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Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.

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ما همان چيزی هستيم كه بدان تظاهر می كنيم. پس هميشه بايد مواظب باشيم ببينيم به چه چيزی تظاهر می كنيم...!

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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!

مشاهده لینک اصلی
In Stanley Kubriks film, Full Metal Jacket, one of the most highlighted scenes is where the protagonist is asked to explain the peace symbol and @Born to [email protected] 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.


مشاهده لینک اصلی
Im going to make an unpopular statement right now: This is the best of Kurt Vonneguts novels. Okay Cats 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 authors 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 youre not sure whether to root for or against him.

Vonneguts 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 authors works when I was a fresh-faced twenty year old with few cares in the world, so I dont 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 Vonneguts wonderful novels, but for right now Mother Night stays there.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
As much as I enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut expound upon Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country not that long ago, it didnt quite satisfy the craving Ive 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 [email protected] 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 things or persons 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 cant 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 Im not wrong. (And, really, whats the point of reading literature if not to find validation at the hands of greater minds?) If the Faustian origin of this novels title heralds the eventual hellward saunter of ones 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 isnt fake-it-til-you-make-it terrain: This is a disturbing account of why hiding ones 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 storys 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 Campbells incognito existence to the white supremacist whose retinue includes a black man and a Catholic who would otherwise be his sworn enemies if he hadnt 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 Campbells 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 dont feel like Im spoiling anything by revealing that the woman who later finds Campbell in New York and claims to be his Helga isnt 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 novels 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 [email protected]

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 hes 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 memoirs 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 theyve 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 whos 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 doesnt 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. Its an an effect that not only showcases Vonneguts talent but also hints at Campbells 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. Wheres evil? Its 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 [email protected] -- are all but impossible to address in a novel that traverses so deeply and unflinchingly into one of the darkest stains on humanitys historical conscience. But as Ive 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. Its good for [email protected]

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