“Not since Of Human Bondage have I read a more poignant rendition of the human condition,” and “after The End Of The World Filmed By An Angel possibly the second surrealist novel” wrote American literary critic Sholem Stein in a rare review of Cocaina in 1922.
The protagonist is Tito Arnaudi, a young Dostoevskian nihilist who travels from his home town Turin to Paris after a failed love story. There he discovers the joys of cocaine, takes a job as a journalist and meets two women: the exotic and orgiastic Kalantan Ter-Gregorianz and the tawdry cocotte Maud Fabrège. Maud, who later in the story is renamed to Cocaina (she is the personification of the effects of cocaine, at first lively and spirited, later jaded and blunt) is his femme fatale. Tito falls in love with her despite her apparent infidelity and despite of her sterilization which he knows is bound to make her ugly and less feminine.
The novel is full of unabashed male opinions on women and love and ends with an original “Russian roulette” twist.