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Bluebeard | Quotes


I am the erstwhile American painter Rabo Karabekian, a one-eyed man.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 1

Rabo introduces himself as the writer of the autobiography and identifies himself by his past as an artist and veteran with a war injury. His injury leaves him, like a cyclops, in many ways an angry hermit. His art career and war wound happened long ago, suggesting he feels he has outlived his purpose.


It was a postwar miracle that did me in.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 2

Rabo refers to the Sateen Dura-Luxe paint that he used to paint his well-known abstract expressionist works, the unexpected deterioration of which left the canvases blank after a couple of decades. The paint is a both a reminder of Rabo's failures as an artist and also of the absurdity of life.


I am Bluebeard, and my studio is my forbidden chamber as far as you're concerned.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 5

Rabo tells Circe that he, like Bluebeard in the tale for which the novel is named, is keeping his secret in a room from which she is forbidden. The secret is in the potato barn, which is the one place she cannot enter on the estate. Rabo's comment suggests that he has something to hide.


It's hard to believe how sick of war we used to be.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 8

Rabo reflects on how people used to be disgusted by the toll war had taken on the world and humanity after the World War I, in contrast to the commercialization of war in present day America, where it has become commonplace.


Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the ... radio ... television ... satellites ... and all that.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 9

Rabo explains how technology has made a broad spectrum of human talent obsolete. Moderate giftedness cannot compete against the very best humanity has to offer, which is widely available for all to view on their televisions and listen to on their radios.


Young people ... seemed to be trying to get through life with as little information as possible.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 10

Rabo complains to Circe and Slazinger that Celeste and her friends do not understand his historical references, nor do they seem interested in learning. Circe responds by saying that younger generations have different ways of learning what they need to know than the older generation, who simply accepted authoritarian systems of education.


It's the work of swindlers and lunatics and degenerates.

Dan Gregory, Chapter 17

Dan Gregory believes that modern art is like the Emperor's clothes. It is all show with no real power behind it. Because it is not realistic and representational, he devalues it and refuses to see it as art. To embrace modern art, which is in his opinion a farce, is to reject and be disloyal to him.


Never again would the canvas of life ... help me ... create a sexual masterpiece.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 21

Rabo claims that his first sexual experience, with Marilee, was a sexual masterpiece in which he needed to only paint the first stroke before the canvas, as it were, took over, a reference to Jim Brook's theory of painting. He says sex was never as good for him again.


We awoke the next morning on the rim of a great green valley ... What a sight!

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 25

Rabo recalls the scene he witnessed at the end of World War II, a panorama that becomes the basis for his final painting Now It's the Women's Turn. He was on the edge of a valley filled with tens of thousands of people, including soldiers from both sides of the conflict, concentration camp survivors, criminals from jails, and "lunatics released from asylums." The scene represents the sheer scale of the war in miniature, and the joy of having survived it.


The Contessa ... believ[ed] that men were not only useless and idiotic, but downright dangerous.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 29

Rabo credits Marilee with being ahead of her time in her belief that men pose a threat to women and the world, especially when it comes to waging war. She bases her conclusion on the abuse she has suffered at the hands of men her whole life.


Thanks to loose screws in the head of an Armenian from Moscow, I'm home.

Marilee Kemp, Chapter 30

Marilee attributes her eventual happiness to the path she took following Dan Gregory, an Armenian from Moscow, to Italy. She goes to Italy because of his loyalty to Mussolini, and it is there, after his death, that she finds freedom, power, happiness, and a home. Given that Gregory physically abused Marilee, it is poetic justice that that he unintentionally becomes the key to her liberation.


You're looking at a man who has options.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 33

Early in his painting career, Rabo says this to Slazinger after sketching an impressive portrait of him on canvas in just moments, using only his thumbs and some dust. Rabo did this in response to Slazinger's feeling that Rabo's abstract expressionist paintings are no more than coats of paint with no real expertise behind them. Rabo says that he has artistic talent in reserve that makes his choice to do such paintings uniquely his own. Rabo proves to Slazinger that he could have a career in illustration if he wanted to with his rapid portrait drawn in the dust.


I spoke one word to him before leaving. This was it: "Renaissance."

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 34

This is the single word Rabo speaks to the sales clerk at the hardware store where he buys paint after Edith's funeral. He uses the paint to create, in six months, his masterpiece in the potato barn. "Renaissance" is a word that means "rebirth." Rabo's whole artistic life is reborn and represented in that painting.


It was brand new in painting: it was pure essence of human wonder.

Rabo Karabekian, Chapter 36

Rabo describes abstract expressionist art to Circe. He recalls the paintings he and his friends created as a new type of emotive art that captures passion and soul in a way artists had never done before.


We're dancing now.

Circe Berman, Chapter 37

Circe says this to Rabo after he shows her his painting in the potato barn and explains it to her in detail. He answers all of her questions, revealing its many layers of significance for him. Her statement refers to the intimacy and friendship that now exists between them as a result of what they shared in the barn.

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