One of the most distinctive voices in American letters, Kurt Vonnegut crafted an eclectic library of some of the most savage, bleak and funny critiques of American society in the 20th century. His early adulthood shaped by a series of traumas, from the suicide of his mother through his trials as a prisoner of war after being captured by Germans during their Ardennes offensive late that year, Vonnegut survived to publish his first novel, <I>Player Piano</I>, in 1952, and in his ensuing short stories and books would reflect his unique means of coping with horror: darkly comic and hyperbolic satire of the atomic age and human self-importance in general. But the author would struggle personally, pigeonholed as a science-fiction specialist and wracked by self-doubt and depression, until a stint teaching at the University of Iowa where he began exploring more personal strains of prose. It would result in <I>Slaughterhouse-Five</I> (1969), a novel integrating stark accounts of his own trials as a POW surviving the firebombing of Dresden with a sci-fi-ish non-linear narrative, crystallizing his overriding image of man as a barely evolved primate incapable of ascertaining any real context to his existence. Establishing himself as the most relentlessly iconoclastic voice of his literary generation, Vonnegut would be the subject of book-bannings by the conservatives he often lampooned and became an unflinching defender of progressive causes, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, the honorary president of the American Humanist Association and a venomous critic of American foreign policy from Vietnam to Iraq. Vonnegut's works would go on to inspire countless pop cultural paeans and several movie adaptations, as he himself became one of the most revered men in literature, mentioned in the same breath as his hero Mark Twain and similarly leavening his dour, fatalist perspective of his species with his unstaunched flare for comedy. He died in 2007.