• Bluebeard

  • The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988)
  • By: Kurt Vonnegut
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 7 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (711 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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, which are 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 clichés in Slaughterhouse-Five: as a filter through which he can illuminate the savagery, cruelty, and essentially comic misdirection of human existence.

Listeners 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.

Listeners 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 listener to determine in which genre this audiobook really fits, if any at all.

©1987 Kurt Vonnegut (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Bluebeard

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Kurt Vonnegut explores the arts

"What a fool I would have been to let self-respect interfere with my happiness!"
― Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard

A pseudo memoir of Rabo Karabekian a minor Abstract Expressionist whose art literally disappeared (thanks to a poor choice in paints). It is hard to relay what the book essentially is, but obviously it is an autobiography of an almost loner, a hermit with a roommate. He lives in his big house in the Hamptons among the art he bought cheap (Rothkos, Pollocks, etc) years ago. He is being bullied into writing his memoirs by Polly Madison, a writer of cheap blockbuster novels. At its heart, this novel is Vonnegut working his way through some of his previous big themes (war, isolation, humanism, pacifism) along with explorations of art, commerce, &c.

This isn't one of his better novels, but is firmly in the middle of the pack. I personally wish Vonnegut spent more time playing with the artistic canvas, but the sections he spent dealing with Rabo apprenticing under Dan Gregory (I get a N.C. Wyeth or Howard Pyle vibe), a very popular illustrator, is worth the entire cost of reading anything clunky in some of the other sections.

13 people found this helpful

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Amazing

Second best Vonnegut behind Breakfast of
Champions. Amazing all around. Performance only added to the enjoyment.

2 people found this helpful

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Perfect narrator

This narrator should do every vonnegut book. He nailed it. The book is excellent too.

2 people found this helpful

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If you love Vonnegut

Another great Vonnegut work delving into what makes us tick as human beings. He always seems to find the real.

2 people found this helpful

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Great

Great ending. Spectacular narration. One of Vonnegut’s best in my opinion. A must read for any Vonnegut fan (or anyone who suffers from being a tube-like soul stuck in the meat).

2 people found this helpful

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Grew on me

At first I was uncomfortable with this book. As it and I progressed, a change happened and I began to like it. In the end, I think it’s one of the best books Kurt did. I really enjoyed it. It lingered with me.....a long while. And so it goes.

2 people found this helpful

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Underrated great work

As a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan I was late to this book because it always appears quite low on any “best of“ list.

I am writing this review to hopefully encourage others coming from a similar place, perhaps feeling like they don’t need to read “another Vonnegut“ book if it’s not as good as the others.

Well I certainly cannot speak to the motivations of people who made those lists it strikes me that the feminine and feminist points of view central to this book contributed to its being underrated by critics.

All of the classic Vonnegut characteristics are here, wonderful dialogue, imaginative situations, biding social critique, and historical context. In addition we get one of the most satisfying endings to any Vonnegut book – and I have read all but three of them.

Whether you are a Vonnegut fan wondering if you should read just one more or someone new to his work this book is highly recommended and enjoyable. Even more so in these modern times when, thankfully, a feminist point of you is being taken more seriously in terms of societal consequences.


Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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I expected Vonnegut to be a difficult read

Some reviewers said this wasn't his best book. That may very well be the case but I certainly enjoyed it. Now I'm anxious to find out how one of his better books will read.

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Masterful

A profoundly american experience of wit and solidarity with the world at large, history at large. The best critique of mid century art on record.

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Still as great as I remember

Great book and great performance. I was wondering if it would hold up after 20 years and it did and the performance even made it better.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Priestley
  • 11-18-21

One of Kurt’s best.

Just finished listening, absolutely brilliant story and performance. Really thought provoking, excellent ending. Has to be up there with slaughter house 5.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-26-20

meh, not anything special.

interesting to see the topic of the armenian genocide being tackled. otherwise, no deep insights. i was looking forward to a criticism on abstract expressionism but nothing interesting was said about it

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 06-25-21

Magnificent

If I was forced to pick a favourite novel I think this might be it. I have read and listened to it several times and every time it leaves me smiling. I hadn’t heard this recording before but Mark Bramhall does a great job. It has a more conventional narrative than some Vonnegut’s books and I think it’s very accessible even to people who maybe haven’t liked everything that he did. It deals with interesting questions about art and life in general with a light touch and without telling you want to think. I have every intention of reading and listening to it again. A masterpiece.