“Love – PFC. Kurt Vonnegut, Infantry”

The highlight among literary autographs in our November 8 Autographs sale is a group of letters from Kurt Vonnegut, an American writer best known for his science-fiction infused anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five, to members of his family, largely from his time enlisted in the army during WWII.

The offering of 12 letters touched on various subjects covering the war, love, alcohol and art, and contain small drawings and doodles by a young Vonnegut.

The writings provide insight into his personality and add an important narrative to who Vonnegut was as a person, as well as how his time enlisted during the war was a formative experience that would dramatically affect his work.

 

On Love

 

The letter below was written by Vonnegut to his brother on July 8, 1944, and is adorned with a pencil sketch showing a cartoon bald eagle between the words “US” and “ARMY” above a ribbon with the motto, “Semper Confusis” a play on the U.S. Marne Corps’ motto Semper Fi (Always Faithful).

 

Vonnegut

Lot 356: Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters signed, to his family, including 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

 

 

Vonnegut

Lot 356: Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters signed, to his family, including 6 illustrated, US Army detail, 1930s-40s. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

 

Jane Marie Cox has just returned from Swarthmore College (second only to harvard) with a briefcase full of signed and sealed documents that declare to all who care to listen the she is one of the brightest damn people that they (Swathmore) have ever out over an academic obstacle course.

– Kurt Vonnegut to his brother on July 8, 1944. 

 

Vonnegut goes on to describe Ms. Cox’s love for a Naval Air Cadet, and bemoans the fact that he seemingly doesn’t stand a chance.

Vonnegut

Lot 356: Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters signed, to his family, including 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

 

Well, next chance I get I’m coming East to fall in love with one of your buddies, Bow. This shit shame and abuse must come to an end at once – : reamed, steamed and dry-cleaned.

– Kurt Vonnegut to his brother on July 8, 1944. 

 

Dear Folks

 

In the 1940s Vonnegut wrote to his parents discussing Tennessee, including a joking proposal for a new state flag and anthem, along with a “political cartoon” lamenting his post in Knoxville, a “bone-dry” town.

 

Vonnegut

Lot 356: Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters signed, to his family, including 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

 

An old guard State’s Rights man, I say let Tennessee secede from the Union if she wants to. I’ve done more than just dream: I’ve written them an anthem and designed a flag–two blivits rampant on a field of mauve. 

– Kurt Vonnegut to his parents during the 1940s. 

 

Dear Father

 

Written in his childlike hand, the earliest letter is addressed to Vonnegut’s father sometime during the early 1930s, while he was away on a business trip. The letter includes doodles by both young Vonnegut and his sister Alice.

 

Vonnegut

Lot 356: Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters signed, to his family, including 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.

 

I wrote this letter the day you left. I wrote this letter with ink. – A young Kurt Vonnegut to his father in the early 1930s. 

 

Vonnegut continued drawing and doodling past his early life and military service. A copy of Player Piano, featured in our November 13 19th & 20th Century Literature sale, is inscribed by the author with a self-portrait.

 

Vonnegut

Sale 1493, Lot 265: Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano, first edition signed by Vonnegut on the half-title with his self-portrait, London, 1953. Estimate $1,200 to $1,800.

 

For more in our November 8 sale, browse the full catalogue.