15 Lesser-Known Kurt Vonnegut Facts That’ll Fascinate Literature Buffs

Published October 7, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017

Kurt Vonnegut Facts: A Slaughterhouse-Five opera actually exists

Created by German composer Hans-Jürgen von Bose, the Slaughterhouse-Five opera opened in 1996 at the Munich Opera Festival. At the time, however, Vonnegut expressed no interest in attending.

Mural Indianapolis

Flickr/warrenlynnA mural of Kurt Vonnegut on an Indianapolis building.

Cat’s Cradle retroactively earned him his Master’s degree

Even though Vonnegut dropped out of the University of Chicago, 20 years later he received a letter from the dean, who offered to use Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle as the college dropout’s missing dissertation in anthropology studies. So it goes, Vonnegut earned his M.A. 20 years after dropping out of school.

He always wrote by the light of a red rooster lamp

Whether intended to ward off writer’s block or remind him of home, Vonnegut always wrote by the light of his favorite lamp. Shaped like a rooster, Vonnegut took his lamp from Indianapolis all the way to the West Coast. Following Vonnegut’s death, the lamp returned to Indianapolis, where it now resides in his memorial library.

Ed Harris

Evan Agostini/Getty ImagesActor Ed Harris with Vonnegut.

His sister died of cancer two days after her husband’s death

1958 proved to be a particularly hard time for the Vonnegut family. Vonnegut’s sister, Alice, succumbed to cancer mere days after her husband, James Adams, died in a train accident. Vonnegut and his sister were very close; he described her as his “ideal reader.”

Vonnegut adopted his sister’s three children

After Alice’s death, Vonnegut and his wife adopted Alice and James’ three children, keeping a total of six kids in the Vonnegut home. The Vonnegut clan expanded once in more in the ’70s, when Vonnegut and his second wife, Jill, adopted a child together.

Pall Mall

Wikimedia CommonsVonnegut’s smoke of choice.


Enjoy these Kurt Vonnegut facts? Next, check out some fascinating Mary Shelley facts and some equally amazing Sylvia Plath facts.

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.