04 May 2009

Hashish, Wine, Opium (Charles Baudelaire and Theophile Gautier)

Do we not all think that Theophile is quite an amusing name? And what a difference the end of a name does make:

Theodore: cute, teddy-bear like person, could be English, definitely wears a waistcoat.
Theophile: drives a white van, drinks vodka from a syringe, sweats a lot.

HIGHLY intellectual musings aside, I quite enjoyed this little homage to narcotics and alcohol written in the early 19th century. Baudelaire and Gautier both wrote extensively on their experiences with hash and opium in particular and both were members of the Club of Assassins. Detailed sketchily in the book (everything is a bit sketchy, most of it was written while they were stoned or drunk), the Club of Assassins was a little group of men who used to meet on Ile St Louis in Paris and get stoned together. They then used to go home and write or paint about the effects they had experienced.

I picked this up for the title and who wouldn't? I am well-versed in the effects of wine, but opium has never been offered up at any of the parties I've gone to (actually most of the time the most potent thing offered up is a vodka watermelon, and that's on a REALLY wild night) and I giggled to think of 19th century philosophers in knickerbockers smoking joints, thus I felt this was a necessary purchase.

The book was informative as well as amusing... I learnt that these dudes used to cook the hash with butter, pistachio nuts, almonds and honey to form a kind of jam "similar to apricot conserve". YUM. Sounds delish, I could even do without the hallucinogen to be honest. It's like... baklava jam! GENIUS.

I also learnt that the word 'assassin' is actually derived from the Arabic 'hasishin', which means to be under the influence of drugs. Assassins in Persia were fed drugs before they killed. Interesting non?

Last lesson I learnt from this book- If you work with children (sigh, as I do), do not leave this lying around your place of work. The only thing worse to leave around is Dead Babies.

Rating: 7/10.
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