"Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies-"God damn it, you've got to be kind."

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Photo by Marty Reichenthal (source)

Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922—April 11, 2007) was an American writer. He is best known for his books Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). He is remembered as a humanist and a satirist with a talent for intertwining fantasy with realism.

vonnegutVonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana to Kurt and Edith Vonnegut. His father and his grandfather were architects at Vonnegut & Bohn. Vonnegut studied chemistry at Cornell University, working as Assistant Managing Editor and Associate Editor of The Cornell Daily Sun. After enlisting in the U.S. Army, he was transferred to Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee. Vonnegut's mother committed suicide on Mother's Day in 1944 while he was on leave from the army. (Image source)

While serving in the 423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division, Vonnegut was captured as a Prisoner of War. During this time, he witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945. Vonnegut survived an attack on Schlachthof Fünf ("Slaughterhouse Five"), an underground slaughterhouse meat locker that the Germans were using as a facility. The experience became the basis for his most famous novel Slaughterhouse Five (1969) as well as several other books by him.

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"I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years"

–Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

After being rescued in 1945 at the Saxony-Czechoslovakian border, he was awarded a Purple Heart and returned from war. He then went to the University of Chicago to study anthropology, but had little success. At the same time, he worked as a reporter City News Bureau of Chicago, which he referred to as "a tripwire for all the newspapers in town."

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Vonnegut eventually left Chicago to work in public relations for General Electric in Schenectady, New York. It wasn't long before his first novel was published, Player Piano (1952); the novel was a satire on corporate culture.

He followed with The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), and Cat's Cradle (1963), the final of which became a best-seller. His work gradually became more experimental, as seen in Slaughterhouse Five (1969) and Breakfast of Champions (1973). Most of his novels have some element of war in them.

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"I will say, too, that lovemaking, if sincere, is one of the best ideas Satan put in the apple she gave to the serpent to give to Eve. The best idea in that apple, though, is making jazz."

― Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

Vonnegut married his high school sweetheart, Jane Marie Cox, soon after he returned from the war. They had three children. They separated in 1970 and he married photographer Jill Krementz. He adopted his sister's three children after her husband was killed in a rail crash and she died of cancer. Finally, he and Krementz adopted another child, Lily.

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He continued to write throughout his life, though he tended toward nonfiction in his later years.

Vonnegut struggled with depression and attempted commit suicide in 1984. His political and religious views marked his work significantly. He described himself as a skeptic, and he was a Humanist Laureate in the Council for Secular Humanism's International Academy of Humanism.

 

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Selected appearances:

 

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 11 November 2014
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