95 Fantastic Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

Kurt Vonnegut is one of the most popular American writers of all time and a favorite of mine. In his over fifty-year long career, he’s penned fourteen novels, a multitude of short stories, but also plays and essays.

While he’s most known for his sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, many of his other works are beloved by readers.

Kurt Vonnegut Photograph
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was one of the first American writers I read, and Slaughterhouse-Five was the first of his novels I read. Back then, I hadn’t read a lot of serious literature, but I instantly fell in love with Slaughterhouse-Five. It was a weird novel, probably one of the weirdest I’d read until then, but also one of the most interesting. It was Kurt Vonnegut’s ideas, themes, and thoughts. Most of all, however, it made me think about life.

Kurt Vonnegut’s works are full of dark wit and timeless wisdom. His words have not only inspired my own writing, but many others as well.

In this article, I want to present my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotes on life, love, happiness, writing and more.

Table of Contents

Best Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

Best Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”


“I admire anybody who finishes a work of art, no matter how awful it may be.”

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”


“I thought scientists were going to find out exactly how everything worked, and then make it work better. I fully expected that by the time I was twenty-one, some scientist, maybe my brother, would have taken a color photograph of God Almighty and sold it to Popular Mechanics magazine. Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.”


“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”


“In nonsense is strength”


“The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.”


“There is no order in the world around us, we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.”


“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”


“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Life

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes Life

“All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.”


“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”


“Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally, and if they would contribute mutually to each others’ welfare.”


“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”


“Don’t put one foot in your job and the other in your dream, Ed. Go ahead and quit, or resign yourself to this life. It’s just too much of a temptation for fate to split you right up the middle before you’ve made up your mind which way to go.”


“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”


“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.“


“If people insist on living as if there’s no tomorrow, there really won’t be one.”


“If you can do no good, at least do no harm.”


“Maturity, the way I understand it, is knowing what your limitations are.”


“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”


“So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’”


“So it goes.”


“That is my principal objection to life, I think: It is too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.”


“That’s what it was to be young—to be enthusiastic rather than envious about the good work other people could do.”


“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.”


“The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.”


“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting…but no good reason to ever hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive….it’s that part of an imbecile that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.”


“Until you die .. it’s all life.“


“We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.”


“We are what we imagine ourselves to be.”


“Time is liquid. One moment is no more important than any other and all moments quickly run away.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Society

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes Society

“Think of what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.”

“Because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs. So people pretend there is drama where there is none.”


“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”


“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”


“You meet saints everywhere. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.“

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Love

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes Love

“… uncritical love is the only real treasure.”


“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”


“It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”


“Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.”


“There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”


“They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Happiness

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes Happiness

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.“


“Anything can make me stop and look and wonder, and sometimes learn.”


“Hate, in the long run, is about as nourishing as cyanide.”


“Human beings will be happier – not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.”


“It’s a terrible waste to be happy and not notice it.”


“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”


“Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”


“That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Literature and Art

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes Literature Art

“Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn’t it such a relief to have somebody say that?”


“I am eternally grateful for my knack of finding in great books, some of them very funny books, reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else might be going on.”


“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”


“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.”


“Thank God for novelists. Thank God there are people willing to write everything down. Otherwise, so much would be forgotten.”


“The function of the artist is to make people like life better than they have before.”


“There is no shortage of wonderful writers. What we lack is a dependable mass of readers.”


“There is one other book, that can teach you everything you need to know about life… it’s The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but that’s not enough anymore.“

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Writing

Writing

“No art is possible without a dance with death.”

“All writers are going to have to learn more about science, because it’s such an interesting part of their environment.“


“Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.”


“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”


“Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”


“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”


“I paraphrase Aristotle: If you want to be comical, write about people to whom the audience can feel superior; if you want to be tragical, write about at least one person to whom the audience is bound to feel inferior, and no fair having human problems solved by dumb luck or heavenly intervention.”


“If you can’t write clearly, you probably don’t think nearly as well as you think you do.”


“I don’t plot my books rigidly, follow a preconceived structure. A novel mustn’t be a closed system – it’s a quest.“


“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”


“It was very lucky for me as a writer that I studied the physical sciences rather than English. I wrote for my own amusement. There was no kindly English professor to tell me for my own good how awful my writing really was. And there was no professor with the power to order me what to read, either.“

“No matter how wonderful a sentence is, if it doesn’t add new and useful information, it should be removed.”


“Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow – whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don’t show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.”


“One of the things that I tell beginning writers is this: If you describe a landscape, or a cityscape, or a seascape, always be sure to put a human figure somewhere in the scene. Why? Because readers are human beings, mostly interested in human beings. People are humanists. Most of them are humanists, that is.“


“Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.”


“Start [writing] as close to the end as possible.”


“Talent is extremely common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of the writer.”


“That is how you get to be a writer, incidentally: you feel somehow marginal, somehow slightly off-balance all the time.“


“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away – even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”


“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”


“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.”


“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”


“Writers can treat their mental illnesses every day.”

Deep Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

Deep Kurt Vonnegut Quotes


“All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”

“1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.”


“Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”


“Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”
“Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.”


“I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagiani was philosophical. He said it sure beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Viet Nam War.”


“Ideas or the lack of them can cause disease.”


“If we are wounded by an ugly idea, we must count it as part of the cost of freedom and, like American heroes in the days gone by, bravely carry on.”


“It may be that the most striking thing about members of my literary generation in retrospect will be that we were allowed to say absolutely anything without fear of punishment.“


“New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.”
“The machines are to practically everybody what the white men were to the Indians. People are finding that, because of the way the machines are changing the world, more and more of their old values don’t apply any more. People have no choice but to become second-rate machines themselves, or wards of the machines.”


“The world is full of people who are very clever at seeming much smarter than they really are.”

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