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Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

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Writer Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at 84 as a result of brain injuries suffered in a fall at his Manhattan home, news agencies report.

Vonnegut was born in 1922 in Indianapolis, the son of third-generation German-Americans. His first forays into writing came at high schol and university. During a spell at Cornell during 1941-2, he was involved in campus publication the Cornell Daily Sun, although the war intervened to cut short his academic career.

He enlisted in the US army, and was subsequently captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Moved to Germany, he survived the destruction of Dresden between 13-15 February 1945 by taking shelter with fellow POWs in underground meat store "Slaughterhouse 5". His experiences of the carnage wreaked by the allied airforces were later to heavily influence his work, notably his 1967 novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

His post-war wriiting career kicked off in earnest with the publication of a short story in Collier's in 1950. It subsequently included his first novel Player Piano (1960), Cat's Cradle (1963) and Breakfast Of Champions (1973).

Although many of his works contained science fiction elements, Vonnegut himself rejected the sci-fi tag. Time travel features as an experimental plot device in the celebrated Slaughterhouse-Five, possibly best remembered for the line "So it goes" - used repeatedly as an ironic dismissal of death and eagerly adopted by anti-Vietnam war protestors.

Vonnegut married twice - to childhood sweetheart Jane Marie Cox (divorced 1970), and photographer Jill Krementz. He had seven children: three with his first wife, three adopted from his sister Alice after she died of cancer and another adopted child, Lily.

His later life was marked by a self-confessed loss of the "compulsion to write" and an attempted suicide in 1984. He was a heavy smoker, and once quipped: "I'm suing a cigarette company because on the package they promised to kill me, and yet here I am."

Vonnegut came out of semi-retirement last year to publish A Man Without A Country (subtitled A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush's America). He said he'd drawn energy to pen the collection of essays from "my contempt for our president". ®

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