‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut

I think Vonnegut shaped my sensibility as a teenage reader more than anyone – yay, Kilgore Trout! – and while I don’t believe he wrote a lot of short fiction later in his career, ‘Harrison Bergeron’ is an early masterpiece that has only grown more timely with time. If you took Vonnegut’s name off it and said it was written last week, no one would doubt it – at least thematically. His vision of a world where everyone must be equal would no doubt delight critics of so-called PC culture, though I can’t imagine the author himself had a lot of time for the politics of that particular crowd. I think the measure of the story’s value is how often images from it dance – clad in solid lead ballet slippers – through my brain, as the world that we live proves ever more Bergeron-ish.

First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct 1961, and collected in Welcome to the Monkey House, Delacourt, 1968 and the Collected Stories, Seven Stories Press, 2017

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