11 of Kurt Vonnegut’s Most Memorable Quotes

Kurt Vonnegut.
Kurt Vonnegut. / Ulf Andersen/GettyImages

November 11, 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Slaughterhouse-Five author Kurt Vonnegut, who died in 2007 at the age of 84. But the words of the free-thinking, veteran skeptic, humanist humorist live on. So it goes.

1. “I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.” — As quoted in The Observer, 1987

2. “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” — From The Sirens of Titan

3. “It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that man can always solve his problems ... This is so untrue that it makes me want to cry—or laugh.” — From Conversations With Kurt Vonnegut

4. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” — From Mother Night

5. “Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.” — From Cat’s Cradle

6. “Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.” — From Breakfast of Champions

7. “I don’t know about you, but I practice a disorganized religion. I belong to an unholy disorder. We call ourselves ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment.’“ — From “Worship

8. “All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.” — From Timequake

9. “I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.” — From a “self-interview“ in The Paris Review

10. “There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.” — From The Sirens of Titan

11. “One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.” — From “Cold Turkey,” In These Times

A version of this story ran in 2014; it has been updated for 2022.