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Librarian note Alternate cover edition for this ISBN can be found here Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense American Howard W Campbell Jr a spy during World War II is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all

10 thoughts on “Mother Night

  1. says:

    The thing I love best about Kurt Vonnegut is that he was both the ultimate cynic and the ultimate humanist What better character for him to create to embody those views than a Nazi with good intentions?Howard W Campbell Jr was an American citizen who grew up in Germany and became a prominent Nazi thanks to his virulent anti Semitic propaganda However Howard had actually been recruited before the war began to be an American spy who provided vital intelligence to the Allies via codes hidden in his freuent radio broadcasts Years after the war has ended Howard recounts the story as he is being held in Israel awaiting trial for war crimes As he explains what happened before during and after the war Howard repeatedly touches on the unasked uestion that haunts his life Does pretending to be evil in the service of a good cause still make you evil?I had always felt alone in thinking that his was actually Vonnegut’s best book so I was happy to be validated by the comments of several other Goodreaders sharing the same thought Vonnegut’s gift was looking at the world with clear gaze and acknowledging that people were pretty much shit but still having enough compassion and empathy to look for moments of dignity He did it with that that uniue bittersweet sense of humor that allowed him to write about the horrors of something like the Holocaust and give it a tone of a very wise man shaking his head with a bitter chuckle at a dark sick joke

  2. says:

    English Mother Night ItalianoProbably Vonnegut will never be one of my favourite writers However I must say that Mother Night is a good novel Howard W Campbell Junior is an American playwright emigrated to Germany of the Third Reich become the symbol as well as the radio personality of Nazi propaganda Campbell Junior brings us his memories from an Israeli jail waiting to be tried for crimes against humanityThe tragicomic story that comes out gives us totally grotesue characters motivated by the most diverse ideals The personal reflection about the war by the author is interesting and the protagonist's mental paths that define the epilogue of the novel are interesting tooVote 7Probabilmente Vonnegut non è e non sarà mai uno dei miei autori preferiti Tuttavia devo ammettere che Madre Notte è un bel romanzo Howard W Campbell Junior commediografo americano emigrato nella Germania del terzo Reich simbolo nonché voce radiofonica della propaganda nazista ci narra le sue memorie da un carcere israeliano in attesa di essere processato per crimini contro l'umanità Il racconto tragicomico che ne viene fuori ci consegna personaggi decisamente grotteschi mossi dagli ideali più disparati La riflessione personale sulla guerra da parte dell'autore è interessante e interessanti sono i percorsi mentali del protagonista che definiscono l'epilogo del romanzoVoto 7

  3. says:

    Vastly underrated piece of black comedy about a World War 2 double agent whose cover is a Nazi propagandist in the style of Lord Haw Haw Vonnegut says in the preface that this is the only one of his books where he knows what the moral is You are what you pretend to be so be careful about who you pretend to be For my money Vonnegut's second best book running Cat's Cradle very closeIt's not just me the great Doris Lessing also wrote once that she couldn't uite understand why this book wasn't famous Her speculation was that the literary world simply refuses to take anything seriously that is first published in paperback Now that she's finally received the Nobel Prize maybe people will listen carefully

  4. says:

