Kurt Vonnegut



"When you're dead, you're dead. Make love when you can. It's good for you."


Indianapolis, US


Biochemistry, Cornell University; Anthropology, Chicago University

Other jobs

Served in US infantry in Europe during the second world war, taken prisoner (awarded Purple Heart); Chicago City News Bureau, police reporter (1946); General Electric Co., NY, public relations (1947-50); lecturer, Harvard University, (1971-72).

Did you know?

The lyrics of the worldwide hit 'Sunscreen' were attributed to Vonnegut, taken from the commencement address he made at MIT; the news spread like wildfire around the internet. Trouble was, Vonnegut has never spoken at MIT. (the real 1999 commencement address was made by Kofi Annan), and the lyrics came from a column in the Chicago Tribune.

Critical verdict

Graham Greene called Vonnegut "one of the best living American writers", and his huge and devoted fan base around the world wouldn't have it any other way. Widespread public recognition came with the ground-breaking semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse-Five, which welded the author's horrific experiences during the allied bombing of Dresden to a surreal, tragicomic sci-fi fatalism, but he had already honed his cosmic satire in the earlier Sirens Of Titan and Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut moved away from sci-fi but his humanism never left him; his "concern for society's more fallible specimens", as he puts it, shapes all his work, and he successfully mixes dark fatalism with both humour and hope.

Recommended works

Player Piano (1952), Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick (1976), Deadeye Dick (1985)


Eugene Debs, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Homer's Odyssey

Now read on

Thomas Pynchon, Joseph Heller


Slaughterhouse-Five (dir George Roy Hill, 1972); Mother Night (dir Keith Gordon, 1996). Breakfast Of Champions and Sirens Of Titan are in production.

Useful links and work online

Work online
· Excerpts from Cat's Cradle
· Drawings by Kurt Vonnegut
· Get a new middle name and new cousins (as per Slapstick)

· Wikipedia entry on Vonnegut

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

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Obituary: Kurt Vonnegut

Obituary: The author of Slaughterhouse-Five and one of America's greatest humanists dies at 84.

Phil Baker

13, Apr, 2007 @9:42 AM

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Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

The celebrated author of Slaugherhouse-Five has died in New York.

Sarah Crown and agencies

12, Apr, 2007 @11:47 AM

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Kurt Vonnegut: So it goes

Those three famous words from Slaughterhouse-Five hold the key to understanding the humanism that underpinned the late novelist's work, says Alex Clark.

Alex Clark

14, Apr, 2007 @11:18 PM

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My hero: Kurt Vonnegut by Alison Moore
'His dark stories are so full of love and acceptance, as well as wit'

Alison Moore

05, Oct, 2012 @9:55 PM

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Guardian Books podcast: Humour and Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's daughter Nanette rediscovers her father's funny side, and the creator of Bleak Expectations turns the radio hit into a novel

Presented by Claire Armitstead and produced by Tim Maby

23, Nov, 2012 @2:38 PM

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Kurt Vonnegut memorial library to open in Indianapolis

Centre in the city of Vonnegut's birth will display first editions, artwork and war medals – along with boxes of rejection letters

Alison Flood

19, Aug, 2010 @1:22 PM

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Kurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by Dan Wakefield – review

James Campbell on the difficult life of a master of fiction

James Campbell

18, Apr, 2013 @7:01 AM

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New Kurt Vonnegut stories due out this autumn

A collection of 14 unpublished stories by the much-loved writer will be published in November

Alison Flood

16, Apr, 2009 @10:46 AM

Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut - review
M John Harrison sees the best and worst of Kurt Vonnegut in a collection of early stories

M John Harrison

04, Dec, 2010 @12:05 AM

Dumbledore's death in the style of Kurt Vonnegut

This is a novel, and a fantasy at that. However many Harry Potters there are, none of them may be wizards. This story is not to be taken as a responsible guide to the Hogswarts School of Wizards and Witches, if there is such a place, or magic, of which I don't believe because I'm an atheist.

15, Jul, 2005 @1:54 PM