Still just an absolutely fantastic novel. I think I even saw the movie before the first time I read this, and if I am on the project of rereading a lot of Vonnegut, and I think I am, this book shines through. Just a wonderful exercise in how important irony is for literature, and how often irony has nothing to do with humor.
Howard Campbell Jr was a vociferous, vicious, and vile Nazi propagandist. His nightly broadcasts, written and performed in English, were sent out across enemy lines and worked to demoralize and complicate the American fighting effort. But also, he was a deep cover American spy whose broadcasts, through their purposeful pauses, coughs, and other cues sent out vital coded messages. He had no idea what information he was sending out, and now twenty years after the war, he has no proof. We meet Howard as he’s sitting in an Israeli prison, awaiting trial as a war criminal, and he has some time to reflect, tell us his story, and decide how he feels about the nature of truth and consequences.
“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting…but no good reason to ever hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive….it’s that part of an imbecile that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.”
“All people are insane. They will do anything at any time, and God help anybody who looks for reasons.”