    Spotting Fake NewsFake news did not arise with Donald Trump’s tweets Propagandists of the Left and the Right have used it since before there was a Left and Right America has always had a fascist edge 19th century Nativists Know Nothings Klansmen Red Shirts White Leaguers and Constitutional Unionists invented fake news long before the John Birch Society Glenn Beck Lou Dobbs or the alt Right of Steve Bannon claimed that mass media routinely hide the truth about immigrants Jews and Blacks Fake news has been an American tradition since the first Federalists attacked Thomas Jefferson as a dupe of French radical revolutionaries Vonnegut's Mother Night is about fake news from the inside and what it does to the insides of the man on the inside Howard J Campbell a writer born in America wrangles himself a job as chief copy writer for Joseph Goebbels's Nazi Propaganda machine His American grown copy about the inhumanity of Jews impresses his boss because it goes beyond even what Nazi ideology had to say about Jewish perfidy He is promoted to the position of lead radio broadcaster of the Reich and therefore tagged as a war criminal after the war wanted by the IsraelisBut Campbell is a double agent recruited by the Americans to relay secret messages hidden in his propaganda broadcasts So he is protected after the war but not acknowledged for diplomatic reasons Returned to the United States Campbell lives for fifteen years an open but shabby life in New York City on a private soldier's salary Outed by a Soviet agent he is targeted not just by the Israelis but also by old soldiers who can't understand what they fought and suffered for but believe that Campbell is the cause of their distressCampbell realises that his participation in the creation of fake news reuires a certain form of schizophrenia Therefore he recognises somewhat too late one must be very careful about what one pretends to be He euates his condition to the defective mechanism of the cuckoo clock from hell The clock occasionally tells the truth but only unpredictably as its gears with missing cogs speed up or stop the works This mechanical analogy Campbell says refers to a mental illness one which is passed from generation to generation He's right of course The fascist tendency is a familial and widespread cultural tradition which has power because it has persisted at least as long as the American republic There aren't just precedents there are statutory reuirements to support the idea of the conspiracy of the world against the American Way The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 the Jim Crow laws of the American South the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1918 It seems like the prototype of every American right wing populist lunatic from Huey Long to Father Coughlin finds his place somewhere in Mother Night Groups like The Iron Guard of the White Sons of the Constitution and Moral Rearmament would be ludicrous if they didn't exist But they do exist at precisely the nexus of religion and right wing ideology with a little help from the Russians that Vonnegut foresaw over a half century ago Today these groups as well as the Russians seem to be in the ascendancy in the United States from the North Carolina Tea Party to the Neo Nazi Montanans and not forgetting the Republican Party Campbell finds a kind of salvation in his own disillusionment One can only hope for similar personal revelations to the mass of Americans who have fallen for the latest version of fake news But this seems unlikely to Campbell who notes thatThe dismaying thing about the totalitarian mind is that any given gear though mutilated will have at its circumference unbroken seuences of teeth that are immaculately maintained that are exuisitely machinedCheck out Trump next time he smiles

  5. says:

    When most people think of Kurt Vonnegut the novels Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle immediately come to mind It's a shame that people aren't familiar with Mother Night a novel in which Vonnegut explores the nature of moral ambiguity and what high minded ideals we sacrifice on the altar of war It's a skillful blend of Vonnegut's trademark dark humor and philosophical musings about human morality as observed through the lens of war To put it simply this is some good stuffSitting in an Israeli jail and writing his memoirs Howard Campbell awaits trial for war crimes as a Nazi in World War II As Howard himself says I am an American by birth a Nazi by reputation and a nationless person by inclination 1 And this is the root of Howard's problem he has no true identity As he ruminates on his past we see how the apolitical Howard was drawn into events that eclipsed the simple life he longed to live as an artist writing plays for his muse and wife the lovely Helga Howard's situation is a uniue one An American who moved to Germany as a child and seamlessly assimilated into German culture prior to any rumblings of war Howard makes the perfect candidate for an American spy However to remain above suspicion Howard must align himself with the Nazi cause by pretending to be a Nazi propagandist eventually becoming the voice of the Reich through his radio broadcasts Through a series of coughs sneezes and sniffs Howard sends coded information out to the Americans at the same time he spews vile invective against the Jewish peopleSo what's the problem? He was a good guy right? That's how it would normally be perceived but as Vonnegut cautions We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend to be v Maintaining this dual identity weighs heavily upon Howard in the years after the war which robbed him of everything his family his friends his art and his Helga Howard excelled as a propagandist so good in fact his father in law tells him that Howard not Hitler and not Goebbels convinced him to become a Nazi Howard's American handler even claims Campbell was one of the most vicious sons of bitches who ever lived 188 Knowing that it was his words and his voice that convinced so many to hate in the name of God is a guilt that Howard can never alleviate especially given that his communications with the Americans never took the form of words He never knew what information he was passing on to the Americans nor what if any good came from it In the end he can never be certain if the good he did outweighed or at least balanced out the evil his words inspired in the hearts of men The uestion is do pure motivations absolve heinous outcomes? As Howard's past begins to catch up with him he must confront these uestions and try to determine who Howard Campbell has become in the shadow of war I think what is most intriguing about the novel is that Howard Campbell is the ultimate unreliable narrator A man who is skilled with words and at shaping the perceptions of others it's important to remember that in this metafiction it is Howard Campbell writing his own life's story Even in the end we cannot be certain whether or not we come to know the real Howard Campbell as the resulting narrative may be Campbell's masterwork of propaganda rewriting his own history with an eye to posterity Howard Campbell may be a fiction created by the man himself a constantly shifting personality recreating himself to fit the times in which he lives After all we become what we pretend to beCross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  6. says:

