Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was a 20th-century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical leftist.
"All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I've changed all the names. I really did go back to Dresden with Guggenheim money (God love it) in 1967. It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has. There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground."
"Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John. Jonah - John - if I had been a Same, I would have been a Jonah still - not because I have been unlucky for others, but because somebody or something has compelled me to be certain places at certain times, without fail. Conveyances and motives, both conventional and bizarre, have been provided. And, according to plan, at each appointed second, at each appointed place, this Jonah was there."
"Vonnegut's writings are pessimistic, but not to the degree so often assumed. Especially since his Dresden book, he has struggle dot identify values in human nature and society that he can affirm despite the events of our century. Overall, there is a tension in his work between the pessimism born of experience and the optimism stemming from background and values."
"If Vonnegut is made the 'I' of his texts by a 'personalization' of the narrator, or if Vonnegut is identified with his character, then the relation between author and texts is misrepresented. Vonnegut can no more be identified with his narrator or with Kilgore Trout than he can be completely free of them."
In novels, essays, and plays produced during a career that spanned more than four decades, Kurt Vonnegut was the voice of several generations, a champion for those who, like himself, viewed society’s excesses and eccentricities with more than a little skepticism.
His 1979 marriage to photographer Jill Krementz formalized their relationship of several years, and the social realist novels <i>Jailbird</i>, <i>Deadeye Dick</i>, and <i>Bluebeard</i> showed a remarkable resurgence of Vonnegut’s career after the critical backlash he had suffered in the 1970s.
In 1947 he moved to Schenectady, New York, where he began to work on his first novel, </i>Player Piano</i> (1952), as well as a number of remarkably varied stories that would appear throughout the next decade in such magazines as <i>Collier's</i>, <i>Playboy</i>, <i>Esquire</i> and <i>Cosmopolitan</i>. Vonnegut's second and third novels, <i>The Sirens of Titan</i> (1959) and <i>Mother Night</i> (1961), increased his popularity among a small but dedicated following, but with the publication of his fourth novel, <i>Cat's Cradle</i> (1963), Vonnegut began to draw serious critical attention and broader popular appeal.
Soon after his return from the war, Kurt Vonnegut married his high school girlfriend, Jane Marie Cox. The couple had three children. He worked several jobs before his writing career took off, including newspaper reporter, teacher, and public relations employee for General Electric. The Vonneguts also adopted his sister's three children after her death in 1958.
After attending Cornell University from 1941-43 Vonnegut served in World War II and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. As a prisoner of war, he survived the fire bombing of Dresden by Allied forces on 13 February, 1945 in an underground meat-storage cellar. When he emerged the next morning, Vonnegut was put to work pulling corpses from the ruins of the desolated city. In one night the horrific fire-bombing of Dresden killed more people than the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, more than 135,000 in all. Vonnegut's first-hand experiences of this, one of the darkest episodes in human history, would later provide the basis for his most influential work, <i>Slaughterhouse Five</i> (1969), though it would take him more than twenty years to come to terms with his wartime experiences and complete the novel.
Kurt Jr. was the youngest of their three children, along with middle child Alice and first-born Bernard. The fortunes of the family changed dramatically during the Depression when Kurt Sr. saw his architectural business disappear. He had to sell the family home and take Kurt Jr. out of private school.