God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was a pessimistic optimist, a whimsical curmudgeon and a man who was able to laugh in the face tragedy. He passed away on Wednesday at the age of 84.

Vonnegut is one of only two authors who I’ve read all of their novels and he sensibility appealed to me from the first book I came across back in high school. He was sardonic and sarcastic and raged against the injustices of the world that he saw all around him. Despite the fact he thought that people were likely to be evil, cruel and stupid he still had the belief that there was also some essential good in them.

Reading Slaughterhouse-Five was the first time I truly understood the horrors of warfare, this from a kid who thought playing army was cool. His description of the Allied firebombing of Dresden, that levelled the city and killed up to 100,000 German civilians, let me know that humans are quite capable to murdering each other on a mass scale even without the help of nuclear weapons. (It was the ‘80s, that seemed kind of likely at the time.)

One of my favourite is his first work, Player Piano, about a future where everything is automated, to make life easy for the workingman. After putting themselves out of work they destroy the machines – giving themselves work rebuilding them. It was a warning against reliance on technology, a message many wouldn’t heed today let alone back in 1952.

My friend Mike and I saw him speak during university, a talk where he described himself as the Last Smoker. If he wanted to kill himself slowly he was going to and he didn’t see why that should be anyone’s concern. He was an iconoclast to the last and even though he was no longer writing, he will be missed.


  1. This is the first time a "celebrity" death has really had any impact on me whatsoever. And it's true, though he hadn't written in years, the fact that he'll never write again is a bit disheartening.

  2. I discovered Kurt Vonnegut in junior high and he has been one of my favourite authors ever since. I have to say that news of his death struck a pretty hard blow to me.

  3. If there is a good side to this it is that many more people will have now been exposed to Vonnegut and his legacy will live on.