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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Penguin USA; Unabridged edition (April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143143158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143143154
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.1 x 14.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,399,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was a writer, lecturer and painter. He was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and studied biochemistry at Cornell University. During WWII, as a prisoner of war in Germany, he witnessed the destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers, an experience which inspired Slaughterhouse Five. First published in 1950, he went on to write fourteen novels, four plays, and three short story collections, in addition to countless works of short fiction and nonfiction. He died in 2007.

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Review

"Reads like a madcap Montaigne on acid" Metro "The most entertaining of American writers, almost a new Mark Twain...his words can travel on through time" Daily Mail "The wittiest man since Groucho Marx and the wisest since Karl Marx" The Times "Imbued with the innocence, empathy, and kindness that always seemed central to Vonnegut's sensibility" -- Lionel Shriver Financial Times "(Vonnegut) was a splendid preacher of American populism at its most radical...always funny and sometimes refreshingly vulgar" Independent --This text refers to the Digital Download edition.

Book Description

The first and only collection of unpublished works by Kurt Vonnegut since his death-a fitting tribute to the author, and an essential contribution to the discussion of war, peace and humanity's tendency toward violence. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Writing was a spiritual exercise for my father, the only thing he really believed in. Read the first page
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. Miller on 5 July 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This must now be the last collection of "new" stories which will be published by the legendary and unique Kurt Vonnegut. So, fans like me are going to buy it despite the lukewarm reviews (which sadly include this one).

Some of the stories read as if they've been kicking around as drafts since Kurt started off his career submitting magazine stories in the fifties, and I'm afraid it becomes pretty obvious why they were not published during his lifetime.

There are some treats for aficionados though: son Mark, the subject of much comment throughout his Father's works, gets his say with an affectionate but unsentimental introduction; there is a reproduction of Kurt's letter home to his family from his time as a POW (how we've benefited from that experience over the years); and there are strains of vintage Vonnegut in the title story.

Ultimately, though, this feels like a last pressing long after the grapes have lost their flavour. Fans will feel his powers faintly showing through, but this would be no collection for anyone new to his work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
In this book, Kurt Vonnegut returns to his lifelong obsession: the bombing of the German city of Dresdner at the end of World War II. In `Wailing Shall be in the Streets': `boys, you killed an appalling lot of women and children. Wholesale bombing of civilian populations was blasphemous. The sickening truth is that for all the sublimity of the cause for which we fought, we surely created a Belsen of our own.'

US
He was fed up with US governmental policies: `that all that money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries.' (Introduction by his son, Mark)
He didn't have a great opinion about his white compatriots: `the most splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizen have maintained their dignity and self-respect, despite their having been treated by white Americans simply because of their skin color.' (`At Clower Hall, Indianapolis')

The real nature of Man and `Civilization'
Nor was his vision of man in general very bright: inventions of still more sophisticated weapons (`Great Day'), attraction to violence (`Soft citizen of the American democracy learned to kick a man below the belt and make the bastard scream.'), the brutality of the powerful (`The Unicorn Trap), war profiteering (`Brighten Up'), use of secret intelligence services ('Just You and Me, Sammy') or search for revenge (`The Commandant's Desk').
Ultimately, the Devil sits inside Man; Man is the Devil (`Armageddon in Retrospect').

His last published words summarize it all: `It was disgust with civilization'.

This book is a must read for all lovers of world literature and for all fans of the writer of such masterpieces as `Slaughterhouse Five' and `Mother Night'.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a collection of classic writings by Kurt Vonnegut. The short story nature of the book means that I did not enjoy this book as much as some of his others. This is down to personal preference though. The writing is as excellent as previous Vonnegut. A must if you like this author.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 57 reviews
105 of 119 people found the following review helpful
And so it goes...(sigh) 1 April 2008
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Vonnegut is an American treasure. He was the Mark Twain of my generation, and I'm confident that he'll continue to be read and admired by future ones. But not everything that even an author like Vonnegut writes needs to see the light of day. And if Vonnegut himself chose not to publish certain manuscripts during his lifetime, that sends off a pretty good signal.

Which brings us to Armageddon in Retrospect, a posthumous (one of many to come?) collection of twelve unpublished pieces related to war. (The entire collection is prefaced by Vonnegut's final speech, which after his death was read by his son Mark to the gathering that commissioned it. If it actually had been given by Vonnegut, it probably would've been hilarious; delivery is everything. But in print, it's a rather tedious litany of flat one-liners.) Many of the pieces are inspired by Vonnegut's World War II experience as a prisoner of war, the same one that birthed his incomparable Slaughterhouse-Five. But these stories, unlike the novel, are...well, at best mildly interesting and insightful. The only one that really measures up to the Vonnegut genius is the title piece, "Armageddon in Retrospect." Less good but still respectable are "Great Day" and "Happy Birthday, 1951." But other pieces in the collection, such as "Just You and Me, Sammy" and "Brighten Up" are just awful: mechanical in style, predictable in plot.

