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Mother Night (English Edition) par [Vonnegut, Kurt]
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Mother Night (English Edition) Format Kindle

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Extrait

Chapter One


Tiglath-Pileser
The Third . . .

My name is Howard W. Campbell, Jr.

I am an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination.

The year in which I write this book is 1961.

I address this book of mine to Mr. Tuvia Friedmann, Director of the Haifa Institute for the Documentation of War Criminals, and to whomever else this may concern.

Why should this book interest Mr. Friedmann?

Because it is written by a man suspected of being a war criminal. Mr. Friedmann is a specialist in such persons. He had expressed an eagerness to have any writings I might care to add to his archives of Nazi villainy. He is so eager as to give me a typewriter, free stenographic service, and the use of research assistants, who will run down any facts I may need in order to make my account complete and accurate.

I am behind bars.

I am behind bars in a nice new jail in old Jerusalem.

I am awaiting a fair trail for my war crimes by the Republic of Israel.

It is a curious typewriter Mr. Friedmann has given to me--and an appropriate typewriter, too. It is a typewriter, too. It is a typewriter that was obviously made in Germany during the Second World War. How can I tell? Quite simply, for it puts at finger tips a symbol that was never used on a typewriter before the Third German Reich, a symbol that will never be used on a typewriter again.

The symbol is the twin lightning strokes used for the dreaded S.S., the Schutzstaffel, the most fanatical wing of Nazism.

I used such a typewriter in Germany all through the war. Whenever I had occasion to write of the Schutzstaffel, which I did often and with enthusiasm, I never abbreviated it as "S.S.," but always struck the typewriter key for the far more frightening and magical twin lightning strokes.

Ancient history.

I am surrounded by ancient history. Though the jail in which I rot is new, some of the stones in it, I'm told, were cut in the time of King Solomon.

And sometimes, when I look out through my cell window at the gay and brassy youth of the infant Republic of Israel, I feel that I and my war crimes are as ancient as Solomon's old gray stones.

How long ago that war, that Second World War, was! How long ago the crimes in it!

How nearly forgotten it is, even by the Jews--the young Jews, that is.

One of the Jews who guards me here knows nothing about that war. He is not interested. His name is Arnold Marx. He has very red hair. He is only eighteen, which means Arnold was three when Hitler died, and nonexistent when my career as a war criminal began.

He guards me from six in the morning until noon.

Arnold was born in Israel. He has never been outside of Israel.

His mother and father left Germany in the early thirties. His grandfather, he told me, won an Iron Cross in the First World War.

Arnold is studying to be a lawyer. The avocation of Arnold and of his father, a gunsmith, is archaeology. Father and son spend most all their spare time excavating the ruins of Hazor. They do so under the direction of Yigael Yadin, who was Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army during the war with the Arab States.

So be it.

Hazor, Arnold tells me, was a Canaanite city in northern Palestine that existed at least nineteen hundred years before Christ. About fourteen hundred years before Christ, Arnold tells me, an Israelite army captured Hazor, killed all forty thousand inhabitants, and burned it down.

"Solomon rebuilt the city," said Arnold, "but in 732 B.C. Tiglath-pileser the Third burned it down again."

"Who?" I said.

"Tiglath-pileser the Third," said Arnold. "The Assyrian," he said, giving my memory a nudge.

"Oh," I said. "That Tiglath-pileser."

"You act as though you never heard of him," said Arnold.

"I never have," I said. I shrugged humbly. "I guess that's pretty terrible."

"Well--" said Arnold, giving me a schoolmaster's frown, "it seems to me he really is somebody everybody ought to know about He was probably the most remarkable man the Assyrians ever produced."

"Oh," I said.

"I'll bring you a book about him, if you like," said Arnold.

"That's nice of you," I said. "Maybe I'll get around to thinking about remarkable Assyrians later on. Right now my mind is pretty well occupied with remarkable Germans."

"Like who?" he said.

"Oh, I've been thinking a lot lately about my old boss, Paul Joseph Goebbels," I said.

Arnold looked at me blankly. "Who?" he said.

And I felt the dust of the Holy Land creeping in to bury me, sensed how thick a dust-and-rubble blanket I would one day wear. I felt thirty or forty feet of ruined cities above me; beneath me some primitive kitchen middens, a temple or two--and then--

Tiglath-pileser the Third.

Chapter Two


Special Detail . . .

The guard who relieves Arnold Marx at noon each day is a man nearly my own age, which is forty-eight. He remembers the war, all right, though he doesn't like to.

His name is Andor Gutman. Andor is a sleepy, not very bright Estonian Jew. He spent two years in the extermination camp at Auschwitz. According to his own reluctant account, he came this close to going up a smokestack of a crematorium there:

"I had just been assigned to the Sonderkommando," he said to me, "when the order came from Himmler to close the ovens down."

Sonderkommando means special detail. At Auschwitz it meant a very special detail indeed--one composed of prisoners whose duties were to shepherd condemned persons into gas chambers, and then to lug their bodies out. When the job was done, the members of the Sonderkommando were themselves killed. The first duty of their successors was to dispose of their remains.

