This Sunday, March 31, marks the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Part autobiographical, part science fiction-infused satire, Slaughterhouse-Five was Vonnegut's first bestseller and remains a rightly revered literary cornerstone. After the real-life Vonnegut was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, he was used as forced labor in Dresden, Germany. He survived the Allied firebombing of that city in the deep cellar of an empty slaughterhouse called Schlachthof Fünf. After the attack, Vonnegut was put to work clearing rubble and retrieving bodies from bombed buildings.
He struggled for many years to work his experiences into a novel. Finally, by developing the sci-fi twist of becoming "unstuck in time," Vonnegut was able to piece together what many consider a parable of PTSD. Billy Pilgrim's captivity in a Tralfamadorian human zoo, interspersed with withering critiques of war and dark humor, remain as delightful and thought-proving as they were 50 years ago. --Tobias Mutter