Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five

En let, mærkelig, morsom, syret og eftertænksom bog om noget tungt, svært og trist. Men også en bog, der på en lidt sjov måde skøjter rundt mellem det grinagtige, pudsige og syrede og det alvorlige, indsigtsfulde og tragiske.

Selve historien er svær at genfortælle. Vi prøver alligevel.

BIlly Pilgrim er soldat, senere optiker. Under krigen var han krigsfange i Dresden, da bombeflyene jævnede byen med jorden. Senere finder han sammen med sin unge kone. På et tidspunkt – og her bliver det mærkeligt – bliver han kidnappet af rumvæsener fra planeten Tralfamadore, hvor han udstilles i en slags zoo.

Krigen opleves som fuldstædig formålsløs, ikke mindst gennem de mærkværdige og decideret absurde optrin og detaljer, der fremhæves. Samme blik lægges sådan set på hans tilværelse tilbage i USA. Til gengæld tager Pilgrim en del til sig fra den tralfamadorianske verdensanskuelse, der vel bedst kan beskrives som deterministisk-stoicistisk.

Det hele bliver ikke mindre mærkeligt af, at Pilgrim har den evne, at han kan springe frem og tilbage i sit eget livsforløb – så at sige opleve den del af sit liv, han har lyst til, når han vil. Og det er også på den måde, historien oprulles. Man følger så at sige BIllys oplevelsesrække. Men da den jo ikke er kronologisk, hopper vi hele tiden rundt mellem de meget forskellige hjørner af Billys livsforløb.

Det giver mere mening, end man umiddelbart skulle tro. Og det gør i hvert fald begge dele mere absurd, når man fx springer fra krigsfangelejren til tilværelsen som zoo-dyr på en fremmed planet. Men det giver omvendt også begge dele noget ekstra.

Den der deterministiske tilgang til livet går igen i fortællestilen, der er ekstremt matter-of-factly (den oftest brugte vending er “So it goes”). Det bliver lidt irriterende, men det er omvendt også meget passende.

Here is how Billy Pilgrim lost his wife, Valencia.

He was unconscious in the hospital in Vermont, after the airplane crashed on Sugarbush Mountain, and Valencia, having heard about the crash, was driving from Ilium to the hospital in the family Cadillac El Dorado Coupe de Ville. Valencia was hysterical, because she had been told frankly that Billy might die, or that, if he lived, he might be a vegetable.

Valencia adored Billy. She was crying and yelping so hard as she drove that she missed the correct turnoff from the throughway. She applied her power brakes, and a Mercedes slammed into her from behind. Nobody was hurt, thank God, because both drivers were wearing seat belts. Thank God, thank God. The Mercedes lost only a headlight. But the rear end of the Cadillac was a body-and-fender man’s wet dream. The trunk and fenders were collapsed. The gaping trunk looked like the mouth of a village idiot who was explaining that he didn’t know anything about anything. The fenders shrugged. The bumper was at a high port arms. “Reagan for President!” a sticker on the bumper said. The back window was veined with cracks. The exhaust system rested on the pavement.

The driver of the Mercedes got out and went to Valencia, to find out if she was all right. She blabbed hysterically about Billy and the airplane crash, and then she put her car in gear and crossed the median divider, leaving her exhaust system behind.

When she arrived at the hospital, people rushed to the windows to see what all the noise was. The Cadillac, with both mufflers gone, sounded like a heavy bomber coming in on a wing and a prayer. Valencia turned off the engine, but then she slumped against the steering wheel, and the horn brayed steadily. A doctor and a nurse ran out to find out what the trouble was. Poor Valencia was unconscious, overcome by carbon monoxide. She was a heavenly azure. One hour later she was dead. So it goes.

Alt i alt en ret god bog med mange fantastiske passager. Er bogen i virkeligheden en beskrivelse af PTSD, som nogen mener? Måske. Det kunne den godt være. Uanset hvad, så var den sjov at læse.

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