    Mother Night Kurt VonnegutMother Night is a novel by American author Kurt Vonnegut first published in February 1962 The title of the book is taken from Goethe's Faust It is the fictional memoirs of Howard W Campbell Jr an American who moved to Germany in 1923 at age 11 and later became a well known playwright and Nazi propagandist The action of the novel is narrated through the use of metafiction by Campbell himself The premise is that he is writing his memoirs while awaiting trial for war crimes in an Israeli prison Howard W Campbell also appears briefly in Vonnegut's later novel Slaughterhouse Fiveتاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و هشتم ماه دسامبر سال 2001میلادیعنوان شب مادر؛ نویسنده کورت ونه گات جونیور؛ مترجم علی اصغر بهرامی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، روشنگران و مطالعات زنان، 1380، در 240ص، شابک 9789645512987؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی سده 20مداستان هاوارد کمپبل است که در پایان جنگ جهانی نخست به آلمان رفت و سپس به عنوان مبلغ نازی‌ها فعالیت کرد؛ این رمان از زبان خود کمپبل روایت شده‌ است؛ کمپبل پس از مهاجرت والدینش، بر خلاف میل آنها، در آلمان می‌ماند، و به نوشتن نمایشنامه ادامه می‌دهد؛ به دلیل اینکه از پدر و مادری آریایی به دنیا آمده‌ است، او را متعلق به حزب نازی می‌دانند؛ در عین حال به او پیشنهاد جاسوسی برای ارتش ایالات متحده می‌شود، و بعدها وی اطلاعات را به صورت رمز، از رادیو برای آمریکایی‌ها، می‌فرستد؛ همسر او در میانه ی جنگ، به شرق آلمان می‌رود، و به هاوارد خبر می‌رسد، که او احتمالاً در آنجا کشته شده‌ است؛ بعدها هاوارد توسط نیروی نظامی ایالات متحده دستگیر می‌شود، و با وساطت وارتنن، افسری که به او پیشنهاد جاسوسی کرده بود، آزاد و به آمریکا فرستاده می‌شود؛ مضمون اصلی «شب مادر» هویت است؛ هر یک از آدم‌های رمان، دو یا بیش از دو شخصیت دارند اینان کدامیک از این دو شخصیت‌ هستند؟ یکی؟ هر دو؟ هیچ کدام؟ و با کدام ترازو؟ که پاسخ بدین پرسشها بازمی‌گردد به متن رمان و البته مقدمه ی ونه‌ گات؛ ا شربیانی

  7. says:

    In Stanley Kubrik's film Full Metal Jacket one of the most highlighted scenes is where the protagonist is asked to explain the peace symbol and Born to Kill slogan on his helmet His response“I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man” Cannot help but wonder if the writer for Full Metal Jacket had been thinking of Mother Night when he wrote that line One of the darker novels in Vonnegut’s collection but still with the humor and blithely irreverent tone that is his trademark Mother Night asks a lot of uestions and leaves many unanswered inviting deep introspection for the reader and for our society as a whole 2019 re read“We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” Vonnegut“Poets priests and politiciansHave words to thank for their positionsWords that scream for your submissionAnd no one's jamming their transmission'Cause when their elouence escapes youTheir logic ties you up and rapes youDe do do do de da da daIs all I want to say to you” – StingI had forgotten how dark this is Yes still some fun mixed in but we are seeing the 3am kitchen of Vonnegut’s soul But like all of his works it operates on many levels and is not what it appears to be on the surfaceHoward W Campbell Jr was a nazi He was an American raised in Germany when his engineer father moved the family there for work He stayed and became a propagandist and radio voice for the Third ReichOr did he?Vonnegut is in rare form in this 1961 publication his fifth and one that delves deeply into the Germany he experienced as a prisoner of war His later book Slaughterhouse Five 1969 goes depth about his own perspective but here we examine the troubling case of an American who has switched teamsBut – Turns out that the apolitical Campbell really just wanted to play with words and have fun and make love to his beautiful German wife Helga He was approached surreptitiously early on by an American officer who recruited him to be a spy to pretend to be a nazi agent and to send coded messages home during his pro nazi broadcastsBut the talented wordsmith did his job too good He became the poster boy for all things nazi and a beacon of inspiration for Hitler lovers and a source of derision to those of his native landVonnegut explores in his mischievous way patriotism ideology and the effect of words on those that choose to listen For this reason alone in this age of political correctness where saying the wrong thing implies that we ARE the wrong thing this sixty year old book is timeless and relevant The scenes with the aging group of diverse racists is dementedly hilarious and uintessential Vonnegut and made me wonder if Dave Chapelle was inspired by this work Mental health disorders are a ubiuitous element in Vonnegut’s books During this 2019 reading festival so far I’ve read Breakfast of Champions God Bless You Mr Rosewater Galapagos and now this and they’ve all had characters who suffer some mental impairment and commentary from Vonnegut Vonnegut’s mother suffered from levels of insanity and the deranged perspective is one that he returns freuentlyPerhaps not one of his better known works but a must read for his fans and one that an interested reader should to see the great range and ability of one of our most talented writers

