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Bluebeard: The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988) (English Edition) par [Vonnegut, Kurt]
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Bluebeard: The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988) (English Edition) Format Kindle

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Having written "The End" to this story of my life, I find it prudent to scamper back here to before the beginning, to my front door, so to speak, and to make this apology to arriving guests: "I promised you an autobiography, but something went wrong in the kitchen. It turns out to be a diary of this past troubled summer, too! We can always send out for pizzas if necessary. Come in, come in."

I am the erstwhile American painter Rabo Karabekian, a one-eyed man. I was born of immigrant parents in San Ignacio, California, in 1916. I begin this autobiography seventy-one years later. To those unfamiliar with the ancient mysteries of arithmetic, that makes this year 1987.

I was not born a cyclops. I was deprived of my left eye while commanding a platoon of Army Engineers, curiously enough artists of one sort or another in civilian life, in Luxembourg near the end of World War Two. We were specialists in camouflage, but at that time were fighting for our lifes as ordinary infantry. The unit was composed of artists, since it was the theory of someone in the Army that we would be especially good at camouflage.

And so we were! And we were! What hallucinations we gave the Germans as to what was dangerous to them behind our lines, and what was not. Yes, and we were allowed to live like artists, too, hilariously careless in matters of dress and military courtesy. We were never attached to a unit as quotidian as a division or even a corps. We were under orders which came directly from the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, which assigned us temporarily to this or that general, who had heard of our astonishing illusions. He was our patron for just a little while, permissive and fascinated and finally grateful.

Then off we went again.

Since I had joined the regular Army and become a lieutenant two years before the United States backed into the war, I might have attained the rank of lieutenant colonel at least by the end of the wear. But I refused all promotions beyond captain in order to remain with my happy family of thirty-six men. That was my first experience with a family that large. My second came after the war, when I found myself a friend and seeming peer of those American painters who have now entered art history as founders of the Abstract Expressionist school.

My mother and father had families bigger than those two of mine back in the Old World--and of course their relatives back there were blood relatives. They lost their blood relatives to a massacre by the Turkish Empire of about one million of its Armenian citizens, who were thought to be treacherous for two reasons: first because they were clever and educated, and second because so many of them had relatives on the other side of Turkey's border with its enemy, the Russian Empire.

It was an age of Empires. So is this one, not all that well disguised.

The German Empire, allied with the Turks, sent impassive military observers to evaluate this century's first genocide, a word which did not exist in any language then. The word is now understood everywhere to mean a carefully planned effort to kill every member, be it man, woman, or child, of a perceived subfamily of the human race.

The problems presented by such ambitious projects are purely industrial: how to kill that many big, resourceful animals cheaply and quickly, make sure that nobody gets away, and dispose of mountains of meat and bones afterwards. The Turks, in their pioneering effort, had neither the aptitude for really big business nor the specialized machinery required. The Germans would exhibit both par excellence only one quarter of a century later. The Turks simply took all the Armenians they could find in their homes or places of work or refreshment or play or worship or education or whatever, marched them out into the countryside, and kept them away from food and water and shelter, and shot and bashed them and so on until they all appeared to be dead. It was up to dogs and vultures and rodents and so on, and finally worms, to clean up the mess afterwards.

My mother, who wasn't yet my mother, only pretended to be dead among the corpses.

My father, who wasn't yet her husband, hid in the shit and piss of a privy behind the schoolhouse where he was a teacher when the soldiers came. The school day was over, and my father-to-be was all alone in the schoolhouse writing poetry, he told me one time. Then he heard the soldiers coming and understood what they meant to do. Father never saw or heard the actual killing. For him, the stillness of the village, of which he was the only inhabitant at nightfall, all covered with shit and piss, was his most terrible memory of the massacre.

Although my mother's memories from the Old World were more gruesome than my father's, since she was right there in the killing fields, she somehow managed to put the massacre behind her and find much to like in the United States, and to daydream about a family future here.

