Friday, February 15, 2013

Factotum, by Charles Bukowski

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Factotum exhibits Bukowski’s trademark Rabelaisian humour and brutal honesty.

Factotum follows on from Charles Bukowski’s debut novel Post Office (1971), and features the same protagonist, Henry Chinaski, a thinly veiled self-portrait or alter ego of the author. In style the novel is a bit looser (if that’s possible) and more episodic than Post Office. There are many short chapters, as Henry Chinaski skips through a dizzying number of menial jobs.

The novel is set in America during the Second World War as Chinaski / Bukowski travels the country’s underbelly in search of work, love and sex. Bukowski describes in extraordinary detail the flip side of the sunny American lifestyle promoted on breakfast cereal boxes and the like. Quite often you find yourself shocked and amazed at the scenes Henry Chinaski relates: Did such bizarre things really happen during the 1940s? I guess they did.

How would I describe the essence of Bukowski’s writing, as evidenced in Post Office and Factotum? I’d say he has a Rabelaisian humour and sense of humanity. He is grotesque, funny, humane and truthful. His writing has a great sense of irony. Here is someone to tell you the world is not as it was promised to us, and why we’re all going mad because of it. 

Factotum, by Charles Bukowski. Published by Virgin Books. ISBN: 9780753518151  RRP: $19.95