Book: Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Date Read: July 4 to July 11, 2018
Rating: 5 (of 5) stars
I feel that I need to preface this with a warning: I love Vonnegut. I realize that his writing is not for everyone, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his works that I have read. I recently read something online that described Vonnegut as the “ultimate cynic and ultimate humanist,” which I think is the perfect embodiment of my feelings as well. Vonnegut is satire and black humor, but with an undercurrent of pure, imperfect humanity.
While not his most popular or well known novel, Mother Night is perhaps the ultimate example of that dichotomy. Howard W. Campbell Jr. tells the complicated story of his involvement in the war: he was a Nazi, but secretly working on the side of the Americans. In order to be a good spy, he had to be a good Nazi. And so, of course, most of the world knew him only as the prominent Nazi that he became. After the war, he is saved from execution by his double-agency, and slowly fades into obscurity. The past, however, has a way of coming back around. I do not want to give away anything further to the conclusion, but will say that I did not quite expect it to end as it did, although in retrospect I wonder if I should have.
In the introduction of the novel, Vonnegut tells the reader the moral of the story: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” It’s laid out pretty clearly throughout the novel, so I do not intend to dwell there. The element I found more interesting was Campbell’s musings on why he was so successful: “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.” It is something that resonates, although it does not quite sit well with me that it does. So it goes.
Boris’s thoughts: “Funny. Sad. Funny. Sad. You humans are odd. 2 paws.”