Miguel Fernandes Ceia
The novel starts with a heart being thrown from a passing train to the roofs over Borough Market. Though it is very clearly stated that it is a human heart, the reader might find the imagery so unlikely that one might think about the heart as something fantastic or metaphorical.
When Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens, this does not mean he was taken to the reality of his train of thought or stream of consciousness; it does not have a metaphorical meaning. In the context of Slaughterhouse 5, Billy Pilgrim really is abducted by aliens – or at least it has been written to be understood as so; this does not sustain an ‘allegorical’ or ‘poetic’ interpretation.
Roberto Bolaño offers the reader a fictional biographic encyclopaedia of fascist writers of the American continent. Even if one doesn’t sympathise with their fascist ideas, when reading, one is moved by the fierce idealism in which magazines and journals get published and disdained, poems go unnoticed, novels ignored.
Many writers, and examples could easily come from the sci-fi genre, did not have to endure the predicaments present in their characters and their plots in order to write. Furthermore, normalcy, or middle-class bourgeois normalcy, is, these days, predicament enough. Still, each individual’s account, in fiction or real life, is full of drama because it is one’s own.
The title of the novel refers to how the characters relate to their world, sleepwalking, without questioning conventions, and remaining oblivious to what is changing. As the novel progresses, we also realise that each one of the parts, still acknowledging the sleep and sleepwalking metaphor, is a state of consciousness