The Swedes, the Saab and Kurt Vonnegut

saab50th_400
 It was fifty years ago this week at the 1956 New York Auto Show that Saab was introduced in America. By then Cape Cod already knew Kurt Vonnegut.

New York Times drags out the Cape's most famous ex-pat to celebrate Saab
Made by trolls in Trollhatten, Sweden once said the bumper stickers

By Walter Brooks

It was fifty years ago that the Swedish aircraft manufacturer first foisted their automobiles on an unsuspecting American market, and one of Saab's first dealers was none other than Kurt "Welcome to the Monkey House" Vonnegut of Barnstable. 

In a front page story in Sunday's New York Times Automobile Section we read,

One man who eventually became a dealer was the author Kurt Vonnegut. In his recent book, "A Man Without a Country," Mr. Vonnegut recalls running Saab Cape Cod in West Barnstable, Mass. "I believe my failure as a dealer so long ago explains what would otherwise remain a deep mystery: why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for literature," he wrote. 

His customers were sometimes confused about the car's pedigree. "They make the best watches," one prospect told Mr. Vonnegut. "Why wouldn't they make the best cars, too?"

Of course, Mr. Vonnegut has said many less complimentary things about Saabs

In another Australian review of his latest book, he recently was quoted,

vonegut200During some particularly lean years, Vonnegut sold cars for a living - he ran a Saab dealership in Cape Cod. All the while, though, something was nagging away at him. "Occasionally I would say to myself, 'shit, you actually experienced the fire-bombing of Dresden, the biggest massacre in European history, in which 135,000 people were killed in one night - why don't you write about that?'

"I have always been a person totally without rank in this country. I've never won a prize or anything like that. Never held any position of authority. I am what I was in the Second World War, which is a private, First Class."

In the early 1960s Vonnegut was yet to be "discovered", although he already knew where he was, and that was sitting in a new 1959 Saab parked somewhere along Route 6-A near his home in Barnstable.

Why Vonnegut never got the Nobel Prize for Literature 

The Saab had a sign in the back window offering the car for sale, while the salesman-author sat in the front seat writing his short stories for the Saturday Evening Post on a yellow legal pad. The stories were later collected in a volume named "Welcome to the Monkey House." 

In another review this year, he blamed his failure to receive a Nobel Literary Prize on his lackluster salemanship for Saab on the Cape in 1960 saying, "The Swedes have long memories and short dicks." 

He also said, "Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us humans."

Kurt may be right. 

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