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Player Piano (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Kurt Vonnegut

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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

Ilium, New York, is divided into three parts.

In the northwest are the managers and engineers and civil servants and a few professional people; in the northeast are the machines; and in the south, across the Iroquois River, is the area known locally as Homestead, where almost all of the people live.

If the bridge across the Iroquois were dynamited, few daily routines would be disturbed. Not many people on either side have reasons other than curiosity for crossing.

During the war, in hundreds of Iliums over America, managers and engineers learned to get along without their men and women, who went to fight. It was the miracle that won the war—production with almost no manpower. In the patois of the north side of the river, it was the know-how that won the war. Democracy owed its life to know-how.

Ten years after the war—after the men and women had come home, after the riots had been put down, after thousands had been jailed under the antisabotage laws--Doctor Paul Proteus was petting a cat in his office. He was the most important, brilliant person in Ilium, the manager of the Ilium Works, though only thirty-five. He was tall, thin, nervous, and dark, with the gentle good looks of his long face distorted by dark-rimmed glasses.

He didn't feel important or brilliant at the moment, nor had he for some time. His principle concern just then was that the black cat be contented in its new surroundings.

Those old enough to remember and too old to compete said affectionately that Doctor Proteus looked just as his father had as a young man—and it was generally understood, resentfully in some quarters, that Paul would someday rise almost as high in the organization as his father had. His father, Doctor George Proteus, was at the time of his death the nation's first National Industrial, Commercial, Communications, Foodstuffs, and Resources Director, a position approached in importance only by the presidency of the United States.

As for the Proteus genes' chances of being passed down to yet another generation, there were practically none. Paul's wife, Anita, his secretary during the war, was barren. Ironically as anyone would please, he had married her after she had declared that she was certainly pregnant, following an abandoned office celebration of victory.

"Like that, kitty?" With solicitousness and vicarious pleasure, young Proteus ran a roll of blueprints along the cat's arched back. "Mmmm-aaaaah—good, eh?" He had spotted her that morning, near the golf course, and had picked her up as a mouser for the plant. Only the night before, a mouse had gnawed through the insulation on a control wire and put buildings 17, 19, and 21 temporarily out of commission.

Paul turned on his intercom set. "Katharine?"

"Yes, Doctor Proteus?"

"Katharine, when's my speech going to be typed?"

"I'm doing it now, sir. Ten, fifteen minutes, I promise."

Doctor Katharine Finch was his secretary, and the only woman in the Ilium Works. Actually, she was more a symbol of rank than a real help, although she was useful as a stand-in when Paul was ill or took a notion to leave work early. Only the brass--plant managers and bigger—had secretaries. During the war, the managers and engineers had found that the bulk of secretarial work could be done—as could most lower-echelon jobs—more quickly and efficiently and cheaply by machines. Anita was about to be dismissed when Paul had married her. Now, for instance, Katharine was being annoyingly unmachinelike, dawdling over Paul’s speech, and talking to her presumed lover, Doctor Bud Calhoun, at the same time.

Bud, who was manager of the petroleum terminal in Ilium, worked only when shipments came or went by barge or pipeline, and he spent most of his time between these crises—as now—filling Katharine's ears with the euphoria of his Georgia sweet talk.

Paul took the cat in his arms and carried her to the enormous floor-to-ceiling window that comprised one wall. "Lots and lots of mice out there, Kitty," he said.

He was showing the cat an old battlefield at peace. Here, in the basin of the river bend, the Mohawks had overpowered the Algonquins, the Dutch the Mohawks, the British the Dutch, the Americans the British. Now, over bones and rotten palings and cannon balls and arrowheads, there lay a triangle of steel and masonry buildings, a half-mile on each side—the Illium Works. Where men had once howled and hacked at one another, and fought nip-and-tuck with nature as well, the machines hummed and whirred and clicked, and made parts for baby carriages and bottle caps, motorcycles and refrigerators, television sets and tricycles—the fruits of peace.

Paul raised his eyes above the rooftops of the great triangle to the glare of the sun on the Iroquois River, and beyond--to Homestead, where many of the pioneer names still lived: van Zandt, Cooper, Cortland, Stokes . . .

"Doctor Proteus?" It was Katharine again.

"Yes, Katharine."

"It's on again."

"Three in building 58?"

"Yessir—the light's on again."

"All right—call Doctor Shepherd and find out what he's doing about it."

"He's sick today. Remember?"

"Then it's up to me, I guess." He put on his coat, sighed with ennui, picked up the cat, and walked into Katharine's office. "Don't get up, don't get up," he said to Bud, who was stretched out on a couch.

"Who was gonna get up?" said Bud.

Three walls of the room were solid with meters from baseboard to molding, unbroken save for the doors leading into the outer hall and into Paul's office. The fourth wall, as in Paul's office, was a single pane of glass. The meters were identical, the size of cigarette packages, and stacked like masonry, each labeled with a bright brass plate. Each was connected to a group of machines somewhere in the Works. A glowing red jewel called attention to the seventh meter from the bottom, fifth row to the left, on the east wall.

