Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opened last week in Indianapolis, where Vonnegut was born in 1922 and lived until returning from World War II.

The library items on display range from the ordinary to the intergalactic, many of them donated by his children. They include the author’s typewriter and an unopened box of his Pall Mall cigarettes, alongside a painting devoted to the Tralfamadorians, the green aliens Mr. Vonnegut wrote about in books including “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Several of Mr. Vonnegut’s drawings are also displayed, including one of a gravestone that reads “Life is no way to treat an animal.”

11.22.2010Tagged with:    

Slaughterhouse Five

The excellent Letters of Note has a scan and transcript of the letter Kurt Vonnegut sent home in May 1945 to inform his family of his capture, imprisonment and survival of the firebombing of Dresden. As a prisoner of war during the bombing, he was held in an underground slaughterhouse known as Slaughterhouse Five, which would save his life and lend its name to his famous 1969 anti-war novel.

From the transcript:

It was our misfortune to have sadistic and fanatical guards. We were refused medical attention and clothing: We were given long hours at extremely hard labor. Our food ration was two-hundred-and-fifty grams of black bread and one pint of unseasoned potato soup each day. After desperately trying to improve our situation for two months and having been met with bland smiles I told the guards just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came. They beat me up a little. I was fired as group leader. Beatings were very small time: — one boy starved to death and the S3 Troops shot two for stealing food.

On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden — possibly the world’s most beautiful city. But not me.

After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.

Letter home from Kurt Vonnegut, 1945

(via 3 quarks daily)

One for the Good Guys

Dave Eggers has a review of the new collection of early, previously unpublished short stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Look at the Birdie, in the Times.

The 14 stories in “Look at the Birdie,” none of them afraid to entertain, dabble in whodunnitry, science fiction and commanding fables of good versus evil. Why these stories went unpublished is hard to answer. They’re polished, they’re relentlessly fun to read, and every last one of them comes to a neat and satisfying end.