Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr. vŏn´əgət [key]
1922–2007, American novelist, b. Indianapolis. After serving in World War II, he worked as a police reporter and wrote short stories for mainstream and science-fiction magazines, work the contributed to the development of the distinctive voice and wry black humor that mark his later fiction. Vonnegut's satirical, pessimistic, and yet morally urgent novels often portray the world as a place of cruelty and indifference and frequently protest the horrors of the 20th cent., as in the best-selling Slaughterhouse-Five
(1969; film, 1972), centered on the horrific firebombing of Dresden, which Vonnegut witnessed. His fiction spoke with particular forcefulness to the generation that came of age in the 1960s and 70s. Vonnegut's books frequently include elements of science fiction, featuring fantastic plots and sometimes involving such devices as trips in outer space, time faults, and apocalyptic destruction. Among his other novels are Player Piano
(1952), Mother Night
(1961; film, 1996), Cat's Cradle
(1963), God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
(1965), Breakfast of Champions
(1973; film, 1999), Deadeye Dick
(1987), and the novel-memoir Timequake
(1997). He also wrote short stories, plays, and essays, e.g., the collections Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
(1974), The Man without a Country
(2005), and the posthumously published Armageddon in Retrospect
See his semiautobiographical Fates Worse than Death (1991); his complete stories ed. by J. Klimkowitz and D. Wakefield (2017); W. R. Allen, ed., Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut (1988) and P. J. Reed and M. Leeds, Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays (1996); D. Wakefield, ed., Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (2012); biography by C. J. Shields (2011); studies by P. J. Reed (1972 and 1997), S. Schatt (1976), J. Lundquist (1977), J. Klinkowitz (1982, 2004, and 2009), R. Merrill, ed. (1990), L. Mustazza (1990 and 1994), W. R. Allen (1991), D. E. Morse (1992 and 2003), H. Bloom, ed. (2000), K. A. Boon, ed. (2001), T. F. Marvin (2002), J. Tomedi (2004), and T. F. Davis (2006); M. Leeds, The Vonnegut Encyclopedia (1995).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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