Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988), is the story of an Abstract Expressionist painter searching for his soul. The lack of soul is the missing ingredient of his paintings and the search for it is not a willing one. It is just one man’s life taking him from the USA to Europe and back, in both times of war and peace.
The resemblance to the fairy tale of Bluebeard is not very strong. In his old age, Rabo Karabekian has become the guard of a significant Abstract Expressionist paintings collection that he shows to visitors from all over the world. His old studio, placed in a potato barn, is locked and he tells everyone it will only be opened after his death.
Rabo Karabekian’s is an interesting story, combining his Armenian roots and tales of old and never forgiven deceits, with art, love, the war and best friends who sometimes kill themselves or go crazy. Although he doesn’t give that impression, he is a devious character who has plotted a whole plan to get his sons who hate him to change their last name back to Karabekian.
A light yet complex read, Bluebeard is a book you should definitely put on your summer reading list.