Paul tapped on the meter with his finger. "Uh-huh—here we go again: number three in 58 getting rejects, all right." He glanced over the rest of the instruments. "Guess that's all, eh?"

"Just that one."

"Whatch goin' do with thet cat?" said Bud.

Paul snapped his fingers. "Say, I'm glad you asked that. I have a project for you, Bud. I want some sort of signaling device that will tell this cat where she can find a mouse."

"Electronic?"

"I should hope so."

"You'd need some kind of sensin' element thet could smell a mouse."

"Or a rat. I want you to work on it while I'm gone."

As Paul walked out to his car in the pale March sunlight, he realized that Bud Calhoun would have a mouse alarm designed—one a cat could understand—by the time he got back to the office. Paul sometimes wondered if he wouldn't have been more content in another period of history, but the rightness of Bud's being alive now was beyond question. Bud's mentality was one that had been remarked upon as being peculiarly American since the nation had been born—the restless, erratic insight and imagination of a gadgeteer. This was the climax, or close to it, of generations of Bud Calhouns, with almost all of American industry integrated into one stupendous Rube Goldberg machine.

Paul stopped by Bud's car, which was parked next to his. Bud had shown off its special features to him several times, and, playfully, Paul put it through its paces. "Let's go," he said to the car.

A whir and a click, and the door flew open. "Hop in," said a tape recording under the dashboard. The starter spun, the engine caught and idled down, and the radio went on.

Gingerly, Paul pressed a button on the steering column. A motor purred, gears grumbled softly, and the two front seats lay down side by side like sleepy lovers. It struck Paul as shockingly like an operating table for horses he had once seen in a veterinary hospital—where the horse was walked alongside the tipped table, lashed to it, anesthetized, and then toppled into operating position by the gear-driven table top. He could see Katharine Finch sinking, sinking, sinking, as Bud, his hand on the button, crooned. Paul raised the seats with another button. "Goodbye," he said to the car.

The motor stopped, the radio winked off, and the door slammed. "Don't take any wooden nickels," called the car as Paul climbed into his own. "Don't take any wooden nickels, don't take any wooden nickels, don't take any—"

"I won't!"

Bud's car fell silent, apparently at peace.

Paul drove down the broad, clean boulevard that split the plant, and watched the building numbers flash by. A station wagon, honking its horn, and its occupants waving to him, shot past in the opposite direction, playfully zigzagging on the deserted street, heading for the main gate. Paul glanced at his watch. That was the second shift just coming off work. It annoyed him that sophomoric high spirits should be correlated with the kind of young men it took to keep the plant going. Cautiously, he assured himself that when he, Finnerty, and Shepherd had come to work in the Ilium Works thirteen years before, they had been a good bit more adult, less cock-sure, and certainly without the air of belonging to an elite.

Some people, including Paul's famous father, had talked in the old days as though engineers, managers, and scientists were an elite. And when things were building up to the war, it was recognized that American know-how was the only answer to the prospective enemy's vast numbers, and there was talk of deeper, thicker shelters for the possessors of know-how, and of keeping this cream of the population out of the front-line f...

Revue de presse

“A funny, savage appraisal of a totally automated American society of the future.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“An exuberant, crackling style . . . Vonnegut is a black humorist, fantasist and satirist, a man disposed to deep and comic reflection on the human dilemma.”—Life

“His black logic . . . gives us something to laugh about and much to fear.”—The New York Times Book Review

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1058 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 354 pages
  • Editeur : RosettaBooks (1 juillet 2010)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B003XVYLE4
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°86.936 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  168 commentaires
96 internautes sur 101 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Perhaps the most accurate prediction of Modern Times.... 3 octobre 2002
Par OAKSHAMAN - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This year is the 50th anniversary of this novel. I remember that I was working as an engineer back when I first read it. This was appropriate since most of the main characters are engineers. I remember being struck at how close Vonnegut's predictions about society actually were. Now that I've reexamined them 20 years later, I am even more impressed.

The basic premise of the story is that American industry is run by a tiny group of wealthy and powerful managers and engineers, while the vast majority of the population are stripped of their well-paying industrial jobs and forced to live as poor, powerless menials.

This elite of managers and engineers live in closed, gated Orwellian communities, where they watch each other closely for the slightest hint of nonconformity or disloyalty to the system.

Vonnegut shows how most managers and engineers have always had a contempt for the average American worker and have been looking for a way to replace them even before WW2. He thought that this would primarily be by automation (as opposed to simply shipping the jobs out of the country.)

Vonnegut also assumed that agriculture would be totally mechanised by large corporations and the small farmer made extinct.

There is also the eerie prediction that the President would be a man of low intelligence who would get elected on the basis of a "three hour television show." It would make no difference because there would be no connection between who was elected and who actually ran the country. Remenber, this was in 1952....

