by Gregor Hens
You know that “last cigarette” really was an LC (as Gregor Hens abbreviates it) when after a time the smell of smoke disgusts you. The German writer recalls such a moment, when he is revolted at the thought that smoke particles pumped out of the lungs of someone he meets will slip through Hens’ nose and become part of himself. “I suddenly find it unbelievable that we humans allow this to happen.” This English translation of Nicotine, written after the author’s 100,000th-plus cigarette, is not a how-to-quit book, or even one in the self-help category. Indeed, Hens, a vicarious smoker, almost goads his readers into lighting up and claims that each fag he’s ever smoked meant something to him. In his dealings with cigarettes, he writes, he’s learned about himself, making this a memoir-cum-willpower test-cum-literary indulgence. And a worthwhile (as opposed to worthy) one at that, not only for ex-smokers but also for recidivists and those who may not understand how, for Hens at least, cigarettes were playthings, memory aids, stimulants, medication and more. Telling the story of nicotine is his way out of addiction. For Gregor Hens, it’s harmless fun.