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Mother Night: A Novel Paperback – May 11, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0385334143 ISBN-10: 0385334141 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reissue edition (May 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334143
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (249 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A great artist.”—Cincinnati Enquirer

“A shaking up in the kaleidoscope of laughter . . . Reading Vonnegut is addictive!”—Commonwealth

“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist.”—Time

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut’s black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America’s attention in The Sirens of Titan in 1959 and established him as “a true artist” (The New York Times) with Cat’s Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene declared, “one of the best living American writers.” Mr. Vonnegut passed away in April 2007.

More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

Customer Reviews

I think that anyone who reads this book will enjoy it just as I did.
whistlepete
It is a dark story, but it is told in a manner typical of Vonnegut, using humor and a free-form style to lighten the mood.
M. Strong
'Mother Night' is the story of Howard W. Campbell Jr. Nazi propagandist, racist, war criminal, and American spy.
Cody Carlson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

221 of 227 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
To the best of my knowledge, there really is no other writer quite like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Mother Night appears to be a rather straightforward, albeit quirky, novel at first glance, but as one delves down into the heart of Vonnegut's prose one finds grounds for contemplation of some of life's most serious issues. This novel is the first-hand account of Howard Campbell, Jr., a most remarkable character. Campbell is an American-born citizen who moved to Germany as a child and became the English-speaking radio mouthpiece for Nazi Germany during World War II. In the fifteen years since the end of the war, he has been living an almost invisible life in a New York City attic apartment. He misses his German wife Helga who died in the war, sometimes thinks about his pre-war life as a successful writer of plays and poems, and perhaps just waits for history to find him once again. As we begin the novel, he has been found and is writing this account from a jail cell in Israel, awaiting trial for his crimes against humanity. While he is reviled by almost everyone on earth as an American Nazi traitor, the truth is that he was actually an agent working for the American government during the war; this is a truth he cannot prove, though. Thus, in this 1961 novel, the hero is ostensibly a Nazi war criminal.
The primary moral of Mother Night, Vonnegut tells us in his introduction, is that "we are what we pretend to be" and should thus be pretty darned careful about what we are pretending to be (a secondary moral being the less enlightening statement "when you're dead, you're dead"). In the eyes of the entire world, Campbell is exactly what he pretended to be during the war, a traitorous Nazi purveyor of propaganda who mocked and demoralized allied troops as well as regular citizens.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By "lilstarofdavid" on January 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
"My name is Howard W. Campbell, Jr. I am an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination" are the opening words to Kurt Vonnegut's tale of an American playwright living in Germany who, once World War II begins, becomes a Nazi radio propagandist. He becomes infamous for his disgustingly brutal radio shows which distributed wicked Nazi propaganda. He was thoroughly hated by the Americans, and loved by the Nazis. But there is one thing that you should know about Howard W. Campbell. He is an American spy. His radio shows are the medium for transmitting secret codes out of Germany to aid the American cause in the war. He was one of the most effective spies of World War II, and one of the only ones to survive the war. But after the war, he is simply discarded in a small New York attic apartment, with enough money to live the rest of his days there, but with no more direction to his life. He lives his life simply there, away from civilization and anyone who might recognize him as a war criminal, until a white supremacist discovers where he is located, and he once again must face his past. Mother Night is not a traditional war book, for rather than concentrating on the brutal aspects of combat, it focuses heavily on the equally gruesome subject of hate. Vonnegut also dissects the schizophrenic mind of a spy after the war has ended who has not only lost the trust of everyone he loves, but most importantly, his identity altogether, as he realizes he is a "nationless" person. The narrator is constantly questioning his identity, which has been muddled by his spy experiences.Read more ›
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By NotATameLion on January 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Mother Night" by Kurt Vonnegut is a probing tale (a parable perhaps) about the difference between appearances and reality.
"Mother Night" is actually one of three books I have recently read (or reread) that deal with the dichotomy between appearance and truth. "Mother Night" is clearly the least subtle book as far as advancing an argument...yet it is far and away the most powerful. Vonnegut navigates this ethical minefield in an entertaining, yet sobering manner.
"Mother Night" tells the story of an American playwright who is enlisted to be a spy within World War II Germany. The playwright becomes part of the upper crust of Nazi society. Working as a talk-radio personality, he encodes top secret information in his pro-Nazi broadcasts. In so doing, he helps to bring about the eventual victory of the Allies.
The war-time story-line of "Mother Night" is told in retrospect by the playwright who is living a secluded life in 1960's New York City. The reason he must live in hiding is that his Allied contact person during the war disappeared. He has no one left to testify to the fact that he worked for the Allies.
The story takes off in grand Vonnegutian style as the "protagonist" of the story is discovered simultaneously by Nazi-hunters, Soviet agents, white supremacists, and a woman claiming to be his ex wife.
Through it all, Vonnegut asks hard questions about what action, motivation, intent, and reality have to do with reality.
I found this book to be eye-opening. It is engagingly told; containing passages of great beauty, sorrow, and even humor. I recommend this book.
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