The defining moment of Mr. Vonnegut’s life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by Allied forces in 1945, an event he witnessed firsthand as a young prisoner of war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the raids, many of them burned to death or asphyxiated. “The firebombing of Dresden,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote, “was a work of art.” It was, he added, “a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany.”
His experience in Dresden was the basis of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was published in 1969 against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, racial unrest and cultural and social upheaval. The novel, wrote the critic Jerome Klinkowitz, “so perfectly caught America’s transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age.”
To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”
Several interviews and stories.Morning Edition, April 12, 2007 · Kurt Vonnegut Jr., the acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels, short stories, essays and plays, died in Manhattan Wednesday. He was 84.
Vonnegut's most famous work was an iconic novel born out of his memories of war and its absurdities. Vonnegut's mother killed herself when he was a young man leaving to serve in World War II. As a private in that war, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a former slaughterhouse in the ancient German city of Dresden. From there he stepped out into the hellish, surreal landscape that Dresden became after it was firebombed. It took him 25 years to turn that experience into Slaughterhouse-Five.
Morning Edition, September 10, 2003 · Today we conclude the three-part series, "Art Out of Cataclysm." NPR's Renee Montagne talks to writer Kurt Vonnegut about the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by British bombers towards the end of World War II. Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse Five, is based on his own experience as an eyewitness to the aftermath.
I particularly liked "Cat's Cradle", though I have read most of his output and enjoyed most everything.Kurt Vonnegut is one of the many authors in respect to whom I've felt the occasional flash of guilt for never having read a single book by.
Which one of his is most accessible and engaging?