, unearthed a beautifully preserved porcelain teapot in the rubble and was summarily tried and shot by firing squad for looting.
All that at the tender age of twenty-two! Which is the reason for Slaughterhouse’s alternate title, The Children’s Crusade.
Deeply scarred by his experiences, Vonnegut would carry his ‘Dresden Book’ with him for nearly twenty-four years before getting it off his chest.
How deal with such unmitigated horrors?
I haven’t finished rereading Vonnegut’s classic yet, having just picked it up from a second hand shop yesterday, but lines you read (in this case twenty-five or so years ago) stick with you for years and years and here’s one I still expect to encounter somewhere in the book:
“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”
I suppose that’s Western speak for AUM.
Or as Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”