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Armageddon in Retrospect Paperback – April 7, 2009

4 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The first and only collection of unpublished works by Kurt Vonnegut since his death--a fitting tribute to the author, and an essential contribution to the discussion of war, peace, and humanity's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

Armageddon in Retrospect is a collection of twelve new and unpublished writings on war and peace. Imbued with Vonnegut's trademark rueful humor, the pieces range from a visceral nonfiction recollection of the destruction of Dresden during World War II--an essay that is as timely today as it was then--to a painfully funny short story about three Army privates and their fantasies of the perfect first meal upon returning home from war, to a darker, more poignant story about the impossibility of shielding our children from the temptations of violence. Also included are Vonnegut's last speech as well as an assortment of his artwork, and an introduction by the author's son, Mark Vonnegut. Armageddon in Retrospect says as much about the times in which we live as it does about the genius of the writer.

Read an Unreleased Kurt Vonnegut Story, "Guns Before Butter"

"Guns Before Butter," Kurt Vonnegut's story of hungry GIs held as prisoner of war in World War II in Dresden (a site of Vonnegut's best-known novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and his own wartime imprisonment), was unpublished until its inclusion in Armageddon in Retrospect. Read the complete story here.

Kurt Vonnegut Sketchbook

Click through on the images below to see samples of the artwork included in Armageddon in Retrospect:

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. When Kurt Vonnegut died in April 2007, the world lost a wry commentator on the human condition. Thanks to this collection of unpublished fiction and nonfiction, Vonnegut's voice returns full force. Introduced by his son, these writings dwell on war and peace, especially the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. The volume opens with a poignant 1945 letter from Pfc. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to his father in Indianapolis, presenting a vivid portrait of his harrowing escape from that city. The fiction, full of his characteristic humor, includes stories about time travel and the impossibility of peace in the world (Great Day) and, in the title piece, a kind of mock Paradise Lost, Dr. Lucifer Mephisto teaches his charges about the insidious nature of evil and the impossibility of good ever triumphing. In his final speech, Vonnegut lets go some of his zingers (jazz is safe sex of the highest order) and does what he always did best, tell the truth through jokes: And how should we behave during the Apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another, certainly. But we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot. And get a dog, if you don't already have one. So it goes. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425226891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425226896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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.
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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.'

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'.
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