High minded: Walter Benjamin’s writings on drugs

From The Boston Globe:Benjamin

AT FIRST GLANCE, Walter Benjamin, the bespectacled, bushy mustached, deeply serious, and influential German literary critic, may not strike you as a likely drug user. Indeed, he considered drugs a “poison,” and a rather disreputable one at that. As Marcus Boon writes in his introduction to “On Hashish,” a slim English translation of Benjamin’s writings on drugs, just published by Harvard University Press, “Drug use was hardly seen as something worthy of celebration in Benjamin’s intellectual milieu” in the Berlin of the 1920s and early `30s.

And yet, surprisingly, few writers have approached the experience of intoxication with Benjamin’s earnestness, profound wonderment, and sense of purpose. Neither a recreational user nor an addict, he had a studious, deliberate, almost scholarly approach. In 1927, persuaded by some doctor friends to take part in their research, Benjamin began to dabble in a range of drugs-opium, hashish, mescaline-and recorded his experiences in a series of fragments and “protocols”: observations in Benjamin’s hand alternating with the musings of his medical pals.

In the writings collected in “On Hashish,” some composed during a drug session, others afterwards in recollection (Benjamin only published two drug-related texts in his lifetime), the often forbidding theorist appears in a playful, relaxed mode.

More here.