Hashish (Wakefield Press)

by: Oscar A.H. Schmitz

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Hashish by Oscar A.H. Schmitz / ISBN 9781607106357 / small 184-page paperback with flaps from Wakefield Press

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First published in German in 1902, Hashish is a collection of decadent, interwoven tales of Satanism, eroticism, sadism, cannibalism, and death.

Encountering the enigmatic dandy Count Vittorio Alta-Carrara in a Parisian eatery, the narrator finds himself invited to a “Hashish Club,” where in the dim light of red-filtered candles, a roomful of “recumbent wanderers” explores the abyss of the unconscious. The narrator and the count don a variety of identities as they in turn enter the narratives, sometimes participating in them, other times merely observing them from the vantage point of a shifting divan. Engaging in romantic liaisons with masks and cadavers, taking part in Satanic orgies and carnivals, plotting blasphemy and riding carriages through cityscapes where time loses its bearings, the protagonists draw the reader into their narrative and psychological unmooring.

A forgotten yet important chapter in the lineage of German fantastic and decadent literature, this translation of Hashish is illustrated throughout with drawings by the author’s brother-in-law, Alfred Kubin, from the book’s second, 1913 German edition.

Oscar A.H. Schmitz (1873–1931) lived the life of a literary dandy. Although best remembered in Germany for his second book, Hashish, and the decadent lineage it helped inaugurate in German letters, his output was wide-ranging, from Romantic verse to plays and travel books, to a series of popular nonfiction works on politics, yoga, astrology, etiquette and Jungian psychology.