Friday, September 25, 2020

“Up in smoke”

Living in Paris, low on funds, the writer can afford only the cheapest cigarettes, Gauloises and Gitanes. A cigarette accompanies every scene of his daily life — “except sleeping.” He can’t open his mail without a cigarette, even if an envelope might hold a check that would enable him to buy cigarettes.

Julio Ramón Ribeyro, “For Smokers Only,” in The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories, trans. Katherine Silver (New York: New York Review Books, 2019).

“For Smokers Only” is the best writing I’ve ever read about the joys and sorrows of cigarettes. Even after thirty years away, I identify. Oh boy, do I.

See also the story of Mikhail Bakhtin using the pages of a manuscript for cigarette papers.

Also from Julio Ramón Ribeyro
“None of this surprises me”

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