Just about every adult human being back then had a brain weighing about three kilograms There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn t imagine and execute No so it goes , but and so on does make the occasional appearances This quote represents what appears to be the basic theme of Gal pagos The big brain is humanity s downfall Though I believe Vonnegut means something subtle than that Gal pagos is about a group of survivors of an apocalypse after and before the rest of humanity is wiped out, thanks to our big brains Because this is a Kurt Vonnegut book don t go in expecting a post apocalypse thriller like The Stand best not to expect anything and just go on the wild ride The story is mainly set in 1986 and sometimes fast forward one million years to 1,001,986 , with multiple flashbacks to the central characters back stories linear timeline is not Uncle Kurt s style Still, the narrative is easy to follow because Vonnegut knows what he is doing and there is method to his madness Most of the characters are staying at the El Dorado hotel in Guayaquil the port city in Ecuador in preparation to board the ship Bah a de Darwin for their Nature Cruise of the Century on the Gal pagos Islands After a cataclysmic event destroys most of Ecuador they flee the city and board the Bah a de Darwin which becomes a sort of Noah s Ark for a while until the inept Captain runs it aground on an island called Santa Rosalia where they are marooned for the rest of their lives The story is narrated by Leon Trotsky Trout, son of Vonnegut s recurring character Kilgore Trout Leon never interacts with any of the characters, however, as he died during the construction of the Bah a de Darwin , and is narrating as a ghost doing a research on the meaning of life Fast forward one million years and humanity has evolved, entirely from this group of survivors on Santa Rosalia, into semi aquatic people with flippers instead of hands and much smaller brains which prevent them from making the same mistake as their ancestors from the 80s.As with other Vonnegut s novels, the humour is front and centre but laid on a foundation of sadness and disapproval of where humanity is heading in spite because of our big brains According to Leon the narrator the sorrows of humankind were caused by the oversized human brain A point frequently reiterated throughout the book However, it is important to distinguish between what Leon Trout thinks and what Kurt Vonnegut thinks I believe Vonnegut s point is that humanity is blessed with intelligence but we, as a race, have been abusing it, using it to worsen life on this planet since time immemorial Eventually, such misuse is likely to be the cause of our downfall.There are numerous subplots and flashbacks, initially, I did not find the narrative particularly compelling because of the jumbled timeline which seems to prevent any kind of momentum from developing However, as I said, Vonnegut knows what he is doing and the disparate plot strands are gradually woven together into one cohesive story The book is often very funny, full of whimsical nonsequiturs and sharp satire However, Vonnegut is not Wodehouse, he wants to do than tickle your funny bones, sometimes his disgust is made quite plain For example, the back story of a character called James Wait features thisLater, when he was a prostitute on the island of Manhattan, his clients would find those scars, made by cigarettes and coat hangers and belt buckles and so on, very excitingGal pagos made me laugh and feel sad at the same time, I can t think of any other authors who can accomplish this.Notes Vonnegut seems to have foreseen smartphones and PDAs with a device called Mandarax, but as a product of our big brain , it is basically useless There is very little dialogue in this book, but there is so much else going on you won t miss it The blue footed boobies have an important role to play in the survival of humanity, and they are just so damn cute In spite of the far future setting and the ghost, Gal pagos is neither sci fi nor fantasy It is a satire about humanity, what we have been doing, what we are still doing to eff up the world we live in More of a cautionary tale than spec fic, IMO Thank you, Cecily, for nagging me to read recommending this book.QuotesMere opinions, in fact, were as likely to govern people s actions as hard evidence, and were subject to sudden reversals as hard evidence could never be Of what possible use was such emotional volatility, not to say craziness, in the heads of animals who were supposed to stay together long enough, at least, to raise a human child, which took about fourteen years or so Something is always going wrong with our teeth They don t last anything like a lifetime, usually What chain of events in evolution should we thank for our mouthfuls of rotting crockery Like so many other pathological personalities in positions of power a million years ago, he might do almost anything on impulse, feeling nothing much The logical explanations for his actions, invented at leisure, always came afterwards When all was said and done, the creatures of the Gal pagos Islands were a pretty listless