Bluebeard (novel)

Bluebeard (novel)

Infobox Book
name = Bluebeard
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (hardcover)
author = Kurt Vonnegut
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Delacorte Press
release_date = 1987
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 336 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-385-29590-1
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988)" is a 1987 novel by best-selling author Kurt Vonnegut. It is told as a first person narrative and describes the late years of fictional Abstract Expressionist painter Rabo Karabekian, who first appeared, rather briefly, in "Breakfast of Champions". Circumstances of the novel bear rough resemblance to the fairy tale of Bluebeard popularized by Charles Perrault. Karabekian mentions this relationship several times during the novel.

Plot summary

At the opening of the book, the narrator, Rabo Karabekian, apologizes to the arriving guests: "I promised you an autobiography, but something went wrong in the kitchen..." He describes himself as a museum guard who answers questions from visitors coming to see his priceless collected art. He shares the lonely home with his live-in servants and Paul Slazinger, a wounded World War II veteran.

One afternoon, Circe Berman wanders onto Karabekian's private beach. When he reaches out to greet her, she catches him by surprise with the forward statement "Tell me how your parents died." He tells her the story and proceeds to invite her back to his home for a drink. After a drink and supper, Karabekian invites her to stay with him, as Paul Slazinger does. After a time, he begins to find her charm "manipulative", as she typically gets her way. Mrs. Berman does not respect his abstract art collection, including works by Jackson Pollock. She explores every inch of Karabekian's home, constantly asking him questions. The only place that is off-limits to her is the potato barn.

The potato barn is the home of Karabekian's studio and holds his "secret". The barn has no windows, and Karabekian has gone through the trouble of nailing one end shut and immobilizing the other with six padlocks. The secret of the potato barn has enticed collectors to make outrageous offers and to raise suspicions of stolen masterpieces. It is to remain locked until after Karabekian passes away.

Characters in "Bluebeard"

*Rabo Karabekian — Karabekian is a 71-year-old, one-eyed, Armenian immigrant painter. He lives in 19-room house on the waterfront of East Hampton, Long Island, which he inherited from his second wife Edith.

*Circe Berman - Circe selects Karabekian's home as a place to research and write about working-class adolescents living with multi-millionaires. While living there she more or less takes charge of Karabekian's life and tells him to start writing an autobiography, which he does. After she impulsively renovates Karabekian's foyer without his permission--removing many of the things Karabekian's dead wife had used to decorate it in doing so--the two get into a heated argument which results in her departure, although she soon returns and is accepted back. This is the most notable example of Circe's disregard for other people's privacy and personal space. Although Rabo does most of the things she wants him to, he will not tell her what is in the potato barn no matter how much she pressures him to do so. She is a well-published novelist under the pen name "Polly Madison." Her novels, although very popular, are criticized for tainting the world's youth.

*Paul Slazinger - Slazinger is a poor, wounded World War II veteran. Though he owns his own home, he stays with Karabekian and eats from his kitchen. He refuses permanent residence on the grounds that "he can only write at home". He has had 11 novels published, but is not in the league of Circe Berman.

*Dan Gregory - Originally named Dan Gregorian before moving to America and changing his name. A magazine article estimated him to be the highest-paid artist in American history. That he is Armenian like Rabo's family causes Rabo's mother to believe he is a great man, an example of an Armenian who has become a success in America. She insists that her son write to "Gregorian", as she calls him, to ask for an apprenticeship. Karabekian became "Gregorian's" apprentice at the age of 17.He is extremely pro-fascist and is obsessed with Benito Mussolini, whom he greatly admires. His high opinion of Mussolini results in him getting into arguments with such men as W.C. Fields and Al Jolson, who subsequently refuse to associate with him. He eventually goes to Italy to work directly for Mussolini during the Second World War. He is accepted by Mussolini, who welcomes the public support of such a famous artist, but is finally killed in battle by British troops.

*Marilee Kemp - Marilee was Dan Gregory's mistress, who persuaded Gregory to take Karabekian as his apprentice. Through a series of events she becomes a rich Countess in Italy.

*Edith Taft - Edith was Karabekian's second wife of 20 years.

*Dorothy Roy - Dorothy is Karabekian's first wife. She left with their 2 boys, Terry and Henri.

*Rabo's Parents - Karabekian's parents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide who were then tricked by a con man into buying a fake deed for a house in San Ignacio, California, where they moved in order to create a better life. His father, who was a teacher in Turkey, ends up becoming a cobbler when they reach their new home. When the Great Depression hits the family falls on very hard times.

*Allison White - She is Karabekian's live-in cook, though he never refers to her as anything besides that until she becomes upset with him for never using her name. She has a daughter Celeste, who also lives with them.

=Paintings=In the novel several of Karabekian's paintings are described in detail. The first is a photo-realistic painting of Dan Gregory's studio. The second is an abstract painting of a lost Arctic explorer and a charging polar bear. It consists of a white back ground with two strips of tape, one white, one orange. The third painting is of six deer and a hunter, titled "Hungarian Rhapsody Number Six" which later fell apart in storage at the Guggenheim Museum. It is represented with a greenish-orange background with six brown strips of tape for the deer on one side, and one strip of red tape on the opposite side for the hunter. His most famous which once hung in the lobby of GEFFCo headquarters on Park Avenue is titled "Windsor Blue Number Seventeen." The entire painting consisting of eight 8X8 panels hung side by side displays nothing but the paint by Sateen Dura-Luxe in the shade of the title of the work. The painting however literally fell apart when the Sateen Dura-Luxe began to shred itself from the canvas upon which it was painted becoming Rabo Karabekian's biggest embarrassment as an abstract expressionist. These very panels upon which Windsor Blue used to cover fully became the canvases Karabekian would prime back to pure white and use for his last work locked within his potato barn.

The last painting is the secret in the potato barn. The painting is an enormous photo-realistic picture of Karabekian's experience of World War Two where he and five-thousand other prisoners of war, gypsies, and concentration camp victims were dumped in a valley when the German forces realized that the war was lost. The painting, which becomes enormously successful as a tourist attraction, is meant to be the only painting that Karabekian created which contained "soul".


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