Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1973

Slaughterhouse-Five is burned in North Dakota

On this day in 1973, newspapers report the burning of 36 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Vonnegut’s book was a combination of real events and science fiction. His hero, Billy Pilgrim, was a World War II soldier who witnessed the firebombing of Dresden, as had Vonnegut himself. Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” and thereafter lives a double existence-one life on an alien planet where a resigned acceptance of inevitable doom expresses itself philosophically in the hopeless locution “And so it goes.” In his life on Earth, Pilgrim preaches the same philosophy. Some found the book’s pessimistic outlook and black humor unsuitable for school children.

Vonnegut was born on November 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Cornell and joined the Air Force during World War II. He was captured by Germans and held in Dresden, where he was forced to dig out dead and charred bodies in the aftermath of the city’s bombing. After the war, he studied anthropology at the University of Chicago and later wrote journalism and public relations material.

Vonnegut’s other novels, including Cat’s Cradle (1963), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Galapagos (1985), and others, did not generate as much controversy as Slaughterhouse-Five. His experimental writing style, combining the real, the absurd, the satiric, and the fanciful, attracted attention and made his books popular. Vonnegut is also a gifted graphic artist whose satirical sketches appear in some of his later novels, including Breakfast of Champions.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Sesame Street debuts

On this day in 1969, “Sesame Street,” a pioneering TV show that would teach generations of young children the alphabet and how to count, makes its broadcast debut. “Sesame Street,” with its memorable theme song (“Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street”), went on ...read more

Maryland gets a miracle in Miami

On November 10, 1984, at the Orange Bowl, the University of Maryland’s backup quarterback Frank Reich throws six touchdown passes against the University of Miami in the second half, completing an improbable comeback. The Terrapins, who had been losing 31-0 at the half, ended up ...read more

Henry Wirz hanged

On this day in 1865, Henry Wirz, a Swiss immigrant and the commander of Andersonville prison in Georgia, is hanged for the murder of soldiers incarcerated there during the Civil War. Wirz was born in Switzerland in 1823 andmoved to the United States in 1849. He lived in the ...read more

Birth of the U.S. Marine Corps

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress passes a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution, drafted by future U.S. president John Adams and adopted in ...read more

Germans take Vichy France

On this day in 1942, German troops occupy Vichy France, which had previously been free of an Axis military presence. Since July 1940, upon being invaded and defeated by Nazi German forces, the autonomous French state had been split into two regions. One was occupied by German ...read more