A startlingly contemporary portrait of drug addiction in prewar Paris
Published in 1943 (just a year before its author was arrested by the Gestapo for his Resistance activities), The Die Is Cast was a departure for Robert Desnos: a shift from his earlier, frenetic Surrealist prose to a social realism that borrowed as much from his life experience as his career as a journalist. Drawing on his own use of drugs in the 1920s and his doomed relationship with the chanteuse Yvonne George, Desnos here portrays a band of opium, cocaine and heroin users from all walks of life in Paris. It is a startlingly contemporary portrayal of overdoses, arrests, suicides and the flattened solitude of the addict, yet published in occupied Paris, years before “junkie literature” established itself with the Beat Generation. An anomaly both in his career and for having been published under the Occupation by an active member of the Resistance, The Die Is Cast now stands as timely a piece of work as it had been untimely when it first appeared.