The World of Kurt Vonnegut
Considered one of the most influential American novelists of the twentieth century, Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1922. He studied at the Universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1952, followed by numerous other works including Cat’s Cradle (1963), Welcome to the Monkey House (1968), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). During the Second World War, he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience that provided the setting for Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), his most famous work. Slaughterhouse-Five is the now-famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW who in the latter stage of his life has become "unstuck in time." He experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously. Pilgrim drifts through all events and history, sometimes deeply implicated, sometimes a witness. He is surrounded by Vonnegut's typically large cast of continuing characters (notably here, the hack science fiction writer Kilgore Trout and the alien Tralfamadorians who oversee his life and remind him constantly that there is no causation, no order, no motive to existence). The Modern Library included Slaughterhouse-Five on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century.