Kurt Vonnegut: Letters by Dan Wakefield (ed) - review by Jay Parini

Jay Parini

Antic Roadshow

Kurt Vonnegut: Letters


Vintage Classics 437pp £25

I only met Kurt Vonnegut once, but his vivid, impish glance spoke volumes. He was a humane and shrewd character who held bold opinions that he expressed with humour and grace throughout his life. There was an antic quality in him that animates his best fiction, including his masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). That ironic, episodic, experimental, time-travelling novel features Billy Pilgrim, a stand-in for the author, who had been a prisoner of war in Dresden during the infamous bombing raids that destroyed the once-beautiful city. It should come as no surprise that Vonnegut’s letters, collected in this generous volume by Dan Wakefield, offer plenty of good reading.

The book begins with a letter from a Red Cross camp in Le Havre in 1945, shortly after Private Vonnegut was released from a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. The final letter in the book dates from two months before his death in 2007. In between, we travel with Vonnegut as he

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