If the Faustian origin of this novel's title heralds the eventual hellward saunter of one's 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 isn't fake-it-'til-you-make-it terrain: This is a disturbing account of why hiding one's 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 story's 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 Campbell's incognito existence to the white supremacist whose retinue includes a black man and a Catholic who would otherwise be his sworn enemies if he hadn't 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 Campbell's 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 don't feel like I'm spoiling anything by revealing that the woman who later finds Campbell in New York and claims to be his Helga isn't 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 novel's 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 vile. 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 he's 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 memoir's 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 they've 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 who's 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 doesn't 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.
It's an an effect that not only showcases Vonnegut's talent but also hints at Campbell's 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 It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. But as I've 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.
View all 22 comments. I did not find one so I went ahead with putting in the quote. Probably not that great an idea, that is why nobody want to do it! So it goes?
Mother Night is about Howard W. He is married to a beautiful actress called Helga.
The Nazi employed him to make propaganda broadcasts for them, his broadcasts were very popular among the Third Reich, and very effective in fueling the anti-Semitic feelings among the population. However, Campbell only took the broadcasting job to work for the US as a spy. He uses the broadcasts to relay the American secret messages, coded through coughs, pauses and other verbal tics. At the end of the war, the US intelligence pretty much disowns him and he is living a secretive and lonely life in New York, his wife having been captured by the Russian army. Nobody knows Campbell was a US spy during the war, and he is wanted for war crimes for the hatred he instigated through his broadcasts.
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All the others feature an element of sci-fi, or sci-fi spoof, and includes the character Kilgore Trout, an obscure sci-fi author. Mother Night feels more serious and melancholy than all of them. Yes, even more than Slaughterhouse-Five. This is not to say that Mother Night is not humorous, it is often very funny but there something melancholic behind most of the jokes. I suppose Campbell is not meant to be a likable protagonist, I like him anyway, he is very pitiful and his biggest mistake is that he is too good at his job, both as a spy and a Nazi propagandist.
Both sides made good use of him, and in the end, nobody likes him, except eccentric fascists. Mother Night is, as I said, melancholy, yet it also made me laugh and smile from time to time. The chief moral of the story seems to be that if you pretend to be someone evil and despicable and you do too good a job of it, you will eventually become that character you pretend to be.
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Being an actually good person inside will not rescue you from that, and you will have to live with the consequences of what you have done while you were playing that role. However, I would not change a thing about Mother Night , it is a funny, sad, romantic, touching, thought-provoking story. It is both passionate and compassionate, and it does not need any kind of special effects. I certainly look forward to reading lots more Vonneguts. A really bad conscience is as much out of my reach as a mink coat. I am neither ignorant nor insane.
Those whose orders I carried out in Germany were as ignorant and insane as Dr. I knew it.
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God help me, I carried out their instructions anyway. I've always considered Vonnegut to be one of my favourite writers but I keep forgetting to read his books.
Mother Night is quite a different novel from what you'd expect with Vonnegut. There is no mind-bending science fiction or metafictional madness.
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Instead we have the story of Howard W. He was actually a US counter-spy leaking Nazi secrets to the US but that little caveat is not well-know I've always considered Vonnegut to be one of my favourite writers but I keep forgetting to read his books. He was actually a US counter-spy leaking Nazi secrets to the US but that little caveat is not well-known, so he is now sitting writing his memoirs in a jail cell in Israel awaiting his trail for war crimes.
Oh and this book is comic. Even Eichmann is in here cracking jokes. The overall tone of the novel is typically Vonnegutian but it is a departure. Campbell is an odd character to be stuck with for pages. I found him somewhat uncomfortable to be around. Then of course there is the chance that since this novel was written essentially as a confession before Mossad that everything in it could be a lie.
Maybe Campbell was a Nazi. We'll never know. I've been somewhat critical of Vonnegut's penchant for fractures narratives before. This short novel is split into 45 sections, most not lasting more than two pages. Vonnegut loved doing this. But whereas I felt that it somewhat ruined the experience of reading Cat's Cradle , here it works quite well. Don't ask me how. I just feel this book flows better.
As you can see I am struggling to write about this book. Something which happens with every Vonnegut novel oh I've just had a sudden flashback to trying to discuss Vonnegut's uses of metafiction in Breakfast of Champions in one of my final exams of university.
I find everything I have to say can be summed up by simply stating 'it is good'. Which it is. And which I shall state again. It is good.