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Publisher's Summary

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, Kurt Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of grey with a verdict that will haunt us all. Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense.

As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Kurt Vonnegut's book, you'll also receive an exclusive Jim Atlas interview. This interview – where James Atlas interviews Gay Talese about the life and work of Kurt Vonnegut – begins as soon as the audiobook ends.

©1966 Kurt Vonnegut (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer...a zany but moral mad scientist." ( Time)

What listeners say about Mother Night

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  • Robert
  • 04-09-2012

“We are what we pretend to be”

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” This is one of the most often quoted of Kurt Vonnegut’s writings and one of the central themes of this selection. Because it is revealed early in the book that the main character and storyteller pretends to be the broadcaster of Nazi propaganda during WWII, it’s not much of a spoiler. It is also revealed early on that he is an agent who sends coded messages to the Americans in his broadcasts. Therein is the tension in the book between the “good” and “evil” roles the protagonist must play. And, there are layers here to the good and evil dichotomy: do the ends justify the means and how does society and history deal with those individuals who do evil things to achieve righteous goals.

This all sounds like a book that might be rather reflective and philosophical and, for some, this may turn out to but need not be the case. The book starts off simply enough and contains incidentals that are seemingly tangential but all of which interweave and come together in the end with a rather unexpected conclusion. The story is haunting from beginning to end. If you are anything like me, this is a tale that will stay with you for days after finishing it. This is simple and beautiful prose about some of the complexity of our human nature.

The book is more meta-fiction than historical fiction. While the book has been characterized as black comedy, for me the book was deadly serious. I would not even call it gallows humor. When it comes to this time and place in history, I find nothing humorous nor do I think that the author intended that. The book does not seem to purport to dramatize, with any accuracy, core events that actually happened in way of the protagonist. The historical figures, places and things relative to WWII are there but, with regard to this Nazi propagandist, spy for the U.S. around whom the whole story revolves, no such person existed.

One of the best narrators of audiobooks, Victor Bevine, reads the book literally with short bursts of “..,” he said, “..,” she said, “..,” he said” that were totally distracting. If this were not such an incredible book, I would have been totally put off by this kind of nonsense production and I cannot help but forgive this shortcoming. In fact, Mr. Bevine is a great performer of different character voices and this kind of “he said” reading was not necessary. His performance of various characters in the Hyperion Cantos is almost without peer. This must have been a decision on the part of the producer or publisher Audible Modern Vanguard but it was a decision that did not do this wonderful book justice. Strange that the word modern is in the publisher’s name. This is not the way modern audiobooks should be produced. That aside, the book is still highly recommended.

Story and Writing: 5 Stars
Narrator: 5 Stars
Decision to use He said-, She said-type of production: 0 Stars

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • William
  • 28-03-2009

One of Vonnegut's Best

I read "Mother Night" in college in the 60's. It was great then - it is still great. I believe it is one of Vonnegut's best novels, written at a time when he wrote novels instead of extended short stories that depended upon refrains and cartoons. (Sorry Kurt, but I know you'll understand what I mean, wherever you are.) The audio narration and pacing is excellent, the subject matter is complex and yet is told with simplicity and clarity. This is good stuff.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Carl K
  • 15-03-2015

Slightly drier Vonnegut, but still a classic.

Vonnegut is his usual sharp self, always plumbing the depth of the duality of human nature and our concepts of good and evil. The characters are engaging and fleshed out as well as any of his other novels. Great story, easy to follow, with the focus being on the characters' individual anguish resulting from past actions and the increasingly hazy recollections of WWII. Not as humorous as his other novels like Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse Five (yes, even that was funnier). Still, one of the top Vonnegut books, pleasing to his his fans and any casual reader.

The narrator was good, pleasing to the ear, and nondescript. Perhaps that is good about a narrator--the he or she does not stick out beyond the material. He did a good job of jumping between voices and did not over-act any part of it.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Julia Smith
  • 20-07-2009

Amazing

"We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be." This book is beyond amazing. I highly recommend it not just for the book but the narrator did a fantastic job as well. You just can't decide if Howard is a hero or a villain.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ian C Robertson
  • 02-04-2014

