Balzac, Treatise on Modern Stimulants

This work seems like a challenge to write about for 30 minutes since it is such a short work. 41 small pages. Nonetheless, here some thoughts (unorganized by the end).

Me, enjoying a modern stimulant somewhere in California. 2014.

Though I have read Balzac before, this was in the form of novels (Eugénie Grandet, The Wild Ass’s Skin, Colonel Chabert), and I expected my next foray would be a novel. But when I turned to Twitter for reading recommendations, this came from one particularly well-read friend. And since it was much shorter than the last book he recommended to me (“one of the most amusing books in our language”), it seemed worth a shot.

This little treatise ended up as a perfect follow-up to my reading of The Count of Monte Cristo. The Count of that novel, who keeps his normal fair to a minimum, makes no secret of the substances by which he regulates his sleep. When we first see his hidden palace room, he offers his guest a serving of hashish which brings about deeply satisfying hallucinations. He carries around an emerald which contains his “sleeping pills”, and we see another scene where a child breaks into his cabinet full of vials which induce untold effects.

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