bunch compared with rhinos and hippos and lions and elephants and so onLeon Trotsky Trout is as dead as a dodo but is nevertheless the incorporeal narrator of a story that is told a million years into our future.Trout recounts a sequence of evolutionary events that begin in 1986, as a bunch of bipedal misfits gather in Ecuador for The Nature Cruise of the Century Looking back at humankind, from a million years in the future perspective, we are a freakish bunch we possess oversized brains that we don t make the best use of, and we even give names to dogs.Also, because our brains were the size of fat mangoes and not yet atrophied by evolution, a discussion between a husband and wife under stress could end up like a fight between blindfolded people wearing roller skates.Captain Adolf von Kleist, who doesn t know shit from Shinola, is somehow left in charge of this ill fated, over hyped maiden voyage to the Gal pagos Islands I can assure you that the story is better read than explained.I m a latecomer to Vonnegut and fell in love with his writing quicker than you could say woolly mammoth He elucidates with the conviction of a mad prophet his prose is cheerily unfussy and he is at all times wickedly provocative.And, in keeping with the circle of life theme, there are fish metaphors aplenty.For no reason other than authorial whimsy, he anoints any character who is about to die with an asterisk so we know in advance that they are going to pop their clogs , and he mischievously over explains things that are blindingly obvious to anyone bar our tiny brained human descendants, one million years into the future.Vonnegut has a droll sense of humour that I found immediately enjoyable and fans of Monty Python are sure to like his style But of course, there is a great deal of sagacity to be found in his eccentricity.It should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all Vonnegut, that we humans are the architects of our own downfall.Despite our hefty brains, we are somehow ignorant to the perils of war, financial crashes, global viruses, world overpopulation, climate change and meteorites hitting our planet Aren t we just The only carp I have with Vonnegut is that he has a scattergun approach to plot lines The story staggers backwards and forwards like a drunken sailor in a hall of mirrors and I felt that the philosophical quotes interrupted, rather than enhanced, the narrative.In truth, I really didn t know what to expect from Vonnegut s Gal pagos it was recommended to me by Cecily , but I was pleasantly surprised and absolutely loved every daft, dizzy, witty moment of this prescient read Gal Pagos Takes The Reader Back One Million Years, To AD A Simple Vacation Cruise Suddenly Becomes An Evolutionary Journey Thanks To An Apocalypse, A Small Group Of Survivors Stranded On The Gal Pagos Islands Are About To Become The Progenitors Of A Brave, New, And Totally Different Human Race In This Inimitable Novel, America S Master Satirist Looks At Our World And Shows Us All That Is Sadly, Madly Awry And All That Is Worth Saving When I finish novels by Haruki Murakami or Kurt Vonnegut, I m not always sure what I ve read That was definitely the case with Vonnegut s Galapagos It was thought provoking and I laughed a number of times Did I understand it, though For Vonnegut, nothing is serious At the same time, these not serious parts are what most of us view as supremely important When Vonnegut writes about the solution to overpopulation, for instance, it is really funny, but just how we adapt to a changing world is something we need to grapple with I tried to imagine the evolutionary changes a million years in the future Vonnegut was describing I even tried to figure out what was happening on the nature cruise of the century circa 1986 AD So, all in all, I enjoyed reading Galapagos, but I can t say just what happened When I read it again sometime in the future , I might understand , but I m not sure. In this era of big brains, anything which can be done will be done so hunker downKurt Vonnegut, Gal pagosTrying to stay a couple books ahead of my son as I re read Vonnegut I haven t read much since those years between 13 and 18 when I seemed to burn through Vonnegut books again and again He was one of those few writers I ever read twice Dickens, Shakespeare, and Hugo are a few others So, now as an adult I am approaching these books again God I love this man I love his hopeful, resigned cynicism about the modern era He writes as an outsider, but also as a friend if that makes any sense This novel is so brilliant in its simplicity Kilgore Trout s son Leon Trotsky Trout narrates a tale that covers one million years He is a ghost, destined to watch humanity crash and be reborn on the Island of Gal pagos That is the basic arc The almost end of man, and his rebirth Using evolution as a key, Vonnegut shows that like the Irish Elk, with its large, heavy, awkward, and almost unadaptive giant antlers, man is burdened with a giant brain that seems to cause endless trouble for our speciesGiven a choice between a brain like you and the antlers of an Irish elk, she told her own central nervous system, I d take