My father never did.

I am a widower. My wife, nee Edith Taft, who was my second such, died two years ago. She left me this nineteen-room house on the waterfront of East Hampton, Long Island, which had been in her Anglo-Saxon family from Cincinnati, Ohio, for three generations. Her ancestors surely never expected it to fall into the hands of a man with a name as exotic as Rabo Karabekian.

If they haunt this place, they do it with such Episcopalian good manners that no one has so far noticed them. If I were to come upon the spook of one of them on the grand staircase, and he or she indicated that I had no rights to this house, I would say this to him or her: "Blame the Statue of Liberty."

Dear Edith and I were happily married for twenty years. She was a grandniece of William Howard Taft, the twenty-seventh president of the United States and the tenth chief justice of the Supreme Court. She was the widow of a Cincinnati sportsman and investment banker named Richard Fairbanks, Jr., himself descended from Charles Warren Fairbanks, a United States senator from Indiana and then vice-president under Theodore Roosevelt.

We came to know each other long before her husband died when I persuaded her, and him, too, although this was her property, not his, to rent their unused potato barn to me for a studio. They had never been potato farmers, of course. They had simply bought land from a farmer next door, to the north, away from the beach, in order to keep it from being developed. With it had come the potato barn.

Edith and I did not come to know each other well until after her husband died and my first wife, Dorothy, and our two sons, Terry and Henri, moved out on me. I sold our house, which was in the village of Springs, six miles north of here, and made Edith's barn not only my studio but my home.

That improbable dwelling, incidentally, is invisible from the main house, where I am writing now.

Edith had no children by her first husband, and she was past childbearing when I transmogrified her from being Mrs. Richard Fairbanks, Jr., into being Mrs. Rabo Karabekian instead.

So we were a very tiny family indeed in this great big house, with its two tennis courts and swimming pool, and its carriage house and its potato barn--and its three hundred yards of private beach on the open Atlantic Ocean.

One might think that my two sons, Terry and Henri Karabekian, whom I named in honor of my closest friend, the late Terry Kitchen, and the artist Terry and I most envied, Henri Matisse, might enjoy coming here with their families. Terry has two sons of his own now. Henri has a daughter.

But they do not speak to me.

"So be it! So be it!" I cry in this manicured wilderness. "Who gives a damn!" Excuse this outburst.

Dear Edith, like all great Earth Mothers, was a multitude. Even when there were only the two of us and the servants here, she filled this Victorian ark with love and merriment and hands-on domesticity. As privileged as she had been all her life, she cooked with the cook, gardened with the gardener, did all our food shopping, fed the pets and birds, and made personal friends of wild rabbits and squirrels and raccoons.

But we used to have a lot of parties, too, and guests who sometimes stayed for weeks--her friends and relatives, mostly. I have already said how matters stood and stand with my own few blood relatives, alienated descendants all. As for my synthetic relatives in the Army: some were killed in the little battle in which I was taken prisoner, and which cost me one eye. Those who survived I have never seen or heard from since. It may be that they were not as fond of me as I was of them.

These things happen.

The members of my other big synthetic family, the Abstract Expressionists, are mostly dead now, having been killed by everything from mere old age to suicide. The few survivors, like my blood relatives, no longer speak to me.

"So be it! So be it!" I cry in this manicured wilderness. "Who gives a damn!" Excuse this outburst.

All of our servants quit soon after Edith died. They said it had simply become too lonely here. So I hired some new ones, paying them a great deal of money to put up with me and all the loneliness. When Edith was alive, and the house was alive, the gardener and the two maids and the cook all lived here. Now only the cook, and, as I say, a different cook, lives in, and has the entire servants' quarters on the third floor of the ell to herself and her fifteen-year-old daughter. She is a divorced woman, a native of East Hampton, about forty, I would say. Her daughter, Celeste, does no work for me, but simply lives here and eats my food, and entertains her loud and willfully ignorant friends on my tennis courts and in my swimming pool and on my private oceanfront.

