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lorenzoberardi

The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Galápagos - Kurt Vonnegut Galapagos is not your usual cup of tea of a book. Which is pretty much the same comment everyone could make for every novel by *Kurt Vonnegut (he omitted that "Jr" of him since he became rather famous).

And it's true how Vonnegut's lovers can find many of the main obsessions of good old Kurt here. From the likes of the sci-fi novelist *Kilgore Trout to the fascination for long days spent (and fortunes built) in hotel rooms passing through the sentence "and so on".
And yet, being Mr Vonnegut a bit older here than he was when he delivered most of his successful literary production, he had time for rationalize a lot of things in this novel, leaving behind his beloved Trafalmadorians and any interstellar interference on the business of our planet.

The *main narrator here is a ghost and, surprisingly enough, he was never kidnapped by aliens nor discovered to be one. He simply chose to dwell in the boat he helped to build in and he died for. An excellent boat which will last for a single trip sinking in the Pacific Ocean quite soon but, nonetheless will have its share of glory before the end.

What happens in "Galapagos" is that human beings accidentally start a little innocent nuclear war in 1986 leading to the progressive destruction of their race in a span of a million years time (quite an optimistic view, you have to reckon it!), except for an unexpected, isolated and unheard of colony of descendants left on the rocky shores and deep seas of an island in the Galapagos.
The novel tells how this odd bunch of characters made it to the islands and happens to be a joyful and macabre allegory of Darwinism. Those who happen to be particularly unfortunate specimen of the human race somewhere, could be the cream of evolutionism somewhere else.
Let's take furry women. Or illiterate cannibals.

Vonnegut here seem to unravel the mystery of his plot from its very beginning telling the reader who will die and when and putting stars like this * before the name of those who will succumb.
This stylistic device is such a clear violation of the most elementary rules on keeping the suspense alive that looks bloody ingenious. There is not a single character here the reader is asked to like or identify with because, ultimately, what Vonnegut aims to tell us is that the current human race is a failure.
Those big brains of ours, for example, are not very practical tools for surviving in an unfavorable environment and, moreover they drive us to make many mistakes and stupid actions.

What we will need in one million years is a good, thick natural fur for keeping our body temperature stable protecting our skins from the harsh sun-rays and, above all, a nice set of flippers paired with an efficient aerodynamic skull for fishing our way through survival.
This is Galapagos logic. Back to the basics, then.