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#FoylesFive: Kurt Vonnegut

11th April 2017 - Magdalena Gudmundsdottir

#FoylesFive: Kurt Vonnegut


This month marks the 10 year anniversary of writer Kurt Vonnegut's death. With his keen eye for social and political satire, wit and humanity, Vonnegut became a voice that resonated with readers across generations.

Although probably most famous for his books Slaughter House Five, Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut published 14 novels, 12 short story collections and a number of interviews, essays and speeches.

So here are some of Vonnegut's books that you might not be aware of but that you need to read.


Sirens of Titan

This book follows two characters Malachi Constant, the richest man in the world and Winston Niles Rumfoord who consists of pure energy and is only sometimes able to shape into a material form. As you can expect the twists and turns of the plot become as peculiar as they are interesting.

Vonnegut is a very quotable writer but I think with The Sirens of Titan he outdoes himself. Filled with pithy and insightful comments such as 'I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all' and 'His response was to fight it with the only weapons at hand, passive resistance and open displays of contempt.' With lines like that it is easy to see why The Sirens of Titan is many people's favourite. 


Slapstick, or, Lonesome No More 

Dr Wilbour Daffodil-II Swain is the former President of the United States who has taken to wearing a purple toga, living in the empire state building and saying hi ho, a lot. Personal and quite different to Vonnegut's other writing, Slapstick, or Lonesome No More is a post apocalyptic dark comedy that sometimes divides opinion but is definitely worth a read.


If This Isn't Nice, What Is? 

This book is a collection of speeches that Vonnegut made to graduating students at different universities. It is full of wisdom and wit and lacking in nonsense and cliché. This is the book I dive into when my feet need steadying and it has never let me down.


Welcome to the Monkey House and Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage 

As always with Kurt Vonnegut there are many genuine moments of laugh out loud humour amongst tragedy, struggle and pain. Look out for Harrison Bergeron and A Nazi City Mourned at Some Profit, writing has never been so sharp. This is a colossal collection of short stories and essays.



What if you had to live every moment of the last decade again but without any changes or improvement? Every good and bad moment has to be relived. Kilgore Trout returns in Vonnegut's final novel, where 2001 becomes 1991. In my opinion this is one of Vonnegut's best novels, beautifully written tragic yet hopeful, but if you have not read Vonnegut before this might not be the best book to start with, it is best appreciated by seasoned fans. 



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