To say Kurt Vonnegut was a bit of an eccentric would be an understatement. The American author wasn't shy about incorporating weird and wacky sci-fi and fantasy elements into his witty, satirical novels.
With the release of a documentary about Kurt Vonnegut later this month, it's safe to say we'll learn a lot more about the beloved counterculture author. Until then, celebrate Kurt Vonnegut's life and work with these 5 fascinating facts.
1. Depression ran in Kurt Vonnegut's family
Kurt Vonnegut had a bit of a tragic life. His family went through various financial ups and downs which contributed to his mother's addiction, depression and eventual suicide.
In 1944, when a young Kurt Vonnegut returned home from military training to visit his mom on Mother's Day, he discovered she had overdosed on sleeping pills. Throughout the rest of his life, Vonnegut would also struggle with severe depression and survivor's guilt—brought on in part by his tragic upbringing and his experiences during WWII.
2. Slaughterhouse-Five is based on Vonnegut's POW experiences
Out of all his books, Kurt Vonnegut is perhaps most well-known for penning Slaughterhouse-Five. Published in 1969, decades after WWII, the novel became a bestseller and put Vonnegut on the map as one of the great American writers of his time.
During the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, Vonnegut was captured by German forces and forced to work long hours in terrible conditions, sleeping at night in an underground slaughterhouse. He incorporated these experiences into Slaughterhouse-Five, and fictionalized the horrors of what he went through.
3. Vonnegut inspired writers like Douglas Adams
You may have noticed the similarities between Kurt Vonnegut's witty, dark humor and Douglas Adams' (author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series) wildly funny work. In fact, Douglas Adams was a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, going so far as to describe him as 'superb' in a 1979 interview.
Douglas Adams' own satirical work was inspired by the writers he read as a young man, including Vonnegut. The author was in good company, because Adams grouped him in with other favorites like the author of Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy!
4. Kurt Vonnegut switched college majors multiple times
Kurt Vonnegut seemed to struggle with committing to a single major, as evidenced by his decision to switch from biochemistry, to mechanical engineering, to anthropology (all at different colleges). However, Vonnegut did manage to graduate with one of these degrees, albeit in a less-than-traditional way.
As a young man, Vonnegut dropped out of the University of Chicago because they refused to accept his dissertation. Years later, with the publication of Cat's Cradle, the university had a change of heart. They agreed to accept the novel as his dissertation, and Vonnegut received his masters in anthropology!
5. The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library looks after his legacy
Located in Kurt Vonnegut's birthplace, Indianapolis, Indiana, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library honors the author's many achievements. The library opened in 2010, three years after Vonnegut's death.
Not only can visitors get a peek at personal effects like Vonnegut's typewriter, family photos, and Purple Heart, but early rejection letters and signed copies of his books are on display too. The library has also taken up the fight against censorship, a cause Kurt Vonnegut firmly believed in, by giving out free copies of Slaughterhouse-Five to students whose schools have banned the book.
Which Kurt Vonnegut fact do you find the most interesting?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
And check out the trailer for Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, out November 19th!