“I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”
Malachi Constant, aka Unk, aka the Space Wanderer
The Sirens Of Titan
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
This phrase is one of the central ideas in the book The Sirens of Titan, though it is only used three times in the entire text*.
At the first reading it seems like a statement of fatalistic fact. Everything we do, and everything that happens to us, can be reduced to the effect of a few chance occurrences - a stray photon, a misguided molecule here or there. Malachi Constant’s life, as depicted in The Sirens of Titan, is a series of events that can only be attributed to very good and very bad luck. He, more than anybody, should know about the effect of accidents on life.
At a second reading, the irony** is discernible. The extraordinary things that happened to Malachi were not accidents. They were carefully orchestrated by Winston Niles Rumfoord. After Rumfoord fell into a Chronosynclastic Infundibulum (a type of distortion in the spacetime/cultural continuum where mutually exclusive things can all be simultaneously true) he became a semi-omnipotent being that knew everything that ever had, and ever would happen. Armed with this knowledge, he carefully manipulated the entire Earth into doing his bidding***. So Malachi was the victim of Winston Niles Rumfoord, not chance or accident, as was all of Earth.
At a third and final reading another level appears. Winston Niles Rumfoord was a victim of a series of accidents. Everything he did was predetermined by a series of accidents going back to the big bang. Malachi‘s life is governed by accidents, the important ones of which are caused by the accident known as Winston Niles Rumfoord, who was caused by a series of accidents... ad infinitum.
* On pages 161 (twice), and 178, in the Millennium SF Masterworks paperback edition.
** At least, I think this is irony.
*** Read the book, it’s much better than it sounds from that description.