->''[[BecomingTheMask "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."]]''
-->--'''[[LesCollaborateurs Howard W. Campbell, Jr.]]'''
''Mother Night'' is a 1961 novel by KurtVonnegut that tells of the life of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an expatriate American who moved to Germany with his German wife shortly after WorldWarOne. Despite being an infamous Nazi radio personality and propagandist under Joseph Goebbels, Campbell is actually an author who writes sappy idealistic MedievalEuropeanFantasy plays and spends all of his time obsessing over his wife; in actuality [[FantasticallyIndifferent he has no interest in politics, the war, the Nazi movement,]] or anything besides his wife. Acting as a DoubleAgent under a minor division of the US, Campbell [[BecomingTheMask unrelentingly destroys his reputation]] sending coded messages for reasons he doesn't even understand.[[note]]Several characters suggest he either did it out of his latent idealism, or more likely - he simply thought it was fun.[[/note]]
Continuing indifferently even following his beloved wife's death, Campbell soon finds the war over, and himself a war criminal. Left in New York by his recruiters without evidence to prove his innocence, Campbell spends two decades surprisingly happy in almost isolation with his only friend, George Kraft. This changes when a white supremacist newspaper, which publicizes Campbell's history and current life, makes his past and crimes resurface again, attracting the attention of Israel and a number of old enemies who want justice.
Made into a film directed by Keith Gordon (''[[http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/BackToSchool Back to School]], Film/TheChocolateWar'') and starring Nick Nolte in 1996. It's not bad, and quite faithful to the source material.
!!Tropes in this book include:
* AnAesop: What you do is more important than what you believe. You are good or evil based on your acts, not whether or not you think you are good or evil. He was asked to become a Nazi by an American agent and the information he provided the Allies throughout the war was of great help. The aesop is illustrated when near the end of the war a Nazi friend tells him he knew the protagonist was a spy but never reported him because whatever damage he did as a spy would be more than offset by the help he was giving the Nazis in his cover role. Obviously, that would bother any anti-Nazi person, which he was.
* AuthorOnBoard: Campbell, mostly neutral and silent on American politics and society, suddenly bursts out with revulsion at the conversion of Armistice Day to Veterans' Day. Vonnegut, in ''BreakfastOfChampions,'' made it quite clear that Campbell's reaction mirrors his own.
* BecomingTheMask: While arguably the moral and the point of the story, since Campbell has no opinions or feelings on nearly anything, the disturbing conclusion is that there was nothing under the mask to begin with.
* [[spoiler:BittersweetEnding: When Campbell is soon to be sentenced to death, he receives a letter from Wirtanen; in it, he goes against orders and vindicates Campbell of all blame. Campbell, however, decides freedom would be a less happy ending for a man who doesn't have a reason to live, and chooses execution anyway.]]
* BrokenAesop: The intended Aesop seems to have been BecomingTheMask is bad, but the text seems to spell out that all of Campbell's problems stem from him refusing to care about anything other than his wife and maintaining his staunch neutrality in the face of everything that happens around him and to him.
** You seem to be forgetting that he agreed to become a spy for the USA against Nazi Germany. Considering the penalty for doing so was death (and FateWorseThanDeath during the "interrogation"), he does care about the world.
* CodeName: "Blue Fairy Godmother"
* DissonantSerenity: Campbell lived his ''entire life'' like this.
* [[spoiler:FalseFriend: Heinz, Campbell's best friend, was a member of the Jewish underground who hates him enough to testify against him. Also, Kraft and Resi are Communists (but the latter falls for Campbell instead).]]
* ForTheEvulz: Inversion. Campbell becomes a spy, but possibly more because he found it entertaining than out of a sense of good or loyalty.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: There are two introductions - one by Vonnegut that speaks about the book plainly, another where Vonnegut speaks as the editor of Campbell's autobiography.
* OhAndXDies: We're told in the introduction that Resi Noth will die in Chapter 39.
* PositiveDiscrimination: Averted. One of the people Campbell encounters is the Black Führer, who is an African American who sided with Japan during the war and dreams of dropping atomic bombs on anyone who isn't black or Japanese. [[HypocriticalHumor Especially the damn Chinese! Who he considered white, because he doesn't like them.]]
* PublicSecretMessage: This is how Campbell passes on information to the Americans. He's given a list of things they want him to find out about the Nazis, and after he finds them out he communicates the answer on his radio show by, say, coughing in the middle of a certain sentence if the answer is "yes" and not coughing if the answer is "no", or by using a certain word he wouldn't otherwise use, etc.
* ShutUpHannibal: Campbell to Bernard B. O'Hare near the end, after Bernard's long rant about how Howard is pure evil, possibly even the devil. Campbell's response also serves as a rant against blind faith and radical hatred.
* StealthParody: What Campbell hoped he would be, but he ran badly afoul of PoesLaw.
* StrangeBedfellows: The alliance between American Nazi white supremacist Dr. Lionel Jones, "black Führer" Robert Sterling Wilson, and Catholic priest Father Patrick Keeley.
* [[spoiler:SuicideByCop: What Campbell wanted when he turned himself over to the Israelis.]]
* [[spoiler:SuicideIsPainless: Despite a heartwarming letter from Wirtanen proving his innocence, Campbell accepts he still has nothing left to do with his life, and decides to hang for his crimes anyway.]]
* TheGreatestStoryNeverTold: The premise of the book; Campbell, a deep-cover spy for the Allies, has been left with only his ruined reputation in New York city by the people he risked everything for.
* TrueNeutral: Campbell, so much so it's explained InUniverse. He cares about his wife and their "Nation of Two", and no-one and nothing else.