the antlers of the Irish elkSo, the accidents of genetics and the isolation of some famous islands West of Ecuador allow for our species to be rebornWhat was it going to do with a bigger brain Compose Beethoven s Ninth Symphony. Gal pagos, Kurt Vonnegut Gal pagos is the eleventh novel written by American author Kurt Vonnegut The novel questions the merit of the human brain from an evolutionary perspective The title is both a reference to the islands on which part of the story plays out, and a tribute to Charles Darwin on whose theory Vonnegut relies to reach his own conclusions It was first published in 1985 by Delacorte Press.Main characters Leon Trout, dead narrator and son of Kilgore TroutHernando Cruz, first mate of the Bah a de DarwinMary Hepburn, an American widow who teaches at Ilium High SchoolRoy Hepburn, Mary s husband who died in 1985 from a brain tumorAkiko Hiroguchi, the daughter of Hisako that will be born with fur covering her entire bodyHisako Hiroguchi, a teacher of ikebana and Zenji s pregnant wifeZenji Hiroguchi, a Japanese computer genius who invented the voice translator Gokubi and its successor MandaraxBobby King, publicity man and organizer of the Nature Cruise of the Century Andrew MacIntosh, an American financier and adventurer of great inherited wealthSelena MacIntosh, Andrew s blind daughter, eighteen years oldJes s Ortiz, a talented Inca waiter who looks up to wealthy and powerful peopleAdolf von Kleist, captain of Bah a de Darwin who doesn t really know how to steer the shipSiegfried von Kleist, brother of Adolf and carrier of Huntington s chorea who temporarily takes care of the reception at hotel El DoradoJames Wait, a 35 year old American swindlerPvt Geraldo Delgado, an Ecuadorian soldier 1994 1382 341 9645881412 20 1985 18 35 One million years in the future, a man recounts humanity s origins in the Galapagos islands.This was the third Kurt Vonnegut book I ve read and my third favorite Actually, it reminds me of one of Grandpa Simpson s rambling stories that circles back on itself, only with novel y bits like themes and messages and such.Galapagos is part satire, part cautionary tale There s a shipwreck on Galapagos and it turns out those people are the only ones who can reproduces I m pretty sure this is mentioned in the first two pages Anyway, one million years in the future, humanity is a whole other species.Galapagos deals in evolution, environmentalism, and anti war Also, humanity s big brains are blamed for most of their problems The world of Galapagos is in a global economic crisis Yeah, a lot has changed since 1986The book is actually pretty funny with Vonnegut s dark absurdist humor being the star of the show I interrupted my girlfriend s Harry Potter reading with this, easily my favorite quoteI didn t know then what a sperm was, and so wouldn t understand his answer for several years My boy, he said, you are descended from a long line of determined, resourceful, microscopic tadpoles champions every one I enjoyed this fairly well and devoured it in three sittings I didn t like it as much as Cat s Cradle or Slaughterhouse Five, however I think it was the circular nature of the narrative that got me If Galapagos was a road trip, it would have been thousands of left turns in order to go fifty miles in a straight line 3.5 out of 5 stars. Gal pagos is Kurt Vonnegut s satirical tribute to Charles Darwin The narrator of the tale is a ghost existing for a million years and witnessing everything from the beginning to the end Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance A broken field of black basaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves, and crossed by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life The dry and parched surface, being heated by the noon day sun, gave to the air a close and sultry feeling, like that from a stove we fancied even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly Charles Darwin The Voyage of the BeagleThe story is also a spoof of Noah s Ark but instead of landing on Mount Ararat the ship lands on one of the islands in the Gal pagos archipelago And instead of evolution Kurt Vonnegut depicts a devolution.Back when childhoods were often so protracted, it is unsurprising that so many people got into the lifelong habit of believing, even after their parents were gone, that somebody was always watching over them God or a saint or a guardian angel or the stars or whatever.People have no such illusions today They learn very early what kind of a world this really is, and it is a rare adult indeed who hasn t seen a careless sibling or parent eaten alive by a killer whale or shark.Nowadays, with all the consumerism, conformism and hypocrisy surrounding us, individuals just lose their true identity and the devolution has probably already begun. The serene Galapagos Islands, named after the famous giant turtles, discovered there, almost 600 miles west of impoverished Ecuador, in a remote part of the vast Pacific the small nation, that owns them, was made famous by scientist Charles Darwin, when the HMS Beagle, a British Royal Navy, surveying ship, visited these bleak, isles, encompassing 