I bought this in a used bookstore in Ithaca sometime in the 1980s. It was written in 1938, when perhaps we knew less about addiction and alcohol abuse than we do now. It’s not really about drinking. Translated from the French, it is a hallucinatory fever dream, a philosophical treatise, a surreal satire, featuring encounters with “the fabricators of useless objects,” “the fidgeters,” “scienters” and others. Daumal is perhaps better known for a similar but slightly less interesting book, “Mount Analogue.” I lost my copy of that somewhere. Here are the opening lines of the first section (“A labored dialogue on the power of words and the frailty of thought”):
It was late when we drank. We all thought it was high time to begin. What there had been before, no one could remember. We just said it was already late. To inquire where each of us came from, at what precise point on the globe we were, or if it were really a globe (and in any case it was not a point), and what day of the month of what year, was beyond our powers. You don’t ask such questions when you are thirsty.