Slaughterhouse-Five is told out of order – in line with the experience of war


Kurt Vonnegut’s story defies conventional chronology, keeping it faithful to the disordered history it depicts

The first things you notice about Slaughterhouse-Five are also the last things. “All this happened,” the narrator begins, putting everything else that will follow into the past tense. Then he tells us that a guy he knew “really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his”. The book ends in more or less the same place, give or take a bit of birdsong: “Edgar Derby was caught with a teapot he had taken from the catacombs. He was arrested for plundering. He was tried and shot. So it goes.”

Related: Reading group: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is our book for March

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