Infamous Writer Kurt Vonnegut Leaves the World Remembered

Kurt Vonnegut Biography
by Nick Dahl

Kurt Vonnegut was a writer in the 1940’s all the way up to as recently as 2007. He was a very influential American writer, in genres such as science fiction, black comedy, and satire. He was also the author of many great essays, which have now been put into great collections. He wrote all the way up until the day he died, always a great role model to all sorts of writers and celebrities today from Bill Bryson to Douglas Adams. Honorary head of the American Humanist Association and writer of such great books as “Slaughterhouse 5” and “Cat’s Cradle” this is a basic overview of his life and career.

Kurt Vonnegut was born on November 11, 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Kurt Vonnegut Sr. and Edith Lieber. His older brother was named Bernard Vonnegut who later grew up to discover artificial precipitation. With his grandfather and father in architecture, they wanted him to major in the study of architecture to take over his dad’s company, Vonnegut and Bohn. Not wishing to do so, he went to Shortridge High School. After completing his time there he decided to go to Cornell University, at which point he was majoring in chemistry, the following fall. Despite his classes being more in the sciences there he was also the Managing Editor of the school published newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun. Even though he was a decent student, Vonnegut decided that he would enlist in the army, instead of staying the course at Cornell University. The U.S. army then transferred him to Carnegie Institute of Technology and, after he finished that the University of Tennessee so that he could now major in Mechanical Engineering to assist him in his stay in the army.

Now being ready and trained properly to be in the army, Kurt was sent of to be in World War II. Upon arrival he was set up in the 423rd Infantry Regiment. After a few successful missions he and his crew went to the Battle of the Bulge. After the backup of Kurt’s regiment were cut off and ran away from the battlefield, they were alone and forced to fight. The 423rd regiment was captured and became prisoners of war, stuck in Dresden by the Nazi’s.

Because of his knowledge of how to speak German, Kurt was elected to become the leader of the POW’s. After taunting the guards about what was going to happen when they were saved he was beaten and was forced to resign from his position. They were then stored in the basement of an old slaughterhouse, which the Germans referred to as “Slaughterhouse Five”. This whole nightmarish experience was later the topic of his best selling novel “Slaughterhouse Five” and many other books that he wrote in his career. The Americans, not knowing of the prisoners being held there, bombed Dresden, the city where Kurt Vonnegut and his allies were being held. It was taken apart to rubble and almost all of the civilians died, but being trapped in the basement of a sturdy meat house, Kurt and his buddies survived. The Germans, needing someone to gather all of the dead bodies, put them to work breaking into buildings and taking away the corpses. Finally, after more suffering and torment the Red Army Troops saved him from capture. He was later awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery in the horrid situations he found himself.

After leaving the army he returned to school to get a degree so he could rebuild his life post World War II. He attended the University of Chicago while writing for a local newspaper, the “City News Bureau of Chicago”. He wasn’t given any big stories, just the ones to fill in the space between big ones. Some teachers were saying that he was not good enough and that he couldn’t make a living off of this. Continuing study for his school, he moved out to the city of Schenectady, New York. There he worked with General Electric because his brother worked in the same company and was able to get him a job.  In his spare time worked as a part-time volunteer fireman for the station right by his house.  After a while of not taking books Vonnegut had previously written for publication but would later on be publicized such as Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan. His school, the University of Chicago, accepted his book “Cat’s Cradle” and gave him the M.A. degree that he wanted in the year 1971.

Kurt Vonnegut very briefly worked with the magazine “Sports Illustrated”, where he got bored, goofed off, and quit his job. After considering very strongly quitting writing altogether, he was offered a job at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop. After taking it, he continued writing in his spare time and produced such great hits as “Slaughterhouse Five”. He then again moved to Narnstable, Massachusetts where he managed a Saab dealership. Kurt continued to write such novels as Deadeye Dick and Breakfast of Champions and, after a failed suicide attempt he continued and wrote many science fiction books. Many of his later books either had him incorporated into the book or a character, which was supposed to be him named Kilgore Trout. He would often have the characters talk to him, as thought they were saying how they didn’t like how the story was going. In 1997, after the publication of his book Timequake, Kurt said that he was retiring from writing fiction books. He wrote a few non-fiction books and then retired for good after teaching at Harvard University for a short spell. He passed away on April 11, 2010.