What does come across in these hitherto unpublished writings is the humanist Vonnegut's deep hatred of war. (In the collection's Introduction, son Mark tells us that Vonnegut became depressed and hopeless when the current war in Iraq broke out.) The quality of the stories anthologized here may be uneven, but their passionate indictment of what war does to the soldiers and civilians who live through it is itself eloquent.

But is it eloquent enough to warrant the publication of these pieces? I dunno. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree on that one. But I do hope that Vonnegut's literary executors will think long and hard before publishing every scribble he left behind. Even geniuses like Vonnegut had their bad writing days.

And by the way, Kurt: I miss ya.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
"When does all the hate end?" 9 April 2008
By Gregory Baird - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization."

Kurt Vonnegut was no stranger to getting his feelings out there in his fiction. Slaughterhouse-Five is the most obvious example, using protagonist Billy Pilgrim's experience as a survivor of the horrific bombing of Dresden as a stand-in for Vonnegut himself, who was a prisoner of war during that life-altering event. Being present for that atrocity forever scarred Vonnegut's perception of humanity, and the repercussions can be felt whenever you pick up one of his books. Truly, he was a man with a complicated, tortured perspective on the rest of the world. He had seen humanity at its worst, yet still seemed to believe that it was possible for man to redeem himself if he would just try. Yes, Vonnegut's canon is packed with the disgust for civilization that he mentions in the above quote, but it is also marked by a starry-eyed hopefulness. William Golding, author of "Lord of the Flies," struck the same chords in his fiction, and he took home a Nobel Prize for his troubles.

"Armageddon in Retrospect" is a collection of previously unpublished works by Vonnegut, almost exclusively from the period of his life after he returned home from WWII and before he struck it big as a novelist. The exceptions are a speech that he was meant to deliver in Indianapolis in late April, 2007, but which had to be delivered by his son, Mark, instead after Vonnegut passed away earlier that same month, and a letter that he wrote to his family to explain what had happened to him since he had been taken prisoner (namely, that he had survived that dreadful firebombing in Dresden and would be returning home, although many of his compatriots had not been so lucky). The letter is nothing short of astonishing. Devoid of almost all emotion, it resonates powerfully - a truly timeless document, but one that is especially meaningful in a time when there are American soldiers overseas and fighting rages on. The speech, on the other hand, is notable as the last piece of writing the great Vonnegut would produce, but for anyone who read A Man Without a Country it will sound a little too familiar.

The bulk of "Armageddon" is comprised of short stories, and splendid stories they are, if a slight touch uneven. "Great Day," "The Unicorn Trap," and, unfortunately, the title story, "Armageddon in Retrospect," are stumbles, but only minor ones. Luckily, the good stories do more than their share to balance things out. With two exceptions, all of the stories deal directly with the wages of war and the soldiers who survive the ordeal. All of them examine the inherent corruptibility of man, and the things some people are willing to do to survive. More than one story features a character who cozies up to his enemy in order to make his situation more comfortable, and uses that position to exploit his comrades in POW camp. The best of the bunch, "Happy Birthday, 1951," is a poignant look at an older man who is trying to teach a young boy the value of peace, but who cannot compete with the glamorous appeal of tanks and guns to sway the boy's interests.

"Armageddon in Retrospect" feels like the most personal of Vonnegut's works on the market, perhaps because in its twists and turns you can feel the personal struggle of its author to reconcile what he has seen of the realities of mankind's present and past with what he hopes is in store for the future. If at times he angrily remarks "When does all the hate end? Never," he also has the power to envision a soldier who has just arrived in Europe, untainted by the fighting that had gone on, who singlehandedly restores the faith of a cabinet-maker whose experiences during his city's occupation have left him with little hope for the future. If we could just get away from war's influence, Vonnegut seems to be arguing, we might just be all right in the end.

