Kurt Vonnegut quotes

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Kurt Vonnegut

Birthdate: 11. November 1922
Date of death: 11. April 2007
Other names: Vonegut, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five .

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister's three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat's Cradle and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater . Vonnegut's breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book's anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death , and A Man Without a Country . After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut's son Mark published a compilation of his father's unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut's short fiction including five previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut's writing and humor.

Works

Player Piano
Player Piano
Kurt Vonnegut
Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus
Kurt Vonnegut
Mother Night
Mother Night
Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five
Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut
Bluebeard
Bluebeard
Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle
Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday
Kurt Vonnegut
Slapstick
Kurt Vonnegut
Jailbird
Jailbird
Kurt Vonnegut
Deadeye Dick
Deadeye Dick
Kurt Vonnegut
Galápagos
Galápagos
Kurt Vonnegut
Timequake
Timequake
Kurt Vonnegut
Bagombo Snuff Box
Bagombo Snuff Box
Kurt Vonnegut

„I thought scientists were going to find out exactly how everything worked, and then make it work better.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Bennington College address (1970)
Context: I thought scientists were going to find out exactly how everything worked, and then make it work better. I fully expected that by the time I was twenty-one, some scientist, maybe my brother, would have taken a color photograph of God Almighty — and sold it to Popular Mechanics magazine.
Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.

„I practice a disorganized religion.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book A Man Without a Country

A Man Without a Country (2005)
Context: I don't know about you, but I practice a disorganized religion. I belong to an unholy disorder. We call ourselves "Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment."

„I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can't believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Mother Night

Mother Night (1961)
Context: "You hate America, don't you?" she said.
"That would be as silly as loving it," I said. "It's impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn't interest me. It's no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can't believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will."

„Everything of mine which has been filmed so far has been one character short, and that character is me.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

"Preface"
Between Time and Timbuktu (1972)
Context: I have become an enthusiast for the printed word again. I have to be that, I now understand, because I want to be a character in all of my works. I can do that in print. In a movie, somehow, the author always vanishes. Everything of mine which has been filmed so far has been one character short, and that character is me.

„Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Bennington College address (1970)
Context: I thought scientists were going to find out exactly how everything worked, and then make it work better. I fully expected that by the time I was twenty-one, some scientist, maybe my brother, would have taken a color photograph of God Almighty — and sold it to Popular Mechanics magazine.
Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.

„Labor history was pornography of a sort in those days, and even more so in these days.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Jailbird

Source: Jailbird (1979), p. 12 (prologue)
Context: Labor history was pornography of a sort in those days, and even more so in these days. In public schools and in the homes of nice people it was and remains pretty much taboo to tell tales of labor's sufferings and derring-do.

„Mere opinions, in fact, were as likely to govern people's actions as hard evidence, and were subject to sudden reversals as hard evidence could never be.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Galápagos

Galápagos (1985)
Context: Mere opinions, in fact, were as likely to govern people's actions as hard evidence, and were subject to sudden reversals as hard evidence could never be. So the Galapagos Islands could be hell in one moment and heaven in the next, and Julius Caesar could be a statesman in one moment and a butcher in the next, and Ecuadorian paper money could be traded for food, shelter, and clothing in one moment and line the bottom of a birdcage in the next, and the universe could be created by God Almighty in one moment and by a big explosion in the next — and on and on.

„Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics, where, thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Cold Turkey (2004)
Context: I have to say this in defense of humankind: No matter in what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got there. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these crazy games going on, which could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the games that were already going on when you got here were love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf and girls’ basketball.
Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics, where, thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.

„Only nut cases want to be president.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Cold Turkey (2004)
Context: There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.

„War is now a form of TV entertainment“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

I Love You, Madame Librarian (2004)
Context: War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.

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„What we will be seeking … for the rest of our lives will be large, stable communities of like-minded people, which is to say relatives. They no longer exist.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Palm Sunday

"Thoughts of a Free Thinker", commencement address, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (26 May 1974)
Palm Sunday (1981)
Context: What we will be seeking … for the rest of our lives will be large, stable communities of like-minded people, which is to say relatives. They no longer exist. The lack of them is not only the main cause, but probably the only cause of our shapeless discontent in the midst of such prosperity.

„I used to think that science would save us, and science certainly tried. But we can't stand any more tremendous explosions, either for or against democracy.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Bennington College address (1970)
Context: We would be a lot safer if the Government would take its money out of science and put it into astrology and the reading of palms. I used to think that science would save us, and science certainly tried. But we can't stand any more tremendous explosions, either for or against democracy.

„I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

"Physicist, Purge Thyself" in the Chicago Tribune Magazine (22 June 1969)
Various interviews
Context: I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.

„I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

As quoted by James Lundquist in Kurt Vonnegut (1971)
Various interviews
Context: I was taught in the sixth grade that we had a standing army of just over a hundred thousand men and that the generals had nothing to say about what was done in Washington. I was taught to be proud of that and to pity Europe for having more than a million men under arms and spending all their money on airplanes and tanks. I simply never unlearned junior civics. I still believe in it. I got a very good grade.

„What had made me move through so many dead and pointless years was curiosity. Now even that flickered out.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Mother Night

Mother Night (1961)
Context: What froze me was the fact that I had absolutely no reason to move in any direction. What had made me move through so many dead and pointless years was curiosity. Now even that flickered out. <!-- (232)

„There's only one rule that I know of, babies — "God damn it, you've got to be kind."“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)
Context: Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — "God damn it, you've got to be kind."

„I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions (1973)
Context: I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that it had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.
As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.
Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their madeup tales.
And so on.
Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.
If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.
It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.

„I was on par with the Creator of the Universe there in the dark in the cocktail lounge. I shrunk the Universe to a ball exactly one light-year in diameter.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions (1973)
Context: I was on par with the Creator of the Universe there in the dark in the cocktail lounge. I shrunk the Universe to a ball exactly one light-year in diameter. I had it explode. I had it disperse itself again.
Ask me a question, any question. How old is the Universe? It is one half-second old, but the half-second has lasted one quintillion years so far. Who created it? Nobody created it. It has always been here.
What is time? It is a serpent which eats its tail, like this:
This is the snake which uncoiled itself long enough to offer Eve the apple, which looked like this:
What was the apple which Eve and Adam ate? It was the Creator of the Universe.
And so on.
Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes.

„When the excrement hit the air conditioner“

—  Kurt Vonnegut, book Hocus Pocus

Recurring phrase throughout many chapters
Hocus Pocus (1990)

„Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power.“

—  Kurt Vonnegut

Cold Turkey (2004)
Context: Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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