“Polite writers are often chaste in life. Every perversity has one seductive basic idea. Each is a symbol of this idea. From cunnilingus to coprophagy: it’s the idea of indulging oneself completely.”
First published in German in 1902, then reissued in 1913, Hashish is a collection of decadent interweaving tales of Satanism, eroticism, sadism, cannibalism, necrophilia, and death. Encountering the enigmatic blond 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 žrecumbent wanderersÓ explores the abyss of the unconscious beneath the fabulous ponds of Venetian mirrors. 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 reader joins the protagonists in 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 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. He died in 1931 of liver disease.