Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vale Kurt Vonnegut

Yesterday the news of Kurt Vonnegut's death caused me to remember all the wonderful books he wrote. I have a pretty fair collection of them, the bulk of which I appear to have bought in 1972. So 1972 must have been the year I discovered his writing. I remember he was very popular at that time, a cult writer like Richard Brautigan and Joseph Heller. They all wrote extraordinary novels, fresh and original at the time, and even today, when their books are almost forgotten, their voices are still uncommonly individual when you read them again.

This morning, as a gesture of respect and remembrance, I re-read Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5". It is the story of Billy Pilgram who has a habit of becoming unstuck in time, who is kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, who is a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time of the fire bombing of the city. The action of the novel jumps back and forth in time as Billy's life is documented in stops and starts as he travels through time and space.

I haven't read the novel for over 30 years I guess, but I whizzed through it in a couple of hours. It was as good a read as I remember it being and has not dated at all.

As a footnote and epitaph to Vonnegut here's a short quote from the novel:

"The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. ...It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once that moment is gone it is gone forever. "

So rest in peace Kurt Vonnegut, may the memory of you and your books live on forever.

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