A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A man without a country is a connoisseur of humanity, appreciating the universality of sentiment and reason common to all humankind beyond the demarcation of the territorial, cultural, and racial ambits. In that regard, Kurt Vonnegut is not only a great American writer but also an honorable citizen of the world.

Vonnegut was liberal and socialist without being Marxist, but he was also a traditionalist and Christian without being conservative and religious. He was on the side of the underdogs because he regarded himself as one by being a kind of black sheep in the literary circles for his studying engineering, not English literature. However, he wasn’t a grumpy sullen dark literary figure but a funny, talkative writer who stroke conversations with anyone in daily life. Vonnegut refused to lose his days in unsocial solitude and decided to become – as Samuel Johnson called – the sun in his evening declination, remitting his splendor and maintaining his magnitude, pleasing more, though intimidating less.

A Man without a Country is a charming little book packed with thoughts, wits, and knowledge. Vonnegut was only a human because he saw the heart of human nature and wanted to help people bring it out and nourish it thus: “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Vonnegut was a writer who practiced what he preached. So why not read this book by such a writer?










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a story of a plain girl – one

It came again. The premonition that it won’t work and that she has to find out another job looms large in my daily life. She thought this time would be different. She believed this time was a tide in her affairs. But then the curse returned, and demons and ghosts appeared with Pan’s fanfare.

Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking Slow and Fast, voiced that the acquisition of skills took three elements: (1) a regular environment, (2) adequate time to practice, and (3) rapid constructive feedback. While the first element fits the requisite, the other ones do not relate to her situation now. The young associate whom she closely work with bypasses the other two elements only to show his disapproving acceptance of no more mistakes and rash disappointment in her performance of work. It has been over a month now since she started working, but my hopeful expectation to succeed in right her ship seems to be at stake because, once again, she is unlucky with partnerships with other people, especially at work. The associate is short of temper and not ashamed of displaying an ingratiating attitude toward the department manager. He knows that she is inexperienced in drafting legal letters and agreements, but the past mistakes conditioned him to regard me as a good-for nothing woman who fumbles and appears to be servile. Now she has lost her faith in the people she is working with. She should find and secure a better job before the probation period ends.

She deserves to work in a suitable environment where she is treated well, taught with patience and understanding, and appreciated for who she is.

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Is anyone out there? Although I feel like a lonely gauche scientist who incessantly sends a life signal to an extraterrestrial being across the galaxies, I am again sending another life signal in writing to express that I am still alive. So, if any accidental reader stumbles on this blog, welcome.

I once read that magic is the power of manipulating nature without knowing the source of the force. If so, then the magic I once possessed is lost, making me good for nothing. But, as observed by Francis Bacon, I am talking about the faculty of cognition that affects linguistic abilities for speech that makes a ready person, reading a full person, and writing an exact person. The satisfaction of reason, the power of expression aspiring to development of the spirit, which gave me a content elbow room, vanished into the curtains of the past, leaving me to fend for provisional existence of survival in the most primitive way. It reminds me of Viktor E. Frankl’s memories in concentration camps, where many of the inmates dissipated into the hopelessness of abandoning themselves in the stupendousness of tragedies.

I always think of my life as an inspiration fit for a documentary film about a working-class immigrant single woman who painstakingly tries to preserve a sense of purpose in life with a grasp on intellectual aspiration. Doing so makes her compare to the burgeoning careers of her peers, who seem to be of a higher station in life than she. I am not trying to play a typecast role of proverbial fatalist or unreconstructed defeatist caviling at the happiness of others as a result of their hard work and abilities to do wonders. That would be a callous and sordid a priori judgment for her unfortunately cursed life. Didn’t Shakespeare also say that our lives are governed by our stars? Didn’t Cicero believe that our lives can be read by avian augury? Come to think of it, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton also believed in and engaged in alchemy craft. The commonality of the examples described above illustrates that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt in your philosophy about the world, whatever it may be.