51 Popular Charles Bukowski Quotes

Last updated on Aug 12th, 2020

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 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. His writing was inspired by a variety of themes from art to death, among other things, including alcohol, women, and hard work. He often knew to openly share his views and thoughts on his unusual way.

His openness in the works that he wrote was constantly criticized, but criticism is not bypassed nor his way of living, particularly his fondness for alcohol. However, his work, which consisted of six novels and countless smaller pieces, never attracted great attention of academic critics.

Read on to find out what Bukowski thought about various 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 (1969)

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.Strokes to Nowhere, Hot Water Music (1983)

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 (1969)

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.For the Concerned, You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (1986)

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 (1978)

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 (1969)

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.1813-1883, You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (1986)

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.Wasted, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)

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 (1978)

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.Wandering in the Cage, The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992)

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.September 12, 1991, The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (1998)

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 (1969)

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 (1969)

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.Politics Is Like Trying To Screw A Cat In The Ass, The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & Other Stories (1983)

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.Letter to John (August 12, 1986), Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters, vol. 3 (1999)

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.Too sensitive, Tales of Ordinary Madness (1983)

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.Chapter 31, Factotum (1975)

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.Chapter 31, Ham on Rye (1982)

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.A Quiet Conversation Piece, Tales of Ordinary Madness (1983)

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 (1969)

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 (1969)

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 (2003)

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.Chapter 17, Hollywood (1989)

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 (1969)

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.Gamblers all, The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps (2001)

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 (1969)

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.Some People, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame (1974)

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.Breakfast, The People Look Like Flowers at Last (2007)

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.August 29, 1991, The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (1998)

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.A Favor for Don, Hot Water Music (1983)

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.A Dollar And Twenty Cents, Tales of Ordinary Madness (1983)

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.A Bad Trip, Tales of Ordinary Madness (1983)

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.Lifedance, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)

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.Melancholia, Love is a Dog from Hell (1977)

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.September 11, 1991, The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (1998)

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.Blue Head of Death, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)

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 do they want?, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)

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 (1969)

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.Barfly (1984)

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 (1978)

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, vol. 3 (1999)

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.An interview with London Magazine (Dec 1974 – Jan 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?Chapter 55, Factotum (1975)

My ambition is handicapped by laziness. - Charles Bukowski (Factotum Quotes)
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My ambition is handicapped by laziness.Chapter 45, Factotum (1975)

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.Part 4, Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way (2003)

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.Oh, yes, War All the Time (1984)

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 (1978)

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 (1978)

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 (1978)

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.Roll the Dice, What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)

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 (1999)