How did Bukowski's German heritage affect him? (1 Viewer)

Hi there
I wondered if Bukowski's european origins (German, to be specific) had an impact on his view of the American society, even if he lived the most of his life in USA.
I hope I don t make myself a fool while asking this, but it is something I often wondered, as he never fitted the image of the 'great american writer' (I hope you see what i mean, not that he wasn't a great us writer, but it is a formula we have learned to depict the us writers who tried to ingrain their works in History ) or even of the american dream.
I hope I made myself clear :o
 
Hey Roni, Ja, Bukowski richtig Deutsch war?

My lady is German and I've travelled extensively in Germany and read alot of German literature and I do think there is something in Bukowski's sensibility that is obviously German. I think you can get into trouble with stereotypes when you define personal characteristics in terms of nationality, but for example Expressionism as an artistic movement depicts extreme emotional states (Berg's "Wozzeck" and "Lulu" for example) and the Germans gave us Expressionism. I think that's why Buk loved David Lynch' film "Eraserhead" which is pure expressionism. Also, the "brutality" and violence in Bukowski. Also think of the German film makers Rainer Maria Fassbinder and Werner Herzog.
Now the HUMOR in Bukowski....The Germans aren't known for their humor. But think of Beethoven's Scherzos...I think the humor in his work has a gentle, charming, tender side which reminds me of Saroyan and James Thurber.
Goethe said "there are two souls in my breast..." Now is that only true of the Germans? Think of the Japanese who gave us Kamikazi pilots but also lovely Miso Soup in lovely wooden bowls and lovely bonsai trees etc. Or the Americans who gave us My Lai and Henry David Thoreau.
Roni would be the guy to get in on this.:):)
 
you're right that expressionism is a very typical german style. but also are the booooring over-elaborated works of Thomas Mann - very german. it's true that we use to see Goethe's 'Faust' as a typical german. When Faust says the thing about his "two souls", he means, he has a certain inner disruption. and, in a way, this may be very german. discomposure, restlessness, dark depressing thoughts paired with the urge for explorating everything and finding new things or ways...

but, really, i don't see much typical 'German' things in Bukowski. Neither in his writing nor his personality.



ps:
if you like 'Wozzek', read the original literature-piece by Georg Büchner, named 'Woyzeck'.
 
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Thanks for your replies.
Indeed, I agree with you David with the 'brutality' in Bukowski, that 's something that can be put in perspective with his origins (and also his education).
But in fact, I was more thinking of a potential 'non american' feature of B, rather than a German feature. I mean we don't feel the common 'archetypes' of the US writer, but very often a rejection of the American way of life (and not the occidental way of life).
Do you think this make any sense ?
 
It does make sense. Buk did often write about his disdain for the typical American Way of life, but I would think that that opinion arose from the many menial jobs he had in his 20s and 30s and how he saw the boss man treating the average worker poorly. He then mirrored this sort of class evaluation onto other human interactions (for example, the guy dusting the seats at the racetrack was seen by Buk as a good guy, whereas the slovenly loudmouths gulping beer were not).

I just don't think that it had much to do with his roots. Maybe more to do with his Father, if anything besides his employment experiences.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
From the Andernach letters to uncle Heinrich

In a letter to his uncle Heinrich , dated March 1977 , Bukowski writes:

"Linda Lee says she is really looking forward to seeing you.
She is from a good German stock herself, her last name is Beighle.
I love being from Germany, I have always been proud of that and
it will be so fine to return there."

If being German had an influence on his view of the American society:confused:,
I am not sure but he definitely said that he was proud of his origins.
 
Being A Rebel Doesn't Derive From Being German

Bukowski is in line with a long tradition of dissident American literature--think of Thoreau, Whitman, Melville...And the French writers Artaud, Celine and although he didn't read him, Georges Bataille. And Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky and Schopenhauer (all of whom he read) And E.M Cioran, the great Romanian writer (whom he didn't read.). So again, I agree that being a REBEL isn't a specifically GERMAN characteristic, but true of writers around the world for a long time. Catullus, a poet Buk loved and wrote many poems about, was the ultimate ancient Roman "fuck you" personality. :)
Yes, WORK he saw as a waste of time--as did Thoreau and Whitman. What was important was LIVING fully. And there I think he is EUROPEAN. The Americans are all fucked up because of the Puritan, WASP tradition. Yes, I can picture Buk on the autobahn racing along at 95 miles an hour listening LOUDLY to the first movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, stopping in Munich for a LARGE STEIN of brew, and hanging out with mad Holderlin for a while....:):) AND LAUGHING!:):)
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
Yes, WORK he saw as a waste of time--as did Thoreau and Whitman. What was important was LIVING fully. And there I think he is EUROPEAN. The Americans are all fucked up because of the Puritan, WASP tradition. Yes, I can picture Buk on the autobahn racing along at 95 miles an hour listening LOUDLY to the first movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, stopping in Munich for a LARGE STEIN of brew.