Oh yes, he also predicted that no one would be able to get any job worth having without a graduate degree.

I know that some people will say that this novel is dated based simply on the repeated mention of vacuum tubes (transistors were not in commercial use in 1952.) However, if you substiute "integrated circuit" or "computer chip" for every place he uses vacuum tube the obsolescence vanishes. Simularly, a modern reader may laugh at the idea of a computer large enough to fill Carlesbad caverns. Believe me, even today the Cray supercomputers and their support equipment take up quite abit of space.

My only real criticism with Vonnegut's projections is that he thought that engineers would have alot more power and influence than they actually have. From my own experience MBA's, CPA's, and lawyers have much more power.
40 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Vonnegut's first a good indication for later 2 août 1997
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
A lot of people, even Vonnegut fans, probably haven't heard of this book, for whatever reasons. Vonnegut really doesn't discuss it that much, mostly because he dislikes the label of science-fiction, which this book, along with The Sirens of Titan and even Slaughterhouse-Five, clearly is.

Still, this book is a must for Vonnegut fans or even those interested in old science-fiction in the style of Orwell or Huxley. Those looking for Vonnegut's classic deadpan black humorist style won't find it here. The beginnings of it are here, however and Vonnegut's tale of Paul Proteus' rebellion against the oppressive government is still as entertaining and fascinating as it was years ago. Read with the aforementioned 1984 and Brave New World, this book provides a slight contrast by using a different tone and more humor, but the message is still the same, that technology will ruin us all and bring about our ultimate downfall.

Fortunately this book has been reissued so that fans can see how Vonnegut started out, and fortunately, unlike most writers' first novels, Vonnegut's initial effort is just as readable as his later works
26 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant 1 avril 1999
Par kenneth.halaby@us.ms.philips.com - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
I am only 25 and already burnt out and disgusted with the corporate world. This book really hit home with me. Vonnegut mocks and satarizes corporate life, which, after reading this book, obviously hasn't become any less discouraging or frusterating as it was 47 years ago. Player Piano is a must read for anyone who is appauled by the reality that, with few exceptions, one must completely sell out and conform in order to advance in a large corporation. Anyone who is currently mired in corporate America will recognize at least one or two of the characters and/or situations in this book as ones they themselves have had to (or continue to) deal with regularly, and therefore will feel a strong bond with Paul Proteus by book's end.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One to add to my collection 11 août 2003
Par Tom Roberts - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Some books I can plow through in an afternoon, regardless of the number of pages. However, every time I read something by Vonnegut, it becomes so deeply philosophical and thought-provoking that I can only take it in small bites.
It's about the future of America. It was written in 1952, as his first novel. In the book, a computer takes over the U.S. and most of mans' work has been taken by machines. Citizens are split into two groups: the ones who have high IQs and the ones who don't. In an almost communist society (where the government takes certain steps to ensure a person's well-being through provisions), a few people decide to call for a revolution against the machines, with surprising twists and an ironic ending.
It made me consider how much of my life seems automated--wake up, go to work, go home, repeat--and how much more I need to be less mechanized and more human.
This is a book that I think I'll buy so I can re-read it.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Convential debut - not Vonnegut's best, but still worth reading 17 mars 2008
Par J. Norburn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Vonnegut's debut novel, published in 1952, is a little constrained. There are hints of Vonnegut's sardonic wit, wild imagination, and unconventional writing style, but only hints. Unlike virtually all of Vonnegut's other novels, Player Piano tells its story in a linier fashion. It starts at the beginning and ends at the end. There's nothing really wrong with that, but for fans of the author, accustomed to Vonnegut's eccentric voice, it feels a little too conventional.

Vonnegut is a humanitarian and the message of Player Piano is that people need to have a sense of purpose, and that if you take that away from them - their lives will be empty. Throughout the novel, a leader from another country tours the cities of the United States and having no similar word in his own language, confuses `civilians' for `slaves'. The message of course, is that the civilians, in this machine dominated world, are in-fact slaves.

Similarities between this novel and Brave New World are inevitable, as both novels explore the relationship between technology and happiness, and the role class structure plays in our society. In both Player Piano and Brave New World, the protagonist is unfulfilled by the trappings of the privileged class and longs for something `real'. Player Piano is arguably more hopeful than Brave New World (and certainly 1984) suggesting that people will band together to fight for their freedom, however futile, even if it means that they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.

Player Piano is admittedly dated. It is evident from this novel, and others of the era, that people were wary of the advent of computers and the proliferation of machines and technology. As for predicting the future, neither Brave New World nor Player Piano (nor 1984 for that matter) proved to be a reliable crystal ball. These novels are far more reflective of the times they were written and the author's commentary on those times, than of any actual or likely future.

Player Piano is far from Vonnegut's best. Cat's Cradle and Slaughter House Five are two of the best novels ever written and there are close to a half dozen other Vonnegut novels (he wrote 14) I would recommend before Player Piano, but it's still worth reading.

3  stars (almost four).
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