Gutman told me that many men actually volunteered for the Sonderkommando.

"Why?" I asked him.

"If you would write a book about that," he said, "and give the answer to that question, that ‘Why?'--you would have a very great book."

"Do you know the answer?" I said.

"No," he said, "That is why I would pay a great deal of money for a book with the answer in it."

"Any guesses?" I said.

"No," he said, looking me straight in the eye, "even though I was one of the ones who volunteered."

He went away for a little while, after having confessed that. And he thought about Auschwitz, the thing he liked least to think about. And he came back, and he said to me:

"There were loudspeakers all over the camp," he said, "and they were never silent for long. There was much music played through them. Those who were musical told me it was often good music--sometimes the best."

"That's interesting," I said.

"There was no music by Jews," he said. "That was forbidden."

"Naturally," I said.

"And the music was always stopping in the middle," he said, "and then there was an announcement. All day long, music and announcements."

"Very modern," I said.

He closed his eyes, remembered gropingly. "There was one announcement that was always crooned, like a nursery rhyme. Many times a day it came. It was the call for the Sonderkommando."

"Oh?" I said.

"Leichentärger zu Wache," he crooned, his eyes still closed.

Translation: "Corpse-carriers to the guardhouse." In an institution in which the purpose was to kill human beings by the millions, it was an understandably common cry.

"After two years of hearing that call over the loudspeakers, between the music," Gutman said to me, "the position of corpse-carrier suddenly sounded like a very good job."

"I can understand that," I said.

"You can?" he said. He shook his head. "I can't," he said. "I will always be ashamed. Volunteering for the Sonderkommando--it was a very shameful thing to do."

"I don't think so," I said.

"I do," he said. "Shameful," he said. "I never want to talk about it again."

Chapter Three



Briquets . . .

The guard who relieves Andor Gutman at six each night is Arpad Kovacs. Arpad is a Roman candle of a man, loud and gay.

When Arpad came on duty at six last night, he demanded to see what I'd written so far. I gave him the very few pages, and Arpad walked up and down the corridor, waving and praising the pages extravagantly.

He didn't read them. He praised them for what he imagined to be in them.

"Give it to the complacent bastards!" he said last night. "Tell those smug briquets!"

By briquets he meant people who did nothing to save their own lives or anybody else's life when the Nazis took over, who were willing to go meekly all the way to the gas chambers, if that was where the Nazis wanted them to go. A briquet, of course, is a molded block of coal dust, the soul of convenience where transportation, storage and combustion are concerned.

Arpad, faced with the problem of being a Jew in Nazi Hungary, did not become a briquet. On the contrary, Arpad got himself false papers and joined the Hungarian S.S.

That fact is the basis for his sympathy with me. "Tell them the things a man does to stay alive! What's so noble about being a briquet?" he said last night.

"Did you ever hear any of my broadcasts?" I asked him. The medium of my war crimes was radio broadcasting. I was a Nazi radio propagandist, a shrewd and loathsome anti-Semite.

"No," he said.

So I showed him a transcript of a broadcast, a transcript furnished to me by the Haifa Institute. "Read it," I said.

"I don't have to," He said. "Everybody was saying the same things over and over and over in those days."

"Read it anyway--as a favor," I said.

So he read it, his face becoming sourer and sourer. He handed it back to me. "You disappoint me," he said.

"Oh?" I said.

"It's so weak!" he said. "It has no body, no paprika, no zest! I though you were a master of racial invective!"

"I'm not?" I said.

"If any member of my S.S. platoon had spoken in such a friendly way about the Jews," said Arpad, "I would have had him shot for treason! Goebbels should have fired you and hired me as the radio scourge of the Jews. I would have raised blisters around the world!"

"You were already doing your part with your S.S. platoon," I said.

Arpad beamed, remembering his S.S. days. "What an Aryan I made!" he said.

"Nobody ever suspected you?" I said.

"How would they dare?" he said. "I was such a pure and terrifying Aryan that they even put me in a special detachment. Its mission was to find out how the Jews always knew what the S.S. was going to do next. There was a leak somewhere, and we were out to stop it." He looked bitter and affronted, remembering it, even though he had been that leak.

"Was the detachment successful in its mission?" I said.

"I'm happy to say," said Arpad, "that fourteen S.S. men were shot on our recommendations. Adolf Eichmann himself congratulated us."

"You met him, did you?" I said.

"Yes--" said Arpad, "and I'm sorry I didn't know at the time how important he was."

"Why?" I said.

"I would have killed him," said Arpad.

