Armageddon in Retrospect (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Kurt Vonnegut was unusual among American novelists for his frequent return, in his fiction, to an incident early in his life that profoundly affected him. Armageddon in Retrospect, the first planned posthumous collection of his unpublished works, is a remarkably fitting capstone on a career that stretched for more than fifty yearsfor not only does that recurring incident reappear here, but it provides the unifying thread for the entire volume.
The formative event took place near the end of World War II, in Dresden, Germany. Vonnegut, a private in the U.S. Army’s 106th Infantry Division, was captured by the Germans in mid-December, 1944, and imprisoned in Dresden, a city famed for its beauty where many noncombatant Germans sought safety. Two months after Vonnegut’s capture, he witnessed Dresden’s destruction by an Allied firebombing. As a surviving prisoner, he gained firsthand knowledge of the carnage, being assigned to a work crew disinterring victims, many of them women and children.
Vonnegut revisited this incident in several important works, most famously in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). Although the historical incident remained the same, from work to work, successive works were varied in their approaches to the theme of individual responsibility. For Vonnegut, an individual may act as if innocent and may...
(The entire section is 1558 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Booklist 104, no. 14 (March 15, 2008): 8.
The Boston Globe, April 13, 2008, p. C6.
The Hartford Courant, March 30, 2008, p. G4.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 3 (February 1, 2008): 141.
Library Journal 133, no. 7 (April 15, 2008): 85.
Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2008, p. R2.
The New York Times Book Review, May 4, 2008, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 8 (February 25, 2008): 66.
The Village Voice 53, no. 13 (March 26, 2008): 44.
(The entire section is 46 words.)