  8. says:

    My favorite Kurt Vonnegut uote “We are what we pretend to be” comes from Mother Night A bit silly but I think this was the reason I was reluctant to read Mother Night I liked the uote so well that I was somehow afraid that the novel would disappoint From the outset I want to say Mother Night is fantastic In Mother Night it somehow seems like Howard W Campbell Jr is guilty of something but what exactly? As an American working undercover as a propagandist for the Germans during WWII was he too good a spy? Did he become what he pretended to be? “Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unuestioning faith I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile”“this is a hard world to be ludicrous in with so many human beings so reluctant to laugh so incapable of thought so eager to believe and snarl and hate” Another fantastic Vonnegut experience

  9. says:

    This is the best Vonnegut I’ve read so far American Nazi Howard W Campbell Jr is awaiting trial on war crimes A traitor to the American people Campbell is responsible for the deliberate spread of damaging propaganda throughout Germany and its occupied territories during World War II He is an evil dangerous man who is undoubtedly guilty of high treasonOr is he?As the account of Campbell’s life in Germany unfolds much is revealed about his motives the benign seuence of events leading to his becoming a member of the Nazi Party and the identity of the actual organization from which he draws his paycheck United States intelligence So as it turns out Howard W Campbell Jr is a spy He is an American hero wrongly accused and undoubtedly deserving of complete exonerationOr is he?The distinction here between villain and hero is a line that is wonderfully blurred by Vonnegut who delivers his story with perfunctory prose and offers up one surprising twist after another until the novel’s depressing conclusion Interestingly Vonnegut introduces this story with a uote that comes to define Campbell and the ultimate “moral” of Mother Night perfectly We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend to be As an aside I’ve heard a lot of reviewers refer to Campbell as a double agent Although I’m not exactly sure what ualifies for “double agency” I do think it involves being a secret member of the secret organization you are trying to secretly infiltrateso you can learn their secrets So having cleared that up I think it’s likely that Campbell is just a plain old mole

  10. says:

    What the this surely wasn’t penned by Kurt Vonnegut right? Where’s that bizarre sci fi slant? Where are those Tralfamadorians or that confusing time shifting narrative? We aren’t seriously “stuck in time” for the entire story here? What about all those absurd characters? No Kilgore Trout Dwayne Hoover or Billy Pilgrim? Ah but some of these guys are pretty odd and I couldn’t help but notice a few references to Schenectady New York That’s all rather curious but I’m still not entirely convincedI should point out that while it is rather surprising to get a straight forward narrative from Mr Vonnegut for the uninitiated this may actually be his most accessible novelOur narrator is Howard W Campbell Jr an American awaiting trial in Israel for war crimes committed as a Nazi propagandist Howard was born in American but moved to Berlin at a young age His early career is that of an author and playwright He eventually joins the Nazi party in name only He sees himself as an “American by birth a Nazi by reputation and a nationless person by inclination” His only real loyalty is to that of his wife and their “Nation of Two” As he rises through the party his recognition as an American Nazi leads him to become the voice of the Nazi propaganda broadcasts aimed at converting Americans to the causeHoward claims to have been recruited as an American spy but there’s no proof to verify his claim His handler apparently used a fake name and no one has ever seen the two together No government official will either confirm or deny the possibility Howard asks “Can I prove I was an American spy? My unbroken lily white neck is Exhibit A and it’s the only exhibit I have” Even if that’s true how can it possibly balance the scales with all the horrible atrocities his words helped to propagate? And here in lies the moral of the story “We are what we pretend to be so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” This is the struggle that weighs heavily on Howard Throughout the story he’s rescued from prosecution time and again by his handler “Blue Fairy Godmother” But in the end he chooses to stand trial—not as much for war crimes as for crimes against his own conscienceWhile this started off as a pretty solid three to four star read for me the last uarter of the book is true genius The commentaries and philosophies presented therein are uite remarkable—some of which border on poetry The analogy of the totalitarian mind as system of gears whose teeth have been filed off at random is particularly insightful I’m not sure if this is my favorite Vonnegut—I do miss some of his trademark wackiness—but its right near the top 5 Stars all the way