Elegies for The Cigarette

Andrew Marzoni at The Baffler:

Immanuel Kant, who smoked a pipe of tobacco with his tea once or twice a day, described the aesthetic category of the sublime as a “negative pleasure”: “incompatible with charms,” as “the mind is not just attracted by the object but is alternately always repelled as well.” Not unlike the feeling of respect, sublimity is greeted by the Kantian subject with a manic combination of satisfaction and fear, a sense of pride in the superiority of human intellect at the expense of imaginative and physical fallibility. A frisson of euphoria and disgust, or as Richard Klein writes in Cigarettes Are Sublime, “a darkly beautiful, inevitably painful pleasure that arises from some intimation of eternity.” The “taste of infinity in a cigarette” presents to the smoker a philosophical “edge of the abyss”: mortality, selfhood, existence. For Annie Leclerc, in Au feu du jour, “the cigarette is the prayer of our time.”

more here.