51 Popular Charles Bukowski Quotes

Last updated on Aug 16th, 2023

51 Popular Charles Bukowski Quotes

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us. – Life Magazine, 1988

Henry Charles Bukowski (born August 16, 1920, Andernach, Germany – died March 9, 1994, Los Angeles, California, U.S.) is one of the few writers who was underestimated and overestimated at the same time. Born in Germany, this American author mostly wrote under the influence of the environment of his city, Los Angeles.

Inspired by various themes from art to death, his writing often includes topics such as alcohol, women, and hard work. He frequently knew to share his views and thoughts unusually.

In addition to criticism for his openness in writing, criticism did not escape his lifestyle either, especially his fondness for alcohol. However, his work, which consisted of six novels and countless smaller pieces, never attracted the great attention of academic critics.

Read on to find out what Bukowski thought about many themes from his most well-known quotes.

When love becomes a command, Hatred can become a pleasure. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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When love becomes a command, Hatred can become a pleasure.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 206

Love is a form of prejudice. You love what you need, you love what makes you feel good, you love what is convenient. How can you say you love one person when there are ten thousand people in the world that you would love more if you ever met them? But you'll never meet them. - Charles Bukowski (Hot Water Music Quotes)
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Love is a form of prejudice. You love what you need, you love what makes you feel good, you love what is convenient. How can you say you love one person when there are ten thousand people in the world that you would love more if you ever met them? But you’ll never meet them.Hot Water Music (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1983), Strokes to Nowhere, Page 67

Beautiful thoughts, and beautiful women never last. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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Beautiful thoughts, and beautiful women never last.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 206

If you get married they think you're finished and if you are without a woman they think you're incomplete. - Charles Bukowski (You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense Quotes)
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If you get married they think you’re finished and if you are without a woman they think you’re incomplete.You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1986), For the Concerned, Page 123

Many a good man has been put under the bridge by a woman. - Charles Bukowski (Women Quotes)
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Many a good man has been put under the bridge by a woman.Women (HarperCollins, ed. 1978), Dedication

If you want to know who your friends are, get yourself a jail sentence. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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If you want to know who your friends are, get yourself a jail sentence.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 208

Some men never die and some men never live but we're all alive tonight. - Charles Bukowski (You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense Quotes)
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Some men never die and some men never live but we’re all alive tonight.You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1986), 1813-1883, Page 13

Too often the people complain that they have done nothing with their lives and then they wait for somebody to tell them that this isn't so. - Charles Bukowski (What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire Quotes)
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Too often the people complain that they have done nothing with their lives and then they wait for somebody to tell them that this isn’t so.What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (HarperCollins, ed. 1999), Wasted, Page 372

People with no morals often considered themselves more free, but mostly they lacked the ability to feel or to love. - Charles Bukowski (Women Quotes)
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People with no morals often considered themselves more free, but mostly they lacked the ability to feel or to love.Women (HarperCollins, ed. 1978), Chapter 96, Page 250

People are strange: they are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice. - Charles Bukowski (The Last Night of the Earth Poems Quotes)
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People are strange: they are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice.The Last Night of the Earth Poems (HarperCollins, ed. 1992), Wandering in the Cage, Page 167

What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. - Charles Bukowski (The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship Quotes)
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What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don’t live up until their death.The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1998), September 12, 1991, Page 13

To be young is the only religion. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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To be young is the only religion.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 59

Some men hope for revolution but when you revolt and set up your new government you find your new government is still the same old Papa, he has only put on a cardboard mask. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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Some men hope for revolution but when you revolt and set up your new government you find your new government is still the same old Papa, he has only put on a cardboard mask.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 76

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting. - Charles Bukowski (The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories Quotes)
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The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories (City Lights Books, ed. 1983), Politics Is Like Trying To Screw A Cat In The Ass, Page 176

Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors. - Charles Bukowski Quotes
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Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters 1978-1994, Volume 3 ((Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1999); Letter to John Martin (August 12, 1986), Page 83

You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics. - Charles Bukowski (Tales of Ordinary Madness Quotes)
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You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.Tales of Ordinary Madness (City Lights Books, ed. 1983), Too Sensitive, Page 101

When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn't have you by the throat. - Charles Bukowski (Factotum Quotes)
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When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.Factotum (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1975), Chapter 31, Page 67

They experimented on the poor and if that worked they used the treatment on the rich. And if it didn't work, there would still be more poor left over to experiment upon. - Charles Bukowski (Ham on Rye Quotes)
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They experimented on the poor and if that worked they used the treatment on the rich. And if it didn’t work, there would still be more poor left over to experiment upon.Ham on Rye (HarperCollins, ed. 1982), Chapter 31, Page 136

A coward is a man who can foresee the future. A brave man is almost always without imagination. - Charles Bukowski (Tales of Ordinary Madness Quotes)
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A coward is a man who can foresee the future. A brave man is almost always without imagination.Tales of Ordinary Madness (City Lights Books, ed. 1983), A Quiet Conversation Piece, Page 138

An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 207

Almost everybody is born a genius and buried an idiot. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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Almost everybody is born a genius and buried an idiot.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 207

Poetry is what happens when nothing else can. - Charles Bukowski (The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain Quotes)
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Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain (HarperCollins, ed. 2004), Writing, Page 226

Bad taste creates many more millionaires than good taste. - Charles Bukowski (Hollywood Quotes)
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Bad taste creates many more millionaires than good taste.Hollywood (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1989), Chapter 17, Page 92

