Escohotado carefully pulls apart past and present orthodox thinking on drug use. What is really admirable in this piece is the way he avoids a simplistic or moralistic viewpoint. He labours to tell the story, covering all the angles. Amazingly, for such a short book, you get a broad overview of the subject but with much incisive detail. I especially enjoyed his coverage of the opium wars which he links brilliantly with the US government's attitude to drugs in the years after alcohol prohibition. There is a lot of detail on the persecution of drug users by the Catholic church from medieval times through to the conquest of the New World too.
All in all, a great little book which hints at the depth of Escohotado's "Historia de las Drogas". This was originally published in three volumes and is now available as one, huge tome in Spanish. I only wish my Spanish was up to reading it.
This brings me to the matter of the translation, which is atrocious. The translator, Kenneth A. Symington, does not seem to have the first idea of how to render the text into readable English. All too often, I could identify the original Spanish grammatical structure in the English text, as if he had simply translated word for word. It makes for a very heavy read. At times, I lost track of the subject of the sentence, as the translation rambled incoherently on. However, I have ignored the incompetent translation when giving the star rating...
I really hope that if the American publishers decide to produce any more of Escohotado's work, they'll find a different translator. It deserves better than this.
Did you know that the romans had no word for a junky, but a dozen for alcoholics. Everything you ever wanted to confront your parents with, but never knew. It really makes you wonder how the world got to this state. Well written, entertaining and pure factual research. The only let down being that the full two volume version is not available in english and the native spanish is out if print. If you ever tried it, buy it! Cheers from Pet@