From ratty attic to Auschwitz and back again, Mother Night is the confessions of Howard W Campbell Jr - an American, a notorious Nazi propagandist, and a US counter-spy - not a moral man.
This mournful, macabre and diabolically funny tale of unsung heroism uses acrid humour to underline the horror of its themes.
It is one of the blackest comedies ever.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 21/05/1992
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780099819301
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by jbrubacher
A propagandist (who was actually a spy, who was actually disinterested in everthing except his wife) recounts his war and post-war experiences before being tried as a war criminal. It's Vonnegut's writing that seems to be entirely effortless, yet brilliant, that blows me away. Short chapters and simple words are infused with incredible meaning. Here combined with a subject he understands very well (WWII) it's powerful stuff. Every character seems to be real *and* surreal. Also tiring to read, because of the subject, and I was glad to be done, but I don't wish I hadn't read it. "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Certainly.
Review by DRFP
I have to confess the only Vonnegut novel I tried prior to this was <i>Slaughterhouse 5</i>, which I really didn't like. That stopped my reading of Vonnegut right there. But I found this book in a charity store and thought an author with such an high reputation was worth another shot.I'm glad I gave Vonnegut a second chance because this was a really good novel. Whereas I disliked S5 for, in my view, trying too hard to be too obviously clever <i>Mother Night</i> almost feels too simple. It's written in a wonderfully easy manner but it's no less powerful as a result. Truly black humour here (but that's my sort of thing) and a compelling tale, I thought. Highly recommended.And, lastly, if we're into quoting here, the passage that struck me most heavily in these fraught times was:'There are plenty of good reasons for fighting,' I said, 'but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on his side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive. 'It's that part of an imbecile,' I said, 'that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.'
Review by Schopflin
This is my first Vonnegut and I'm a complete convert. It's a gem - clever, funny, beautifully constructed and incredibly readable. Books narrated by anti-heroes have never quite done it for me, but Campbell, the narrator, is cleverly revealed as bad, but not evil and no worse than most of us are capable of being. A small masterpiece.