She and her friends ignore me, as though I were a senile veteran from some forgotten war, daydreaming away what little remains of his life as a museum guard. Why should I be offended? This house, in addition to being a home, shelters what is the most important collection of Abstract Expressionist paintings still in private hands. Since I have done no useful work for decades, what else am I, really, but a museum guard?

And, just as a paid museum guard would have to do, I answer as best I can the question put to me by visitor after visitor, stated in various ways, of course: "What are these pictures supposed to mean?"

These paintings, which are about absolutely nothing but themselves, were my own property long before I married Edith. They are worth at least as much as all the real estate and stocks and bonds, including a one-quarter share in the Cincinnati Bengals professional football team, which Edith left to me. So I cannot be stigmatized as an American fortune-hunter.

I may have been a lousy painter, but what a collector I turned out to be!

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.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 338 pages
  • Editeur : RosettaBooks (21 août 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005IHW8GY
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x8f395828) étoiles sur 5 163 commentaires
73 internautes sur 76 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f2a97d4) étoiles sur 5 Kindle typos 11 août 2010
Par Dan - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
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.
63 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f2a9a20) étoiles sur 5 One of his finest 17 juillet 2000
Par Michael Battaglia - Publié sur
Format: Broché
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.
30 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f2a9c60) étoiles sur 5 "There was a moment of silence, and then..." 30 septembre 2000
Par Mike Stone - Publié sur
Format: Poche
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.
26 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f2a9fc0) étoiles sur 5 Vonnegut comes through again 23 octobre 1999
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
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.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8f2a9d74) étoiles sur 5 A Thrill for both my Meat and Soul! 2 avril 2006
Par Kilgore Trout - Publié sur
Format: Relié
While Breakfast of Champions remains my all time favorite, Bluebeard ranks a close second. The story is a witty and poignant autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, a WWII vet and artist friend of Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock. In a way that it seems only Vonnegut can, sad, depressing characters are interwoven with a satirical wit that produces a cunning commentary on American culture. Like most Vonnegut books, whenever I attempt to convey the plot to a friend (who is unaware of his writing style) they say something like, "oh - that sounds so depressing!" Yet, Vonnegut writes with a trenchant wit that digs below just the character's emotions, to the culture and influences that create such actions.

The most intriguing aspect of the plot is Vonnegut's satire on various art movements, as well as the art market. Rabo was initially trained by a horribly haughty painter who painted in a realist style. Upon returning home after WWII, Rabo rejected his tutor's style and became friends with Jackson Pollock and Terry Kitchen (who I had never heard of before, but googled and found that he was a fluxus artist-?). His actions caused his marriage to disintegrate and his two sons to disown him.

Similar to his personal life, his paintings, made out of Sateen Dura Luxe, also disintegrate and fall apart, thus destroying his artistic career. His paintings were solid layers of the Dura Luxe on canvas, with small pieces of tape added. While his career and personal life were in shambles, Rabo ended up a very wealthy man. In return for money, his artist friends gave him many of their paintings (which they considered worthless at the time). His enormous collection of Abstract Expressionist paintings was the largest in the world. At the time he is writing his autobiography, Rabo is an old man living alone in a big, empty house in Long Island. While he has given up painting, he has one big secret locked in the potatoe barn behind his house.

What makes the Abstract Expressionist works so famous and revered? While Rabo's abstract work, which he clearly has no attachment to, is shown in museums and art history classes, he admits that his most beloved painting will be adored only by the laymen and "common people." Created in a realistic style he says - "It isnt a painting at all! It's a tourist attraction! It's a World's Fair! It's a Disneyland!" Bluebeard satirizes this adoration of "famous" works, forcing you to question and ponder the various definitions of art, and how one work becomes more famous than another.

I absolutely loved when Rabo would talk about his "meat" vesus his soul. "My soul didn't know what kind of picture to paint, but my meat sure did."
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