Thought Provoking

There are not many books that I have read or heard that stimulate so much deep thought and moral questioning as this title. This was apparent to me from the copious amount of notes that I took whilst listening, even exceeding the notes I took for reviewing "The Road". That is because the central character, Howard W. Campbell, is so difficult to place within one's moral compass. At times he's so redeemable and at others he is plain offensive. Most of the time he's somewhere in the middle. It's hard to like him, but I couldn't bring myself to hate him either. That normally makes for a shallow book (reflecting a shallow character), but not this time.
This was also a title that drove me to the 'Net; to research the real life counter-part of Campbell, the Lords Haw-Haw and Hee-Haw of WWII. The latter was an American christened Fred W. Kaltenbach (according to Wiki). I also looked into the Nazi propaganda machine of Herr Goebbles. I lthink this quote from Goebbles captured Campbell's elusive mediocrity and provide his moral refuge,
"The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it."
The other characters are also very interesting. Wirtanen, who enlists Campbell, is a particularly challenging character. Some of his justifications of the unjustifiable in the name of patriotism reminded me of Milo Mindbender's explanations to Yossarin (about how the Syndicate in "Catch-22" can buy for 7c and sell at 5c for a profit).
The performance of Victor Bevine was very good, too. I thought he captured the mood of the text. He drove me to get a copy of the 1996 movie (starring Nick Nolte and Sheryl Lee, the latter of "Twin Peaks" fame), which I enjoyed the more for having heard the text presented so well.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this listen. It stimulated, questioned and entertained. You can't ask for more provoking that that.

10 people found this helpful

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  • thomas
  • 16-09-2013

Tremendous

Would you listen to Mother Night again? Why?

I would. This was one of the best productions I have heard on Audible. Great narrator and production.

What other book might you compare Mother Night to and why?

In my opinion this is where Vonnegut made his reputation as a preeminent American author. I think this is his finest work in terms of tone, plot, message and literary skill.Touching, heartbreaking and ultimately a story of duality, hope, survival and the choices that make all of us human. A message as relevant today as the day it was written.Name the bet of American literature and I wold compare it to that text. Vonnegut has been dismissed as SF writer, but this is stunning literature.

What does Victor Bevine bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This narrator did a spectacular job with Dan SImmons Hyperion Cantos which is my favorite all time Audible production (besides Dune). This is even better.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

"Go read the book or listen to the Audible production. Movies are not nearly as good!"

Any additional comments?

I recommend you spend a credit on this book. Vonnegut is a great writer who has never gotten his due. This book (in my opinion) cements his status as a great, American writer.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Martha
  • 20-12-2020

It never gets old. This still applies today 2020

His personality discriptions of the inane still exist in today's public figures - politicians...the US president who is actually a reality tv show host.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kacee Cox
  • 07-10-2020

Gut wrenching. Perfect book for 2020.

This book left me staring into space thinking of it long after I finished it. Add me to the list of women who are hopelessly in love with Howard W. Campbell Jr.

1 person found this helpful

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  • TerminatorSigma
  • 03-06-2020

He said. She said. Superb

You'll understand after listening. A great book that made me really feel I was there. Many surprises along the way too.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Old Mommy
  • 20-02-2020

Timeless and Insightful

Refer to this 1962 dark comedy for a surprisingly apt description of our current political climate. There is more than a hint of Stephen Miller in Howard Campbell, the main character, although the latter is more redeemable. This is not a feel-good story, but it does offer a satisfying, insightful experience.

1 person found this helpful

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  • PAOLA
  • 22-05-2014

German anyone???

What didn’t you like about Victor Bevine’s performance?

I like Victor Bevine's voice and tone but the producers should have selected a narrator with some knowledge of the German language. Bevine reads the many single words and whole sentences written in German with such an accent that makes my stomach churn every time. It's quite clear he doesn't know what he is reading. This spoiled the experience for me and as much as I love Vonnegut I can't forget how badly this was read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Gavin Jones
  • 10-06-2016

The Wrong Narrator.

Any additional comments?

In places you could be forgiven for thinking your were listening to an episode of 'Allo 'Allo.
Some people insist that Vonnegut should be read and not listened to. Perhaps this recording is the reason why. If this was your first experience of Vonnegut please do not give up.

(If you want to hear some excellent work from Mr Bevine try The Fall of Hyperion)

2 people found this helpful

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  • Steven J Roberts
  • 10-01-2021

Spellbinding. Brilliantly voiced

I could have listened to it in all one go, if I had the time. Fantastic, hypnotic voicing - perfect for Vonnegut. Unforgettable story; a few unexpected turns. Also, I want to know how much it is based in fact; so I will be Googling that soon.

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  • Thomas Moulson
  • 16-04-2015

Really good

First story I have read by Vonnegut and was very impressed I will be looking into more of his work now

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  • Kindle Kid
  • 17-10-2014

Ambivalent

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I don't think so, well I might cut the younger sister out she was irritating.

If you’ve listened to books by Kurt Vonnegut before, how does this one compare?

One of the low points. I've heard better.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

It all blurs together.

Do you think Mother Night needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

It concluded, a companion from another character might have worked.

Any additional comments?

N/a

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