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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Writer Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84
Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut was a cult figure with students in the 1960s and 1970s

One of the outstanding figures of modern US literature, Kurt Vonnegut, has died aged 84 in New York.

He became a cult figure among students in the 1960s and 1970s with his classics of US counterculture.

The pivotal moment of his life was the bombing of Dresden by allied forces in 1945. The experience informed his best-known work, Slaughterhouse Five.

He suffered brain injuries after a fall at his home in Manhattan and died on Wednesday, said his wife Jill Krementz.

Player Piano (1952)
The Sirens Of Titan (1959)
Cat's Cradle (1963)
Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
Breakfast Of Champions (1973)
Jailbird (1979)
Deadeye Dick (1982)
Timequake (1996)
Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1922 - a fourth-generation German-American.

He studied chemistry at New York's Cornell University before enlisting in the US Army during World War II.

After leaving the army, he reported for Chicago's City News bureau, then joined the public relations department of General Electric - a job he loathed.

His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951. The story, which describes a world in which machines have taken over, led to the author being dismissed as a science fiction writer.

Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut was initially seen as a science fiction author
Critical acclaim came 11 years later, in 1963, with the publication of Cat's Cradle.

The novel is a satire on modern science which, according to Vonnegut, promises progress while bringing about the end of the world.

In the story, Caribbean islanders adopt a new religion - Bokononism - after scientists create Ice-9, a crystal that turns water solid and eventually destroys all life on Earth.

But he will be best remembered for Slaughterhouse Five - which draws directly on Vonnegut's own experience of the firebombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II.

'Extraordinary Success'

As a young soldier, Vonnegut had been taken prisoner in the city, but survived with other PoWs by hiding in an underground meat locker.

After the bombing, which killed thousands, Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners were forced to dig corpses out of the rubble.

Kurt Vonnegut and Jill Krementz
Vonnegut married his second wife Jill Krementz in 1979
Slaughterhouse Five uses the bombing raid as a symbol of the cruelty and destructiveness of war down through the centuries.

It was published in 1969 against a background of anti-war protests in the US.

The New York Times book review called it "an extraordinary success," adding "it is a book we need to read, and to reread".

Vonnegut also wrote several plays, including Happy Birthday, Wanda June, as well as several works of non-fiction and collections of short stories

In a world with so many problems he inspired and gave hope to millions
Xavier Scott, Canada

Last year, he came out of semi-retirement to write a new book - A Man Without a Country - because of his "contempt" for current US President George W Bush.

Despite commercial success, Vonnegut battled with depression throughout his life and in 1984 he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, later joking that he had botched the job.

The author is survived by his wife, photographer Jill Krementz, their daughter and his six other children.

Obituary: Kurt Vonnegut
12 Apr 07 |  Entertainment
Kurt Vonnegut: Your memories
12 Apr 07 |  Have Your Say
Vonnegut writes of 'contempt' for Bush
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31 Jan 00 |  Entertainment

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