Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dostoevsky the Russian Bukowski

There's a great opening line in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude that goes “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

In the case of Dostoevsky it was almost literally true. He was arrested for his involvement with a secret society of liberal utopians and a literary discussion group. He and other members were sentenced to death by firing squad. At the last moment Tsar Nicholas I arrived at the scene of the firing squad and commuted the sentence to four years of hard labor in Siberia.

After he was released, he was forced to serve in the army, but was discharged due to ill health and epileptic seizures. He found work as a journalist, but developed a gambling addiction, and went through a time where he had to beg for money. Through the sheer volume of his work, he became one of the most widely read authors. He influenced Chekhov, James Joyce, Hemingway, and Sartre, among others.

You can add Bukowski to the list of writers that he influenced. Bukowski wrote a poem about "Dostoevsky against the wall, the firing squad ready." Bukowski was thankful Dostoevksy got a reprieve because it was Dostoevksy that got Bukowski "through the factories" and lifted him "high through the night" and put him "down in a better place."

Some people have gods and others have writers.

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