“Instantaneous happiness on a scale I had never dreamed of before.”
Andrew Stevens on Ageyev’s 1934 classic:
That Novel with Cocaine could be ascribed to Nabokov is hilarious in itself. But such rumours were common currency when confronted with whom to credit with authorship of this soi-disant “Dostoevskain novel of ideas,” as the author concerned simply did not step forward. In any case, it was the novel’s narcotic association and reputation years after the event which led to such speculation (emanating from an Updike comparison with Nabokov’s style). Many consider the novel to be the work of Marc Levi, a Russian émigré working under a French identity, who either died in Paris in 1973 or returned to Russia only to suffer under Stalin, depending on which version you prefer to believe.
What is known is that Novel with Cocaine was published by “M. Ageyev” in Numbers, a Russian émigré journal in inter-war Paris, as “Confessions of a Russian Opium-Eater.” This immediately places the book in the De Quincey tradition of the picaresque drugs confessional, both books being mined substantially in later years, most notably by the Beats.
Further: CultureVulture‘s review of Novel with Cocaine / Novel with Cocaine in Slater Bradley’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams / New Statesman on the out-of-print Penguin edition with Will Self’s introduction / M. Ageyev is on Facebook
First posted: Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010.