It was so simple yet so poignant. It was a well-known line from one of his most famous novels, I discovered and was instantly ashamed of the fact that I had barely heard of him. I saw the quote in 2007, in tributes to him. All the major newspapers had written about it, all media was talking about it, there were discussions, mentions of noteworthy book lists: Kurt Vonnegut had died.
Slaughterhouse-Five. That was the novel which contained that unassumingly powerful quote. I did not want to use it without understanding it, without reading the book and seeing it in context. It took me a while, but I did finally purchase it for if I really like a book, I buy it and almost always read it more than once. It is a satirical anti-war novel about World War II and the fire-bombing of Dresden. It uses dark, sarcastic humour, irony and time-travel to make its point. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
The quote, in fact, is in the form of a picture in the book, a drawing. That doesn’t make it any less affecting, mind you. It’s the words and their profound simplicity that resonate within you.
“Was it awful?”
“Sometimes.” A crazy thought now occurred to Billy. The truth of it startled him. It would make a good epitaph for Billy Pilgrim–and for me, too.
– Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five