Farewell, Kilgore Trout… Kurt Vonnegut, 11/11/1922 – 04/11/2007
“Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.” Slaughterhouse Five, 1969
I had forgotten that line, and how funny I thought it was when I first read it some years ago. I read today that Kurt Vonnegut passed away yesterday from complications that came from a head injury from a fall. He was 84 years old. He was an advance scout for the American army during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, and was captured by the germans. He was put in a POW camp in Dresden and witnessed the firebombing of that city, ending up as one of only 7 American POWs to survive that. He and his comrades survived by hiding in an underground meat packing cellar named Slaughterhouse Five. Which, of course, we all know of.
Although Vonnegut himself and most readers consider Kilgore Trout an alter ego of Vonnegut, the character was apparently originally modelled after real life science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon. Interestingly enough, Vonnegut brought Kilgore in as his alter ego in the novel Timequake and had him die at 84 years old.
Being a reader who totally gets into individual characters (I have more series type books…) I always appreciated Vonnegut’s reintroduction of guys like Kilgore Trout and Eliot Rosewater. My girlfriend’s online bridge name is (I’m pretty sure) an adaptation of one of those guys.
I personally discovered Vonnegut late. I read Slaughterhouse Five for the first time in the mid 90’s as one of my roommates had it in their bookshelf, along with a few other of his novels. I ended up reading them all and becoming a bit of a fan. His dark humour, irony and deep cynicism all appealed to me. I was saddened this morning to read the news.
To quote Billy Pilgrim: So it goes…