Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Kurt Vonnegut  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction

Born: November 11, 1922 in Indiana

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Illinois Connection

*Vonnegut attended the University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a police reporter at the ''City News Bureau'' of Chicago

Biographical and Professional Information

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.He was born in Indianapolis, the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he served as an opinions section editor for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in World War II. He is a combat infantry veteran and holds a Purple Heart.After the war, he attended the University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a police reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He left Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York, in public relations for General Electric. He attributed his unadorned writing style to his reporting work.His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden, Germany, while a prisoner of war, would inform much of his work. This event would also form the core of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, the book that would make him a millionaire. This acerbic 200-page book is what most people mean when they describe a work as "Vonnegutian" in scope.Vonnegut is a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana's own Eugene V. Debs) and has recently done a print advertisement for the American Civil Liberties Union. He is also a notable world federalist.From 1970 to 2000, Vonnegut lived in an East Side Manhattan brownstone, with his wife, the renowned photographer Jill Krementz. On January 31, 2000, a fire destroyed the top story of his home. Vonnegut suffered smoke inhalation and was hospitalized in critical condition for four days. He survived, but his personal archives were destroyed, and after leaving the hospital he retired to Northampton, Massachusetts. He taught an advanced writing class at Smith College for a period in 2000.


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