Sex, drugs, murder, suicide … the diary of this turn-of-the-20th-century Hungarian author is a tale so sordid and depraved it seems very nearly a concoction of the writer's imagination. However, the events Csath documents did in fact happen to him, and the diary he left behind is a stunning document of the sort of self-involved decadence that tends to make good writers great and middling writers awful.

Csath, thankfully, falls into the former category. The style he utilizes in his diary is dense and deeply detailed; a particularly relaxing morning walk gets the same treatment as when Csath beds a widow twice his age, and he fastidiously notates both his varying (and typically increasing) doses of opium and the (typically decreasing) number of orgasms he gives his lovers. Reading the rich and descriptive way he blithely chronicles his own degeneracy – complete with morning ablutions that typically include puking – is alarming because, for the reader, the story arc is inevitable, even if it is real life.

Of course, it's all fine and good to romanticize the drug-fueled sexual exploits of a writer, and that's exactly what Csath does to himself. Though he continually espouses his love for his fiancee (and eventual wife), he's banging everything in sight while ingesting copious amounts of narcotics. His "true love" comes to fruition in marriage, but, predictably, it all comes to ruin: Csath eventually murders his wife and kills himself during a withdrawal fit, providing a trite (if true) ending.

The Diary of Geza Csath
Translated by Peter Reich
(Angelusz & Gold, 178 pages)

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