Book Week: What is RUG poet Sofia Manouki reading?

It’s national Book Week in the Netherlands! Need a tip? Five prominent RUG employees tell us about their favourite book. Today: RUG poet Sofia Manouki.
By Mella Fuchs

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five is an anti-war book about Billy Pilgrim, a prisoner of war who’s stuck in an underground slaughterhouse in Dresden performing forced labour. Because he’s down there, he survives the firebombing of Dresden that kills many its inhabitants and destroys most of the historical city.

‘Kurt Vonnegut went through the bombing of Dresden himself when he was a prisoner of war’, says RUG poet Sofia Manouki. ‘I think that this is why he understands human nature so well. It’s not the kind of war memoir that leaves you shell-shocked and dazed.

In a weird way, it’s kind of a comforting book. The protagonist goes through some horrible things, but the writer uses a lot of humour to describe it all. He doesn’t waste time endlessly describing the horrors of war; he doesn’t have to. The title alone tells you how insane war is. Surviving that war because you were locked up in an underground slaughterhouse as a prisoner of war is an immensely powerful metaphor.’


The book also features aliens who look like upside down toilet plungers. They live in all four dimensions at once, experiencing the present, past, and future simultaneously. Cause and effect don’t exist because everything happens concurrently. They know how the world is going to end. They can’t influence it: it will happen, it is happening, and it’s already happened. ‘They just focus on the good things in life’, Sofia explains. ‘If I had to be any of the characters in the book, I’d be one of those aliens.’

Just survive

‘The lesson I took from the book is that it’s okay to be half-crazed, as long as you keep going. Just survive. There will always be traumatic events, things you don’t understand. You can’t help making mistakes, but you just have to keep going. You might be traumatised, you might be half crazy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write amazing books.’


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