Follow–up to Final Score № 1
— «The role of the artist is to ask questions – not to answer them.»
— «If you want to work on your art – work on your life.»
Anton Chekhov (Антон Павлович Чехов)
I believe, that life should always come before art. And yet: writing will always be better when based on experience, on passion – and on commitment. Bukowski’s brilliant – and to some people seemingly incomprehensible «musings» on making literature – really are passionate windows into the consciousness. And it is no coincidence that Bukowski intensely acknowledged Chekhov as an important influence on his work.
Generations loved Anton Chekhov and Charles Bukowski. I love them both. To my mind – Chekhov and Bukowski offer oodles of inspirations about the human condition. One lived his life in pre–Soviet–Russia as a medical doctor by day – and writer by night … the other was a sensitive, defensive, degenerate drunk 24 hours a day – but his typewriter always at hand. One shaved every day, wore a monocle, carried a pocket watch, and strolled with his cane … the other carved his face up in bar fights and backroom boxing matches – especially when his stories and poems were met with rejection letters.
Whereas Chekhov died in Germany from Tuberculosis at the age of 44 — there was no WWI – no WWII – no atom bomb – no high speed trains … Bukowski was born in Germany in 1920 – a couple of years past the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 – soon thereafter (1923) emigrating with his parents to Los Angeles. Their places and times were quite different in most ways. And yet – both spent their writing hours expressing similar universal truths and artistic ideas: Their observations on the human condition overlapping more than we would imagine.
Bukowski shows what it was to be poor and hard working – and what a person does in that situation to escape – what they love, their little feelings about things – as for Chekhov showing a wide range of classes, characters and political figures in his work.
By May 1904, Chekhov was terminally ill with tuberculosis. Mikhail Chekhov – a Russian–American actor and student of Stanislavski, a nephew of Chekhov – recalled that «everyone who saw him secretly thought the end was near, but the nearer he was to the end, the less he seemed to realise it.» On June 3rd, Chekhov set off with his wife Olga for the German spa town of Badenweiler (where he died in 1904) in the Black Forest, and from where he wrote letters to his sister Masha, describing the food and surroundings – assuring her and his mother that he was getting better. In his last letter, he complained about the way German women dressed …
Chekhov – also «On The Road» – began preparing to go to Siberia and Sakhalin Island in 1889. This was soon after his brother’s death from tuberculosis – and not so long after learning that he, too, had the disease, and was likely to die.