Revue de presse

“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

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 949 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 290 pages
  • Editeur : RosettaBooks (21 août 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005IHWB5C
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5 3 commentaires client
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Délicieux <3 <3 A recommander aux amateurs des Monthy Python et d'humour absurde. Et cet humour n'empêche pas Vonnegut d'être innovant tant dans sa narration que son écriture, ce pas rapide qu'il emprunte pour brosser une histoire improbable et drôlatique.
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Great work but slightly disappointing and repetitive by the end. Very enjoyable reading. Kurt Vonnegut is at his best in making unbelievable characters believable and in few lines only. A great piece of litterature with interesting triangular relations between two characters and the novelist who set them into motion.
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Complex & interesting read. It is a pretty scathing criticism of 1960s USA & it all seems to be equally (if not more) true today.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x91c69258) étoiles sur 5 293 commentaires
245 internautes sur 252 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c9ddd4) étoiles sur 5 A novel about serving evil too openly and good too secretly 25 avril 2003
Par Daniel Jolley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
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. Internally, Campbell hardly knows what he is anymore; he claims no country, no political values, wanting only to live in a "nation of two" with his beloved wife Helga once again. A series of significant events forces Campbell out of the cocoon of his past fifteen years, and his thoughts and actions along the way provide big juicy morsels of food for thought: taking personal responsibility for one's actions, the harsh truths of war and peace, the sometimes vast differences between truth and fact, individual redemption before self and society, finding direction and a purpose in a world gone mad, etc. Vonnegut's scythe-like dark humor cuts deeper than mere satire, aiming directly at some of the darker sections of the human heart, areas which most individuals too often ignore or refuse to acknowledge. The gallows humor can be quite funny on the surface, but it is in actuality a scalpel which Vonnegut wields to open up the heart and soul of the reader for self-examination. Mother's Night, the title of which is taken from Goethe's Faust, is a relatively short but very powerful novel.
62 internautes sur 66 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91c9de28) étoiles sur 5 A hilariously addictive and heart-breakingly poignant book 25 janvier 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
"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. Vonnegut also discusses the minds of the Nazis, how ordinary and often intelligent men and women could be prompted to become the vicious killing machines that they were during World War II
Mother Night is a sharp, funny book thats humor is both satiric and farcical. It is a very entertaining read with twists and turns at every corner, including a surprise ending that is sure to catch the reader off-guard. Although Kurt Vonnegut is more well-known for his novels such as Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, Mother Night is truly an overlooked classic that offers an entertaining read for not just fans of war books, but any reader looking for a hilariously addictive and heart-breakingly poignant book.
54 internautes sur 60 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91ca3018) étoiles sur 5 a probing tale 23 janvier 2001
Par NotATameLion - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
"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.
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91ca3648) étoiles sur 5 Perhaps Vonnegut's best attempt at dark humor 24 juin 2001
Par arye orona - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Mother Night is perhaps the darkest of Kurt Vonnegut's novels in terms of it's storyline and sense of humor. Most of the humor within the book comes from Vonnegut's use of situational irony. The main character, Howard Campbell Jr., spent WWII as a double agent. He was a fairly famous German radio personality (dispensing all sort of pro-Nazi propoganda), and did his best to raise German morale during the war. At the same time, he was sending out coded messages for the allied troops over the radio. When the end of the war came, the US wouldn't aknowledge his part as an agent. Thus, Campbell became a war criminal. The novel, in large part, deals with Campbell's treatment after the war. This is where the irony comes into play. I won't go into what happens to Campbell (so as not to give away crucial elements of the plot. However, when reading, it is as Vonnegut states earlier in the book: be careful what you pretend to be [sic], for what you pretend to be is what you are. This story sticks out amonst Vonnegut's works as one of the most original, and suprising of his books. It is also a good introduction to the philosophies that are embodied in most of Vonnegut's other books. I believe that this particular novel is a good starting point for anyone interested in Vonnegut. (aside: do you ever feel like one of those little kids from Reading Rainbow when you're doing a book review?)
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91ca366c) étoiles sur 5 Be aware and be careful 5 août 2011
Par Phil Terrana - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I recently read "Mother Night" for the second or third time. In the first readings I saw the novel for what it pretended to be--a story about a World War II spy, perhaps too dedicated and what happened to him after the war.

In the last reading I recognized a story more representative of the today's world where the consequences of being dedicated--to both good and bad policy can have disastrous effects. Just a casual look at the economic problems of the last few years and the behavior of people on both sides of every issue leads one to question blind dedication that is often accompanied by a failure to see the big picture.

Leaders today seem to be all too anxious to align themselves with certain causes, policies, and constituents. In some cases, it is doubtful they even believe strongly in them but there is personal gain to be gotten and so they believe. Vonnegut's warning: Be careful what you pretend to be.

"Mother Night" can be read as an interesting piece of historical fiction or it can be seen as social commentary about taking positions that might grant immediate rewards or even make sense in the short run but that will later lead to problems. We are all being asked to lend our support to causes, to take a bigger role in politics, to become more active in the world around us. Vonnegut didn't tell us not to do these things but he did warn us to be careful.

I recommend "Mother Night" because of the novel approach it takes to bringing these situations to life. It is an interesting story and a compelling problem that we should all be aware of, whether we are the ones doing the pretending or just following a pretender.
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