Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1913 – 2007) was a popular American novelist and short story writer. His most prominent work, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), is based on his personal experiences as a prisoner of war trapped in Dresden as the Allies bombed the town (during World War II). Breakfast of Champions (1973) was his most commercially successful book, though it was not as acclaimed by critics.

Vonnegut described himself as an atheist, among other things,[1] and in 1992 won the "Humanist of the Year" award.[2] He attributed his atheism to having studied anthropology. In Hocus Pocus one of his characters is disrespectful of those with faith, rebutting the observation of "there were no atheists in foxholes" with the comment, "There's a Chaplain who never visited the front."[3] Also, in later writings Vonnegut referred to conservative Christians as "not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” " [4]

While serving as a US Army infantry battalion scout, Vonnegut was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Taken to Germany as a prisoner of war, Vonnegut was then stuck in an underground meat locker with his fellow prisoners during the firebombing of Dresden on February 13, 1945. Afterwards, Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners were left to dig corpses out of the ruins. When he returned to America, Vonnegut was awarded a Purple Heart for his service.[5]

Robert Scholes gave this review of the Slaughterhouse-Five in the New York Times Book Review:[6]

Be kind. Don't hurt. Death is coming for all of us anyway, and it is better to be Lot's wife looking back through salty eyes than the Deity that destroyed those cities of the plain in order to save them. ... Slaughterhouse Five is an extraordinary success. It is a book we need to read, and to reread.

Vonnegut's timing was perfect, as America in 1969 was struggling with the Vietnam War and other issues relevant to the book, such as ecology, consumerism and claims of overpopulation.

Vonnegut's last book, Man Without a Country is a scathing criticism of the Bush administration and current U.S. foreign policy.

Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007 from brain injuries he received in a fall almost five weeks earlier.

Bibliography

List of Novels

(1952)Player Piano

(1959)The Sirens of Titan

(1961)Mother Night

(1963)Cat's Cradle

(1965)God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; or, Pearls before Swine

(1969)Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children's Crusade

(1973)Breakfast of Champions; or, Goodbye Blue Monday

(1976)Slapstick; or, Lonesome No More

(1979)Jailbird

(1982)Deadeye Dick

(1985)Galápagos

(1987)Bluebeard

(1990)Hocus Pocus

(1997)Timequake

List of Short Stories or Essays

(1961)Canary in a Cathouse

(1968)Welcome to the Monkey House: A Collection of Short Works

(1974)Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons

(1981)Palm Sunday

(1991)Fates Worse than Death

(1999)Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

(1999)God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian

(2005)A Man Without a Country

Posthumously Published

(2008)Armageddon in Retrospect

(2009)Look at the Birdie

References

  1. Some question whether Kurt Vonnegut was an atheist. He has described himself as a "secular humanist," and the majority of secular humanists are atheist or agnostic.
  2. http://www.celebatheists.com/index.php?title=Kurt_Vonnegut_Jr.
  3. Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus, pg. 182
  4. http://www.inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=38_0_4_0_C
  5. http://www.nndb.com/people/928/000022862/
  6. http://www.vonnegutweb.com/sh5/index.html
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