Cocaine: Selected Writings by Walter Rheiner
Translated by Bradley Schmidt and Gijs van Koningsveld
Clearly, someone had spoken the word, the fatal word that towered over the firmament of his nights and slowly cut him into pieces, a remorseless machine even in its sound: ‘Co-caine! … Co-caine!’ Bit by bit it cut him up, until someday soon he would be pulverised entirely.
Walter Rheiner remains virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, despite a small but remarkable oeuvre which explores typical Expressionist themes – including metropolitan estrangement, intoxication and the horrors of trench warfare – in a manner as daring and poignant as that of better known contemporaries such as Trakl or Heym.
Rheiner’s was a short-lived career; most of his output was originally published between 1917-1918. An attempt to escape active service in World War I by posing as a drug addict marked the onset of his lifelong dependency on cocaine and, later, morphine. In the hallucinatory novella Cocaine, Rheiner provides the reader with an arresting close-up of Berlin’s underbelly during the war years. The demise of the novella’s protagonist Tobias foreshadows the author’s own tragic end; he died at the age of 30 from an overdose of morphine.
This bilingual edition, the first to present Rheiner in English translation, includes the bulk of his known prose work as well as a small but representative sample of his poetry.
Bradley Schmidt grew up in rural Kansas, completed a B.A. in German Studies at a local small liberal arts college, studied German Literature and Theology in Marburg, and completed an MA in Translation Studies at Leipzig University. He has translated several contemporary German authors including Lutz Seiler, Clemens J. Setz, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Steffen Popp, and Judith Zander.
Gijs van Koningsveld is the founder of November Editions. He has a degree in English Literature and an obsessive interest in early 20th-century modernist art and literature. He lives and works mostly in Amsterdam.