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Bluebeard: The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988) [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Bluebeard, published in 1987, is Vonnegut's meditation on art, artists, surrealism, and disaster. Meet Rabo Karabekian, a moderately successful surrealist painter, who we meet late in life and see struggling (like all of Vonnegut's key characters), with the dregs of unresolved pain and the consequences of brutality. Loosely based on the legend of Bluebeard (best realized in Bela Bartok's one-act opera), the novel follows Karabekian through the last events in his life that is heavy with women, painting, artistic ambition, artistic fraudulence, and as of yet unknown consequence.

Vonnegut's intention here is not so much satirical (although the contemporary art scene would be easy enough to deconstruct), nor is it documentary (although Karabekian does carry elements of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko). Instead, Vonnegut is using art for the same purpose he used science fiction cliches in Slaughterhouse-Five; as a filter through which he can illuminate the savagery, cruelty, and the essentially comic misdirection of human existence.

Readers will recognize familiar Vonnegut character types and archetypes as they drift in and out through the background; meanwhile, Karabekian, betrayed and betrayer, sinks through a bottomless haze of recollection. Like most of Vonnegut's late works, this is both science fiction and cruel contemporary realism at once, using science fiction as metaphor for human damage as well as failure to perceive. Readers will find that Vonnegut's protagonists can never really clarify for us whether they are ultimately unwitting victims or simple barbarians, leaving it up to the reader to determine in which genre this book really fits, if any at all.


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century. Vonnegut's audience increased steadily since his first five pieces in the 1950s and grew from there. His 1968 novel Slaughterhouse-Five has become a canonic war novel with Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to form the truest and darkest of what came from World War II.

Vonnegut began his career as a science fiction writer, and his early novels--Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan--were categorized as such even as they appealed to an audience far beyond the reach of the category. In the 1960s, Vonnegut became closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation, a writer on that side, so to speak.

Now that Vonnegut's work has been studied as a large body of work, it has been more deeply understood and unified. There is a consistency to his satirical insight, humor and anger which makes his work so synergistic. It seems clear that the more of Vonnegut's work you read, the more it resonates and the more you wish to read. Scholars believe that Vonnegut's reputation (like Mark Twain's) will grow steadily through the decades as his work continues to increase in relevance and new connections are formed, new insights made.


Author Kurt Vonnegut is considered by most to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His books Slaughterhouse-Five (named after Vonnegut's World War II POW experience) and Cat's Cradle are considered among his top works. RosettaBooks offers here a complete range of Vonnegut's work, including his first novel (Player Piano, 1952) for readers familiar with Vonnegut's work as well as newcomers.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Vonnegut rounds up several familiar themes and character types for his 13th novel: genocide, the surreality of the modern world, fluid interplay of the past and present, and the less-than-heroic figure taking center stage to tell his story. Here he elevates to narrator a minor character from Breakfast of Champions , wounded World War II veteran and abstract painter Rabo Karabekian. At the urging of enchantress-as-bully Circe Berman, Karabekian writes his "hoax autobiography." Vonnegut uses the tale to satirize art movements and the art-as-investment mind-set and to explore the shifting shape of reality. Although not among his best novels, Bluebeard is a good one and features liberal doses of his off-balance humor. Recommended. A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“Ranks with Vonnegut’s best and goes one step beyond . . . joyous, soaring fiction.”—The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

“Vonnegut is at his edifying best.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Vonnegut is George Orwell, Dr. Caligari and Flash Gordon compounded into one writer . . . a zany but moral mad scientist. ”—Time

Product Details

  • File Size: 1079 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (August 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IHW8GY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,411 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his finest July 16, 2000
I've read lots of Vonnegut and frankly I thought this was one of his lesser works. Boy, was I wrong. Here we have Vonnegut at his most focused on a long time, tearing off page after page that will make you laugh and stop and think at the same time. The story is basically the autobiography of an obscure artist character in Breakfast of Champions, but here he turns Rabo into someone you might think is real, so does his humor and pain cascade off the page. He bounces back and forth between his past and his present at his mansion where he just wants to be left alone, in the great Vonnegut tradition (and he doesn't need time travel this time out), comparing and contrasting the worst moments of his life with the best and trying to figure out what it all means. To me, this is one of Vonnegut's most human novels, his sense of satire and wit are still apparent and sharp but the entire story isn't devoted to Vonnegut making some barbed point about us and society as a whole, it's there but there's more time put into having get to know Rabo has someone who might live down the street from us. I devoured this book and found myself satisified, even the long anticipated secret of what lies in the potato barn was well worth the suspense (and it really is), this is the most fun I've had with a Vonnegut book in long time. Probably one of his more obscure works, it deserves to be read along with his other classics. It may not reach those peaks but it comes darn close.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle typos August 11, 2010
By brian p
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
5 stars for the Vonnegut book. 1 star for the Kindle edition.

