Today’s Buzzed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Honoré de Balzac was a revolutionary writer, considered by many to be the founder of the modern novel. His carefully crafted descriptions of places and his diverse cast of characters met with success, and his work was serialized from the start. He worked ceaselessly, producing a collection of work he titled La Comédie Humaine. Balzac preferred to work at night and discovered if he chain-drank cup after cup of coffee – black, without cream or sugar – he remained happily bugged-eyed and awake. He normally woke at midnight, dressed in a monk’s robe, and wrote fifteen hours straight, though when he was on a roll and plenty of hot coffee was on hand, he could write for forty-eight hours nonstop, with only catnaps for rest. He moved throughout Paris frequently and stayed wherever he could find a room to work, as long as there was space for pen, paper, and a coffee pot. He wasn’t totally reclusive and did some bingeing – though mostly on coffee – at cafés and salons, staying on good terms with many of the leading artists, and writers. In fact, Victor Hugo was one of Balzac’s pallbearers after the wired writer died (in 1850, at age fifty-one). His failing health, stomach cramps, and hallucinations were attributed to “brain congestion,” though the excessive caffeine had caused an enlargement of his left heart ventricle, which seemed to be the thing that killed him. In the months before his death, his sight was nearly destroyed from long hours spent writing under candlelight, he had the complexion of wax, and he had a facial twitch like somebody on way too much speed.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 1994 study found caffeine more addictive than alcohol. If a beetle nibbles on a coffee plant, its antennae stick straight up and then it keels over and dies, because the alkaloid compound that gives coffee drinks their stimulant properties is a natural pesticide. Balzac suffered from what medicine now calls caffeinism, causing any number of physiological malfunctions. Mental health experts recognise four psychological disorders caused by caffeine, though writing one hundred novels, as Balzac did, apparently is only a side effect. The hallucinations Balzac experienced were surely from caffeine poisoning. If he were alive today, he’d bypass the liquid, crush caffeine tablets sold over the counter, and snort it for faster results.
Is there a Balzac energy drink yet? If not, there should be!