Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) was an American writer whose work is a brilliant mash-up of satire, science fiction, and dark humor. Among his most famous works are Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut was also a frequent social critic, pacifist and honorary president of the American Humanist Society.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, and attended Cornell University until he enlisted in the Army during World War II. While in the Army, he studied mechanical engineering before being shipped to the European theater. Vonnegut was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, and imprisoned at Dresden. It was there he witnessed the infamous firebombing of Dresden, experiences that formed much of Slaughterhouse-Five.
Vonnegut returned to the U.S. in 1945 and began working in various jobs, including that of a technical writer. On the verge of giving up his writing career in the early 1960s, Cat’s Cradle became a best seller. After 1976, he dropped the “Jr.” from his name, publishing simply as “Kurt Vonnegut.”
Slaughterhouse-Five is frequently listed among the best books of the 20th century. Much of his literature has strong anti-authoritarian themes, making them popular outside of science fiction circles. With the publication of Timequake in 1997, Vonnegut announced his retirement. He died in 2007 after falling down a flight of stairs in his home.