21, in number, not counting than 100, minuscule peaks, breaking the surface, of the sometimes cold, deep blue waters, in 1835, strange animals were observed, by the soon to be renowned, perpetually seasick, young naturalist and geologist A century and a half, later, things have drastically changed noisy tourists no longer at the end of the world, access by ships and airplanes, these exotic Galapagos, now have airports and sea docks, there, and even people residing in the formerly pristine lands, welcome to 1986 Big troubles, occur, an economic crisis engulfs the Earth, the inhabitants in many parts are starving, a virus is making them sterile too, and the long planned, The Nature Cruise of the Century , to the Ecuadorian ocean province, from the Guayas River port of Guayaquil, threatened with cancellation The few who do arrive, at the guarded hotel, are the new widow, American, Mary Hepburn, despondent, with suicidal impulses, James Wait, an alias, he says he s Canadian, a con man, in reality, who takes money, you guessed it, from grieving women, Japanese Hisako Hiroguchi, pregnant wife of computer genius, Zenji, incompetent Captain Adolf von Kleist, of the ship, Bahia de Darwin , that s right, the same one that will take them to the islands, if he can find the archipelago, billionaire Andrew Macintosh, he wants , and his blind, loyal daughter, Selena, the ghost of Leon Trotsky Trout, is our narrator, son of the late, not so great, writer, Kilgore Trout, and six hungry little girls, unexpected passengers, natives of the nearby rain forest Still a war breaks out with a fierce neighboring nation, bombs falling, bullets flying, food riots erupting, the survivors of this group, must get away, quickly, to the cruise ship, there is safety only in the Galapagos, just forty hours from the lawless city Captain Adolf von Kleist, is constantly amusing, a good looking, well spoken gentleman, a notable storyteller , who doesn t know how to steer a boat , without any nautical knowledge, whatsoever, his crew has deserted him, he must pretendskillfully A fun read by the always entertaining Mr Kurt Vonnegut, those who like his style, which can seem rather childish, to some, the uninformed , he knows his targets, though, they, his fans will greatly enjoy this satire, about the stupidity of the human race, not realizing there are consequences for every action, life is not only for them, they must share the planet with other living creatures, who deserve to be unharmed, and able to prosper, tooP.S there will be surprises Rewritten after rereading in July 2012.This darkly humorous satire starts with a world financial crisis in 1986 hopefully that s where the similarity with current times ends , leading to WW3 though it s not really about either it s fundamentally about adaptation A million years in the future, the only humans left on Earth are the descendants of a small but diverse group of survivors of a Galapagos islands cruise, and they are like seals than 20th century humans Most of the story is set between the run up to the cruise and the passengers first few years on the island, but it is certainly not a Robinson Crusoe type story it is far provocative than that, raising issues of fate independence, the meaning and importance of intelligence and ultimately, what makes us human.Like all good dystopias if that s not an oxymoron , the individual steps to it don t really stretch credulity few of them are very original , but the final destination is startling and even somewhat positive.NARRATIVE STYLEThe story arc is fundamentally chronological, but with an enormous number of tiny jumps ahead right from the start, Vonnegut sprinkles the story with so many snippets about what will happen to everyone, why and how, that you don t know if there will be anything left by the time the main narrative catches up He even prefixes the names of those about to die with an asterisk, at which point I went with the flow and stopped worrying about spoilers on rereading, this aspect became pure comedy The final chapter, which I would have deleted, fills in a few random gaps that didn t really need filling.The narrator is Leon Trout, a long dead man who helped build the cruise ship He reminded me a little of Snowman in Oryx and Crake , so if you liked that, consider this Kilgore Trout, the father of Leon, is a recurring character in Vonnegut a prolific but not very successful writer of sci fi This book mentions his The Era of Hopeful Monsters , with a plot that echoes this The book also has random quotes from Mandarax, a hand held computer and translator that is a little like the Hitchhiker s Guide to the Galaxy They are either bizarrely obscure, like the Oracle at Delphi, or comically inappropriate.THEMESThe main premise is that humans have evolved badly, though the reasons for this are never explained, which is odd, given how much weight is given to subsequent natural selection in the story Most significantly, our big brains are the cause of all our troubles they lie so we don t trust them or other people , we can t switch them off, they confuse us with too much information, distract us from the important matters