I totally agree with this .
 
"Buk did often write about his disdain for the typical American Way of life"

Reminds me of that chapter in 'Women' where Hank goes to Vancouver to do a reading and says he felt better outside of U.S. as it was less false (I think that is the kind of stuff you are referring to).

In America: you live to work as opposed to Europe: you work to live (as I have been told by my Irish cousins). Four weeks vacation is mandatory in most EU countries.

Well - if you ever read James Joyce - you see that he had a critical opinion of Dublin/Ireland... however please note that he spent most of his later life, in France, writing about Dublin/Ireland....

One of my favorite songwriters, Lou Reed, often writes critical stuff about NYC/US but he lives here in NYC full time...

It's the ol' love/hate thing ;)

Both my parents were from Ireland... I love Ireland - go there every year since I was a youngster but at the end of the day - I'm American: baseball, hot dogs & coca cola...

Do you think Buk would become who he was growing up in 1930s or 40s Germany? (not hat I have anything against Germany - I have friends there and hope to go there next year!)
 

mjp

Founding member
...I was more thinking of a potential 'non american' feature of B...
There are none. He is 100% American. 100% Los Angelino, specifically.

Look at the title bar of your browser right now: "American Author." There's your proof, eh? Your browser couldn't say it if it wasn't true.

Stop searching for ghosts. Get some sleep.
 
What was important was LIVING fully. And there I think he is EUROPEAN. The Americans are all fucked up because of the Puritan, WASP tradition. Yes, I can picture Buk on the autobahn racing along at 95 miles an hour listening LOUDLY to the first movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, stopping in Munich for a LARGE STEIN of brew, and hanging out with mad Holderlin for a while....:):) AND LAUGHING!:):)


I agree with you there David.

PS : mjp, I m really impressed with your reasoning:rolleyes:


"east Hollywood was never a place for a white tornado like Chinaski"
 
Buk was proud of his heritage but was definitely L.A., expressing the sleezy part of the town and American life in general. A major theme was the fallacy of the American dream.
 

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
Buk was proud of his heritage but was definitely L.A., expressing the sleezy part of the town and American life in general. A major theme was the fallacy of the American dream.

Just watched Born Into This last night, and this is right in tune with how Bukowski hated Mickey Mouse and his three fingers. It was the cream of the bullshit of the American dream.

You know, on this same note, If Bukowski ever went to Disneyland and saw all of the perfectly manicured landscapes, that would have iced his emotionally charged cake.
 
Figures don't lie

Just watched Born Into This last night, and this is right in tune with how Bukowski hated Mickey Mouse and his three fingers. It was the cream of the bullshit of the American dream.

You know, on this same note, If Bukowski ever went to Disneyland and saw all of the perfectly manicured landscapes, that would have iced his emotionally charged cake.

A good question is whether Bukowski would have felt better about Mickey if he'd visited Disney's mock-German Matterhorn with Linda. Gee, probably not. ;-)

Bukowski made a good point by complaining about the dumbing down of America through the insidious influence of a certain congenitally-smiling, psychologically-neutered rodent:

Under an exact work or phrase search on Google, there are 17,000,000 entries for the ubiquitous three-fingered Mickey Mouse and only 2,580,000 for the ubiquitously-becoming five-fingered Charles Bukowski... (and yes, I have way too much time on my hands tonight).

I should probably consider myself fortunate that I've never had a dream full of Disney characters. It's possible that reading Bukowski offers some form of psychic immunity. ;-) I hope so.

It's too bad Bukowski never developed a theme park of his own: "Factotumland." It might have consisted of all bars, a daily-double, no rides and no bloody three-fingered mice.

Poptop
 
"Buk did often write about his disdain for the typical American Way of life"

Well - if you ever read James Joyce - you see that he had a critical opinion of Dublin/Ireland... however please note that he spent most of his later life, in France, writing about Dublin/Ireland....

wow. james joyce is a tough cookie to crack. i couldn't take ulysses. i had to read it for school and i couldn't get through it. but there's no doubting that joyce is a genius. his short stories in dubliners are amazingly subtle.
 

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