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Literary classic ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ turning 50, museum distributing copies of book

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Next week marks the 50th anniversary of a literary classic, “Slaughterhouse-Five.” It’s considered to be Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut’s best work.

Now, the organization keeping his legacy alive is making sure the next generation has access to the book. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is a science fiction-infused anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of Billy Pilgrim.

Leaders from the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library are handing out thousands of copies of the book to students. The book is a combination of real-life war events and fictional people places and things, including time travel. Much of the war story written into the book were experienced in real life by Vonnegut when he served overseas.

Experts say we can still see the influence it has on the world since it’s release in 1969. What made it so different was the truthful telling of the war experience, something often glorified at the time. When it came out during the Vietnam War it only magnified the influence.    

CEO and founder of the Vonnegut Museum, Julia Whitehead, says she wants as many Indiana students as possible to read the book. 

“They’re excited about the historical aspects of the book plus the more science fiction aspects,” said Whitehead. “More than that, it gives them hope Vonnegut was from here and went out into the world and did some very important things and it gives them hope for their own futures.” 

Jason Aukerman, coordinator for programming and development at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and associate faculty member at IUPUI, says it was the first time war was being told truthfully. 

“Throughout the entire novel, he is lampooning traditionally war stories that celebrate war. That convey this idea that war has order or purpose, that it turns boys into men,” said Aukerman. “He insists, as he’s telling this crazy story about alien abductions and Tralfamadorians and the 4th dimension and he says there more truth in this novel about war than anything you’ve encountered before.”

Whitehead says she plans to hand out more than 86,000 thousand copies of “Slaughterhouse-Five” to high school sophomores all across the state. The museum is in the process of moving locations. The anniversary for the release is Sunday, March 31.