of life and death though often causing death, e.g by fighting or suicide , and ultimately cause global financial collapse because the value of so many assets is only maintained by belief in virtual money whizzing around Accepting the idea that our big brains are a handicap is a bit of a challenge, which Vonnegut backs up with typical bathos by suggesting alcohol is just a way to relax with a temporarily smaller brain Our long, protected childhoods accustom us to the idea of an omniscient carer and hence account for belief in god, whilst wealth makes us blas about our doom Full stomachs are part of the problem, too a full belly puts people off guard and all the powerful people are well fed, so don t worry about impending disaster.Outsourcing our skills and knowledge by developing machines to take over many brain tasks reduces the need for big brains, and indeed, for people No wonder humans, in their twenty first century form, are doomed even at a comical level a million years hence, evolution hasn t made teeth durable It has simply cut the average human lifespan down to about thirty years By contrast, animals are happy to survive, feed and reproduce, and once stranded on an island, natural selection leads to humanity being reduced and enhanced to such basics, everybody is exactly what he or she seems to be and everyone is so innocent and relaxed now No lies or deceit, and no hands to use for evil it sounds positively Utopian In addition to the above, it also touches on the nature of intelligence, eugenics voluntary and not , consent, disability, incest, contraception, mate selection, truth, marriage and alternatives to it, and all sorts of other things You could make a whole PSHE curriculum from this HUMAN NESSAmongst all the big issues and ideas the book explicitly raises, there is one that is always assumed, but never questioned or defended in what sense are the humans on Santa Rosalia in a million years time actually human and by extension, what does it mean to BE human And if they are human, then surely we should call ourselves apes, or even fish And fish and fishing, literal and metaphorical, are recurring themes many of the characters are fishers of men , albeit not in a good way, and we re reminded that so much depends on fish even the narrator s surname is Trout.I would hesitate to impose a New Testament analogy on a secular novel by a secular writer, but there are many Biblical allusions creation, flood, an ark, Adam and Eve, the danger of knowledge, the power of belief, the existence of God, David and Goliath, souls, redemption, and fish.Vonnegut toys with why we are as we are and clearly doesn t think it s brain size or capacity that makes us human which is surely good, as otherwise, what would be the implication for those with learning difficulties and brain damage etc , but he leaves the reader to decide what human means FATE AND PURPOSEThroughout the book, Vonnegut keeps reminding us of the significance of random and apparently trivial events, whilst at the same time implying the apparent opposite the inevitability of the outcome for humanity the butterfly effect versus fate There is a clear message that most people are irrelevant we can t know who the few important ones are, but they re probably the ones we least expect Trout admits his prolonged observation was pointless he was addicted to the soap opera qualities of the story, but accumulated knowledge rather than understanding MAIN MESSAGE The world ends up a happier place, because of the power of natural selection, echoing the very upbeat quote from Anne Frank on the title page, In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart Yet, given his ideas about fate, is Vonnegut suggesting the book is pointless too not that I would agree with that , is he actually trying to make a point if so, what or just entertaining us Mostly the latter, I thinkIf Leon Trout is reading this, or any other discussion of the book, he is doubtless chuckling at how seriously people are taking it Mind you, as a pretentious late teen early twentysomething, I would have had a field day of profundity Overall, not a long book, but one to savour, ponder, chuckle over and reread.OTHER QUOTATIONS Mere opinions were as likely to govern people s actions as hard evidence, and were subject to sudden reversals as hard evidence could never be It was all in people s heads People had simply changed their opinion of paper wealth Big brains make marriage hard because That cumbersome computer could hold so many contradictory opinions and switch between them so quickly that a discussion between a husband and wife under stress could end up light a fight between blindfolded people wearing roller skates Typical of the management of so many organisations one million years ago, with the nominal leader specialising in social balderdash, and with the supposed second in command burdened with the responsibility of understanding how things really worked.
Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001 2003 He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali
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- 25 July 2019 Kurt Vonnegut