Slaughterhouse at Fifty

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Time doesn’t work the same for Billy Pilgrim as it does for the rest of us. He keeps jumping from one moment in his life to the next -- and always back to the bombing of Dresden. 50 years ago this month, Kurt Vonnegut introduced Billy Pilgrim and the aliens who gave him strange time traveling powers in his novel "Slaughterhouse Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death." Many critics were baffled as to why Vonnegut used sci-fi tropes to explore the horrors of World War II. But the novel was deeply personal to Vonnegut, who struggled for years to figure out how to talk about his wartime experiences. Vonnegut scholars Marc Leeds, William Rodney Allen and Julia Whitehead of the Vonnegut Museum and Library connect the dots from the author’s real traumas to the fantastical adventures of Billy Pilgrim. And professor Philip Beidler explains why the novel speaks to him as a Vietnam veteran.

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