By turns philosophical and darkly comic, an ex-smoker's meditation on the nature and consequences of his nearly lifelong addiction
Written with the passion of an obsessive, Nicotine addresses a lifelong addiction, from the thrill of the first drag to the perennial last last cigarette. Reflecting on his experiences as a smoker from a young age, Gregor Hens investigates the irreversible effects of nicotine on thought and patterns of behavior. He extends the conversation with other smokers to meditations on Mark Twain and Italo Svevo, the nature of habit, and the validity of hypnosis. With comic insight and meticulous precision, Hens deconstructs every facet of dependency, offering a brilliant analysis of the psychopathology of addiction.
This is a book about the physical, emotional, and psychological power of nicotine as not only an addictive drug, but also a gateway to memory, a long trail of streetlights in the rearview mirror of a smoker’s life. Cigarettes are sometimes a solace, sometimes a weakness, but always a witness and companion.
This is a meditation, an ode, and a eulogy, one that will be passed hand-to-hand between close friends.
This book is part memoir and part meditation on the power of memory as shaped by addiction; it is not a self-help manual in the vein of "How I quit smoking and how you can too!" Hens's short book is an idiosyncratic and thought-provoking essay on the grip of nicotine, how it shaped his life, and how it still factors into his life despite having quit smoking decades ago. Born in 1965 Germany, Hens grew up with cigarettes as an integral part of his childhood. His early memories include taking family trips in cars filled with smoke and watching his aunt share her monthly allowance from the cigarette company where she worked. Cigarettes continued as a constant companion throughout his life, never more so than when he tried to quit. Smokers, former smokers, and even those who have never smoked will appreciate the desperate humor in Hens's description of a smoker's nicotine deprivation when crammed into a plane, and the physical meltdown upon finally being released onto the sidewalk outside an airport. Hens gives readers an understanding of what it is like to have an addiction, albeit a legal one, and how the end of an addiction can be felt as a loss.