This Kindle book is absolutely loaded with typos from poorly scanned and edited OCR. They must have had an unpaid intern take care of it. It goes to show me just how little the publishers care about ebooks, and how they'd like to slow demand for what they think they can't get insane profits from. It wouldn't surprise me if they purposely do a horrible job with every ebook just to get people running back to their precious overpriced paperbacks and hardcovers.

Examples of typos:

"Tor what?"

He, cheat and steal

"J already have," she said.

Talk about realism]

--The author wrote "realism!" in italics so the OCR thinks an italics exclamation point is a bracket. Nobody changed it. How could they miss this stuff? It's not just misspellings but also lack of commas, quotation marks, and so on. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't on every couple of pages. The first few are no problem, nobody's perfect. But once they become a distraction, it really takes away from the reading experience.

The should at the very least have some respect for the late Mr Vonnegut and have an editor do a once over.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There was a moment of silence, and then..." September 30, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Rabo Karabekian was first introduced in "Breakfast of Champions", a minor character in a surreal story. Here he gets the full treatment, and comes off as another one of those great curmudgeon characters. Only in the hands of Vonnegut, he becomes much more. He is crotchety, bitter, cynical, and several steps from senility. But he still has a wonderful memory for his past, and Vonnegut creates for him a fictional autobiography that's fascinating and endearing. And a laugh riot.
Rabo has one eye. Rabo was an artist of astounding technical talent, yet helped form the Abstract Expressionist movement (along with his friends the fictional Terry Kitchen and the very real Jackson Pollock). Rabo has seen the best talents of his generation succumb to suicide and self-destruction, yet he is still kicking and screaming at 71. Rabo (guided by Vonnegut) is in the process of pouring his life onto the page, with the encouragement of a mysterious woman who has moved into his home.
Vonnegut's greatest accomplishment in the book is the building up of the surprise ending (What the heck is in the barn?) to the point where something astounding should happen, and then drawing up a scene where something astounding happens. It all lives up to the hype, which is a tough thing to do. But I never doubted my man Kurt for a second. He is one of my favourite writers -- for his pointed humour and his deceptively simple prose -- and this is one of his best books. He has managed to create a commentary on the history of war, art, Europe, America, and literature in the twentieth century, by gently leading the reader through a guided tour of one man's life.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut comes through again October 22, 1999
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Again, Vonnegut has come up with a work of literature that leaves the reader (or at least me) breathless and hungry for more of his brilliant work. In all honesty, the book did lose something partway through, and right up until the end I would have rated it only about a 3-1/2. But the ending of this book (as with Mother Night and other Vonnegut novels) was worth the entire book. The secret in the potato barn was incredible; it was everything I'd thought it would be, and more.
A superb book, definitely worth reading. It also made me realize (since this was one of the first Vonnegut books I'd read) how interconnected his books really are; Rabo dates back to "Breakfast of Champions," where the reader is almost compelled to dislike him. However, during the course of this book, not only did I end up liking Rabo, I found myself cheering for him, and even understanding him. A must-read for any Vonnegut fan, and even for those who don't have a Vonnegut fetish like I do. Brilliant.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars the very best of Vonnegut
Tied with Cat's Cradle for what is in my opinion, the very best of Vonnegut.
Published 16 days ago by DrCyCoe
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Vonnegut Great
A highly enjoyable read. Vonnegut creates highly developed, interesting, and unique characters that the reader oftentimes loves and hates simultaneously. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Joshua Gerry
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut at his best
This is the best book I've read in a long time. It's now my favorite Vonnegut. I wanted to go back and start it again the moment I was finished.
Published 18 days ago by Bargainhunterteacher
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth your time times 10
A great send up of the art community with actual real life details woven in.Vonnegut never fails to entertainwith his ironic view of modern life.
Published 22 days ago by a reader in MD
5.0 out of 5 stars cant go wrong with vonnegut
fifteen words minimum to describe this work? fifteen thousand would not do it adequate justice. Even if I was particularly literate.
Well just read Vonnegut, he is great. Read more
Published 24 days ago by dondeplume
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Vonnegut
I came to reading Kurt Vonnegut late in life and realized you need time and wisdom to "get" him. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Patricia L. Kett
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
An odd and quirky work. Just what you'd come to expect from Mr. Vonnegut. I really enjoyed the read and was certainly worth the time.
Published 1 month ago by Shawn Shell
3.0 out of 5 stars Only for the die hard fan
This isn't a bad one to check out at the library but I'd have to rank it as one of my least favorites by KV and I've read most of his books. Read more
Published 1 month ago by soundstudio
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read
Without a doubt, best book ever. Just finished reading it for the 4th time. The first time was in high school, 30+ years ago.Always learn something new.
Published 1 month ago by barbara mann
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabo is like Orphan Annie or Harry Potter.
I love the "Little Orphan Annie" scenario. Many of my favorite books have an insecure child finding love, self worth and security in a surrogate family. Read more
Published 2 months ago by simpson sherryway
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More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

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