No pain means the end of feeling; each of our joys is a bargain with the devil. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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No pain means the end of feeling; each of our joys is a bargain with the devil.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 207

Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside remembering all the times you've felt that way. - Charles Bukowski (The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps Quotes)
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Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps (2001), Gamblers all

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The difference between Art and Life is that Art is more bearable. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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The difference between Art and Life is that Art is more bearable.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 207

Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead. - Charles Bukowski (Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame Quotes)
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Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1974), Some People, Page 190

You have to die a few times before you can really live. - Charles Bukowski (The People Look Like Flowers at Last Quotes)
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You have to die a few times before you can really live.The People Look Like Flowers at Last (HarperCollins, ed. 2007), Breakfast, Page 58

We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing. - Charles Bukowski (The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship Quotes)
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We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1998), August 29, 1991, Page 10

Life's as kind as you let it be. - Charles Bukowski (Hot Water Music Quotes)
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Life’s as kind as you let it be.Hot Water Music (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1983), A Favor for Don, Page 193

If you don't have much soul left and you know it, you still got soul. - Charles Bukowski (Tales of Ordinary Madness Quotes)
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If you don’t have much soul left and you know it, you still got soul.Tales of Ordinary Madness (City Lights Books, ed. 1983), A Dollar And Twenty Cents, Page 124

The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it, basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them. - Charles Bukowski (Tales of Ordinary Madness Quotes)
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The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it, basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.Tales of Ordinary Madness (City Lights Books, ed. 1983), A Bad Trip, Page 201

Some lose all mind and become soul: insane. Some lose all soul and become mind: intellectual. Some lose both and become: accepted. - Charles Bukowski (What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire Quotes)
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Some lose all mind and become soul: insane. Some lose all soul and become mind: intellectual. Some lose both and become: accepted.What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (HarperCollins, ed. 1999), Lifedance, Page 90

The history of melancholia includes all of us. - Charles Bukowski (Love is a Dog from Hell Quotes)
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The history of melancholia includes all of us.Love is a Dog from Hell (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1977), Melancholia, Page 193

But my whole life has been a matter of fighting for one simple hour to do what I want to do. There was always something getting in the way of my getting to myself. - Charles Bukowski (The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship Quotes)
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But my whole life has been a matter of fighting for one simple hour to do what I want to do. There was always something getting in the way of my getting to myself.The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1998), September 11, 1991, Page 11

Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are. - Charles Bukowski (What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire Quotes)
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Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (HarperCollins, ed. 1999), Blue Head of Death, Page 164

There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you. - Charles Bukowski (What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire Quotes)
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There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (HarperCollins, ed. 1999), What do they want?, Page 350

If you don't gamble, you'll never win. - Charles Bukowski (Notes of a Dirty Old Man Quotes)
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If you don’t gamble, you’ll never win.Notes of a Dirty Old Man (City Lights Books, ed. 1973), Page 206

Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. - Charles Bukowski (Barfly Quotes)
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Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance.The Movie: Barfly (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1987), Page 96

That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen. - Charles Bukowski (Women Quotes)
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That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.Women (HarperCollins, ed. 1978), Chapter 76, Page 171

Drinking is another way of thinking, another way of living. It gives you two lives instead of one. - Charles Bukowski Quotes
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Drinking is another way of thinking, another way of living. It gives you two lives instead of one.Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters 1978-1994, Volume 3 (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1999); Letter to John Martin (August 12, 1986), Page 83

Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now. - Charles Bukowski Quotes
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Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.Paying for Horses: An Interview with Charles Bukowski by Robert Wennersten, London Magazin (December 1974-Janurary 1975)

It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, s***, p***, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? - Charles Bukowski (Factotum Quotes)
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It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, s***, p***, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?Factotum (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1975), Chapter 55, Page 12

My ambition is handicapped by laziness. - Charles Bukowski (Factotum Quotes)
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My ambition is handicapped by laziness.Factotum (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1975), Chapter 45, Page 106

Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone. - Charles Bukowski (Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way Quotes)
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Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone.Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way (HarperCollins, ed. 2003), Part 4, Page 309

There are worse things than being alone but it often takes decades to realize this and most often when you do it's too late and there's nothing worse than too late. - Charles Bukowski Quotes
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There are worse things than being alone but it often takes decades to realize this and most often when you do it’s too late and there’s nothing worse than too late.War All the Time (Black Sparrow Press, ed. 1984), Oh, yes, Page 100

I never felt right being alone; sometimes it felt good but it never felt right. - Charles Bukowski (Women Quotes)
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I never felt right being alone; sometimes it felt good but it never felt right.Women (HarperCollins, ed. 1978), Chapter 37, Page 101

Goodness could be found sometimes in the middle of hell. - Charles Bukowski (Women Quotes)
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Goodness could be found sometimes in the middle of hell.Women (HarperCollins, ed. 1978), Chapter 22, Page 69

Humanity, you never had it from the beginning. - Charles Bukowski (Women Quotes)
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Humanity, you never had it from the beginning.Women (HarperCollins, ed. 1978), Chapter 91, Page 223

If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. If you're going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind. Go all the way. It could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And you'll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. Do it, do it, do it. Do it. All the way. All the way. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter, It's the only good fight there is. - Charles Bukowski (What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire Quotes)
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If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind. Go all the way. It could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And you’ll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. Do it, do it, do it. Do it. All the way. All the way. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter, It’s the only good fight there is.What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (HarperCollins, ed. 1999), Roll the Dice, Page 408

What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. - Charles Bukowski (What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire Quotes)
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What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire.What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (HarperCollins, ed. 1999)