Charles Bukowski ivre de vin


Posted by Armand Heitz on

Charles Baudelaire and Charles Bukowski share much more than initials. The hated paternal authority, the love of German music, poetry, and a certain taste for drunkenness. If there is one author who has written on the subject, it is Bukowski. His poetry, his novels, his correspondence all contain a few grams of alcohol.

From his seedy adolescence in Los Angeles he extricated three suns: first, the revelation of writing at the age of ten, when he invented from scratch the account of President Hoover's visit to which he was not allowed to attend – an essay read by his teacher in front of the whole class. Later the discovery of wines in the cellar of the father of one of his comrades:

"Why haven't they told me about it yet?
Like with that, life isn't great?
Like with that, man did not become perfect? »
(in Memories of Not Much, 1982)

Citation brodée de Bukowski sur l'ivresse

Then the literature sleeping on the shelves of Californian libraries: Dostoyevsky the idol, D.H. Lawrence, Turgenev, Sinclair, Lewis, Gorki. Alcohol and writing are two necessities for him very early on, and they are linked, they eat and feed on each other. He questions a lot, throughout his literary production, this relationship of one to the other, but he clearly refuses the theory according to which intoxication would give genius where there is no talent. He refuses to glorify it.

"Damn it, man, I wouldn't want
to sanctify
all that, there's nothing sacred about writing
but that's the greatest drunken achievement I know of. »
(in A reader writes to me, March 1991) 1

At the end of his life, he even seems convinced that he would have written the same thing without drinking. Yet when he responds to his editors:

“Thank you, anyway, for the wonderful bottle of wine for my 70th birthday and my wedding anniversary! Since Linda no longer drinks wine, I took good care of her. I pulled 4 great poems out of this bottle! »
(Letter to Moment editors, September 6, 1990)

So what, do wine bottles contain poetry? Is inspiration sitting at the edge of the bottleneck? It's a fact: we'll never know what the literatures of Verlaine, Hemingway, Duras - of so many others - would have been without bottles. And although French teachers have pathetically tried to hide from us the drunken outbursts of the great classics, posterity has largely done justice to the dazzling effects of drunkenness.

But in the end, it's not really eloquent, because neither you nor I will ever tear a masterpiece out of a bottle, even a grand cru (well, persevere, we don't never know...), otherwise a few stars.

Citation de Bukowski au verre de vin

Let's take a closer look at the bottle of wine that made Bukowski a literary myth, still cult today. On September 22, 1978, when he arrived on the set of Apostrophes, a jewel of French Giscardian culture, he was already drunk. For a week that he has been in France, his French publishers Raphaël Sorin and Gérard Guéguan have kept him like a lion in a cage in a hotel room in Saint Germain des Prés, showering him with interviews for the promotion of Love is a hellhound. If you've read Bukowski, you already know that's not his cup of tea.This September 22, he chained a shooting session, an interview for Le Monde weighted with a bottle of whiskey, and a well-watered dinner with his editors He planned two bottles of Alsatian white wine for the evening, because the day before, Alain Pacadis warned him: "Be very careful, because when I went there, they said that I couldn't drink alcohol before the end of the show, I was had to go out to find a beer. » 2

But, curiously, the production (a considerate intern?) has provided two bottles of Sancerre. On the set, everything he hates: a clean, well-established and sufficient literature, Doctor Ferdière, responsible for the electroshocks administered to Antonin Artaud whom Bukowski adores, no air, "not the slightest bit of kindness" will say -t he 3. How could the poet escape?

Charles Bukowski chez Bernard Pivot dans l'emission Apostrophes

The image has gone around the world: drunk with boredom, Bukowski drinking from a bottle on the set of Apostrophes. This is how, escaping from this terrible mess, the American entered the hearts of the French, a bottle in hand. The success has not been denied since, and it is perhaps thanks to this image that you know its name.

It's crazy what a bottle of wine can hold. Poetry, a few stars, a few furies, success... For example, I wonder what was sublime in this bottle of Pommard Clos des Poutures, vintage 2001, so that when you taste it , Armand Heitz prefers oenology to the vast expanses of the oceans, he who dreamed of becoming a skipper? It probably contained "The bright fire that fills limpid spaces" already dear to Baudelaire.

Blandine Bacconnet


  2. L'Écho des Savanes, November 1978, quoted in the article
  3. Interview given to Jean-François Duval in 1986

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