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Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
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Jan 06, 2011

bookshelves: novels

Bluebeard is one of Kurt Vonnegut’s lesser-known novels. It holds a relatively inconspicuous place in his catalogue behind an array of literary marvels including Slaughter-House Five, Cat’s Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, and Man Without a Country. This is entirely appropriate as Bluebeard lacks the affective impact of these other titles, but it is remarkably impressive for a secondary work. What would be a crowning achievement in another author’s career is a lesser light in Vonnegut’s. Then again, no other author could have produced Bluebeard. Vonnegut writes with a unique voice, a singular pathos.

The novel is set around and inside the recollections of decorated ex-WWII soldier, disgraced ex-abstract expressionist painter, multiple ex-husband, with one exception ex-friend, pretty much ex-father, and generally ex-everything. At seventy-one years old Armenian-American Rabo Karabekian seems to have as little left to offer life as life has left to offer him. He is fraught by the backhanded blessing of survival. It seems that poor Rabo is just waiting for the sun to set one last time. Bluebeard proceeds to reveal the capacity of the unexpected to shift perspective. Rabo finds deliverance in the formation of new friendships and remembrance of those long past.

Vonnegut’s voice is strikingly earnest in Bluebeard. His writing is arrestingly open, almost painfully exposed. This feels especially poignant in the “post-ironic age” of the twenty-first century. Vonnegut valuably demonstrates the enduring power of sincerity.
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