cover image Opium and Other Stories

Opium and Other Stories

Géza Csáth, trans. from the Hungarian by Jascha Kessler and Charlotte Rogers. Europa, $17 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-60945-813-3

This striking collection from Csáth (1887–1919) introduces readers to the physician, writer, and musician’s fertile imagination. In “Matricide,” two brothers murder their mother, steal her jewelry, and give it to a sex worker whom they’ve fallen for. Here and elsewhere, sociopathic human impulses are treated as ordinary. In “Little Emma,” a group of children hear about an execution and begin to play hangman until the game turns real: first they kill a dog, then they turn their sights on another child. In addition to animal torture, drugs and their effects are a recurrent theme. “The Surgeon” tells the story of a café patron who meets an alcoholic surgeon who has determined that the perception of time is the source of man’s misery, and imagines himself able to enable its cure: “I shall find its seat in the brain. I’ll stress the possibility of surgical intervention, its necessity,” the patron recalls the surgeon telling him—barring this extraordinary intervention, absinthe will do. Throughout, Csáth demonstrates a thrilling and unnerving commitment to amoral presentations of dark subject matter. Csáth’s matter-of-fact depictions of cruelty are sure to alienate some, but others will find them wild and audacious. Regardless of how it lands, this is a fearless work. (Dec.)