The most recent book I read was Madre Noche (Mother Night) by Kurt Vonnegut. And yes I read it in Spanish. Which as it would turn out, much unlike the Harry Potter books I’ve read in Spanish, to be a bad idea.
Like some of the other books I’ve read (El Lunes Son Para Libros: 1st Edition) I stumbled upon Madre Noche in a book exchange library in Huaraz. Since high school I have been a big fan of Vonnegut. I remember getting assigned Sirens of Titan in my English class. Since then, I’ve read some of his other works such as Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, and Slaughterhouse 5.
What always drew me to Vonnegut was his usage of satire. I enjoyed how me made me laugh. But not in a low-brow potty humor type of of way. Instead, in a really intelligible manner. Through social commentary/ critique, sarcasm and well thought out jokes. Despite having read Madre Noche in Spanish, this was also the case. I definitely missed some of the humor, but Vonnegut still had me smiling even in a different language.
In my Peace Corps service, humor has been one of the most challenging things to adjust to. Mostly that what I think is funny is not necessarily funny in Peru. I have found this to be the case with most of my attempts with sarcasm. The majority of my sarcastic comments miss their mark completely. Leaving an extremely awkward moment. A small minority will get my audience to laugh. A certain part of this is cultural. Another part is that jokes just land differently in the Spanish language (which probably is entirely my fault). This was definitely the case in Madre Noche. I know for a fact I was missing some good laughs. Nonetheless I kept reading.
Madre Noche is a somewhat suspenseful thriller with built-in social commentary about the life of a North American war spy after WW II. Essentially, the spy is understood on behalf of the American and German people to be a Nazi propagandist. When in reality, he is a spy for the Allies, responsible for transmitting important communications to the United States via his German propaganda radio broadcasts. He is famous amongst Germans (and Nazi North Americans) and hated amongst North Americans.
Vonnegut creates a story where the spy attempts to live the remainder of his life in peace in a rundown apartment in New York City. But of course it would not be that easy. Over the course of the book, Vonnegut weaves in a love story, old war enemies and new friends the spy didn’t know he had. There are twists and turns, heartbreak, humor and violence. Vonnegut combines it all to create for a fun story. And probably even more fun if you read it in your maternal language.
Madre Noche fits in well with Vonnegut’s collection of other fictional works. Vonnegut is a classic North American author whose writing contains just enough truth and similarity to the ‘real world’ to be taken seriously. If you have enjoyed some of his other books, Madre Noche (Mother Night) is worth a read also. And if you’re not a big fan of Vonnegut, you can always read one of his books in Spanish so to dislike it/him more.