With all of these weighty contemplations, it is a wonder that Vonnegut was able to hold on to his whimsical touch, but thankfully he never lost that attribute. Everything he wrote was imbued with a keen eye for the absurd, the fantastic, and the satiric. And for evidence of this look no further than the author photo gazing out from the back of the book's jacket, featuring an aged Vonnegut waving to the camera with a goofy expression on his face (half serious, half amused), framed by voluminous flowers and a garden gnome riding a pig (seriously). It amuses me, but it is also rather sad, because in the context of this book's publication it feels like he is waving goodbye. I never met Kurt Vonnegut, but I will miss him terribly. At least, with "A Man without a Country" and "Armageddon in Retrospect" the great author got the goodbye he deserved.

Grade: A

PS My personal favorite when it comes to Vonnegut is Mother Night, so be sure to snap that one up post haste.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Blasphemous 5 Nov. 2009
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this book, Kurt Vonnegut returns to his lifelong obsession: the bombing of the German city of Dresden at the end of World War II. In `Wailing Shall be in the Streets': `boys, you killed an appalling lot of women and children. Wholesale bombing of civilian populations was blasphemous. The sickening truth is that for all the sublimity of the cause for which we fought, we surely created a Belsen of our own.'

US
He was fed up with US governmental policies: `that all that money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries.' (Introduction by his son, Mark)
He didn't have a great opinion about his white compatriots: `the most splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizen have maintained their dignity and self-respect, despite their having been treated by white Americans simply because of their skin color.' (`At Clower Hall, Indianapolis')

The real nature of Man and `Civilization'
Nor was his vision of man in general very bright: inventions of still more sophisticated weapons (`Great Day'), attraction to violence (`Soft citizen of the American democracy learned to kick a man below the belt and make the [...]scream.'), the brutality of the powerful (`The Unicorn Trap), war profiteering (`Brighten Up'), use of secret intelligence services ('Just You and Me, Sammy') or search for revenge (`The Commandant's Desk').
Ultimately, the Devil sits inside Man; Man is the Devil (`Armageddon in Retrospect').

His last published words summarize it all: `It was disgust with civilization'.

This book is a must read for all lovers of world literature and for all fans of the writer of such masterpieces as `Slaughterhouse Five' and `Mother Night'.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Setting Up The Fall, Vonnegut-style 21 Aug. 2008
By Betty - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Made In Hero: The War for Soap

Maybe some subjects are difficult to talk about without a dose of juvenile humor. Talk about honestly, anyway. For Kurt Vonnegut, one of those subjects was war. He seemed to feel that war was meaningless, although writing about it wasn't. His son Mark observed, "The reader's time and attention were sacred to him."

As a tribute to the legacy of Kurt Vonnegut, this volume of previously unpublished writings is bittersweet. It begins with Kurt's army repatriation letter, addressed to his family from a processing station at the end of WWII, which begins "Dear people." It goes on to explain what he'd been up to in the prior months as a POW in the custody of Germans. We can see that even at age 22, Kurt Vonnegut had the deadpan delivery and dark humor of the man who was destined to invent Billy Pilgrim and the Planet Tralfalmadore. We can see the sadness, too.

In "Great Day," the narrator is a green recruit in a futuristic Army of the World. For every manic order barked at him by the burly sergeant, the recruit replies "I done it." Repeated often enough, the phrase becomes a chorus, and the story a song. In this way, "So it goes," became the anthem of a generation of readers who grew up on SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. It's a Vonnegutian trademark.

A few stories are feats of Vonnegutian magic realism-a unique mix of grit, war and the surreal. A nice example is "Happy Birthday, 1951" -a satire on the human fascination with war and its hardware. In a quasi-post Apocalyptic setting, an old man and a boy survive in a subterranean shelter beneath the rubble of a bombed and occupied city (which could be Dresden, could be anywhere). The old man picks tomorrow as the day to celebrate the boy's birthday (the actual date being unknown). For a gift, he builds a cart from scrap tires he managed to scavenge. The pair display the sort of ragamuffin innocence often found in survivors. The combination is not merely affable and idyllic-but deceptive and ominous.

Many of the stories in this volume are disturbing. Vonnegut knows how to set up the fall, and willingly, we go there. If the point of fiction is to create alternative universes, Vonnegut makes frightening ones. But they have a Vonnegutian redemption, too, so much that we like them better than the actual worlds we live in.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Lucky Find 2 May 2008
By Benjamin Hamilton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I saw this at a bookstore and was surprised to see a "new" Vonnegut book. He is a fantastic writer and this book is no exception. The reason for four stars rather than five is that some of the stories are a little "rough" (you've been pitching that all night). I can see why some were not published previously. However, there are some in the book that are outstanding. If you like Vonnegut, you'll love this book. If you are a first time reader of him I would start with one of his other books first.
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