Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was an American author and humorist, well known for his use of black humor and satire. Over a period of more than 50 years, he published fourteen novels, three short-story collections, five plays and five works of non-fiction. Slaughterhouse-Five was his sixth book, published in 1969, during the Vietnam War. It became his most famous book.
Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the youngest of three children and his grandparents on both sides were German immigrants. Because of the anti-German sentiment in America during World War I, however, the Vonneguts gave up their German heritage. Vonnegut’s father was an architect and his mother came from one of the wealthiest families in Indianapolis, owners of a brewery.
Vonnegut attended Cornell University in 1940 and was editor of the school newspaper. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Vonnegut dropped out of Cornell and joined the Army as a private. In 1944, Vonnegut was captured by the Germans and was sent to Dresden, where he lived in a slaughterhouse and worked in a factory. When the Allied forces bombed Dresden in 1945, Vonnegut survived by hiding in an underground meat locker. Vonnegut’s experience at Dresden affected him deeply and Slaughterhouse-Five is a reflection of this experience.
In 1967 he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in Germany and traveled to Eastern Europe, including Dresden. He integrated his writings about World War II into the book that became Slaughterhouse-Five.
Slaughterhouse-Five sent Vonnegut’s career to new heights. He soon became a regular commencement speaker, lectured at Harvard, taught at City University of New York and received many honorary degrees. And he continued to write.
In his later years, Vonnegut was an outspoken supporter of several causes: preserving Constitutional freedoms, nuclear arms control and protection of the environment. He wrote throughout his life and died in 2007, at age 84.
Thanks to the following sources:
The Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 64 – a compilation of four interviews.
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
Visit The Strongest Librarian for A Complete List of Kurt Vonnegut Books.
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