At the end of August, 1905, in the midst of World War I, Jean Lanfray stands and weeps mercilessly over the open caskets of his newly murdered wife and two children - 4 Rose and 2 Blanche d. He tearfully insisted that he did not remember having committed such a cruel act.


This is not the opening chapter of a crime book, but the story of
absinthe - "the devil's drink."


It all started the day before, at the pub, where, in the morning, Jean started the marathon, starting with 2 absinthe glasses of water. In the afternoon, he continued with 6 glasses of strong wine and a glass of strong black coffee with brandy, and finally, upon arriving home, finished the "race" with a liter of wine. Enraged by the constant murmur of his wife, he shot her with a shotgun, and after the noise caught the attention of both his daughters, he killed them.


This shocked Commugny, Switzerland, and the blame was immediately thrown to absinthe. The mayor himself was able to collect a petition from the 82000 Signature for only 5 days and thus the "devil's drink" was banned. The press "sniffed" the sensation and this ignited public outrage against absinthe. He was cited as the cause of the public decline. The French-language daily Gazette de Lausanne called it "the main cause of the bloodthirsty crimes of this century."


During the trial next February, the defendant's attorneys wanted the case to be considered a classic case of absurdity - a disease defined by modern-day medicine. Immediately, a prominent Swiss psychiatrist, Albert Mahaim, was summoned, who stated that only excessive consumption of absinthe could be the cause of the accused's crime. However, the dose he took was not enough for the madness that had taken over him. But the defendant's defense did not surrender so readily and repeatedly emphasized that only the alcohol, but not the defendant, had any fault. The trial lasted a day and the sentence was life imprisonment. A day later, Lanfrey hanged himself in prison.

The Absinthe Drinker, 1901

artist: Pablo Picasso

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In Belgium, absinthe was banned as early as 1905. A month after the death of Lanfrey, in 1910, Switzerland and the Netherlands also banned the drink. Afterwards, all over Europe banned the use of this alcoholic beverage, with France being the last country to cease production of the "green fairy" in 1915.


Trademarked as the "devil in a bottle" was once a cure. The ancient Greeks used it for healing, soaking the leaves of wormwood in wine. Hippocrates, considered the first doctor to prescribe it for menstrual pain, anemia and jaundice, and Roman scientist Pliny the Old describes how the winners of the chariot games drank absinthe, whose bitter taste should remind them that glory has a bitter side.


During the bubonic plague in England, many people used wormwood as an antiparasitic agent. For many centuries wormwood has been used primarily as a healing agent. In 1830, France conquered Algeria during its expansion into North Africa, and in an attempt to support its army against fever, dysentery, dirty water and local resistance, supplied it with large quantities of wormwood. The soldiers mixed it with wine in an attempt to reduce its bitterness and thus received absinthe. Later, returning to France, they brought with them the new drink, which they called "una verte" because of its distinctive green color. Soon the drink was also sought after by the French, who celebrated the victory in the war.


artist: Edgar Degas

The myth began to spread among the lower classes (at that time the drink was only available to rich people) that absinthe had a hallucinogenic effect. This only increased the popularity of the drink and green classes began to be organized starting in the early evenings. Almost no one could drink it clean and was therefore diluted with water. Until 1849, the 26's French absinthe distilleries produced nearly 10 million liters in an attempt to satisfy the demand for new alcohol.


Instantly, many artists began to sympathize with the "green fairy" and worship it. She became synonymous with genius after prominent artists such as Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud exalted her. In 1859, Manet painted a portrait of a street tramp dressed in rags and a tattered hat, with an emerald bottle sitting next to him and captioned his painting "The Absinthe Drinker." Unfortunately, the painting was rejected by the Paris Salon and its author declared an alcoholic with no morals.


The Green Fairy became the muse of changed perceptions, revealing an unsuspecting side in man and creator. Many men "fell in love" with the "green whore" and presented her paintings - Vincent van Gogh, Henri Toulouse Lautrec (Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec), playwright Alfred Jarry sought his destruction in absinthe. Picasso inspired himself and dedicated her work to the Absinthe Drinker, but did not allow his soul to be conquered by this "devil in a female image." Oscar Wilde compares her to a beautiful sunset, and the great cat lover Hemingway describes her as "warming her brain and changing the ideas of alchemy", but quickly realized her addiction and stopped her consumption.


Van Gogh in letters testifies that he consumed absinthe daily, which is why he developed mental disorder and seizures. Although he has become an alcoholic, he does not give up the drink for the rest of his life. Her yellow-green color was even "magnified" in his paintings. Experts say that absinthe overdose led to a change in color perception, and he saw everything in yellow.

"Still life with absinthe"

artist: Van Gogh

One of the biggest bohemians in Paris, Paul Verlaine, was so obsessed with absinthe that he sang it in his first works, as he toured the brothels with his friend Arthur Rambo every night. She first mentions her in Confession (1895). But then, under the influence of the alcoholic beverage, he started beating his wife, going crazy and worrying his family. It does not abandon the consumption of absinthe, a drink branded as "a source of madness, crime, idiocy and shame". He felt ashamed finding his death in bed, with a bottle of absinthe under his pillow.

The Absinthe Drinker

artist: Victor Olivier

In Paris, a French respected psychiatrist named Valentin Magnan, worried about the increased consumption of this alcoholic beverage, has begun a study on the dependence of the brain on absinthe. He was convinced that he was to blame for the growing incidence of drinking madness. It also takes into account other factors such as low birth rates due to the high standard of living and women's education. As a true patriot and Frenchman, he was sure that absinthe was at the root of social problems. He distinguished between dependence on absinthe and alcoholism, and even made scientific experiences. He put two guinea pigs in the aquarium - one gave absinthe and the other pure alcohol. The result was that the first, immediately inhaling the vapors of the absinthe, began to rampage, and then faded. After this experiment, he recommended banning the Green Devil.


Antique French bottle / Pinterest

Others, however, believe the results are insufficient and countries like the UK still allow its use. In France, the memory of the loss in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 - 1871 was still alive. In an attempt to preserve the health of the nation, and its ability to respond adequately in the event of war, the drink is banned.


Unless the absinthe drinker was previously considered dangerous, after the 1905 killings, many people have turned against the drink. Some doctors thought that absinthe was directly related to tuberculosis. Due to the diseases of the French vineyards of 1880, many winemakers have suffered losses and the popularity of absinthe is growing at a dramatic rate. This, as well as Magnan's statement that alcoholism and absenteeism are different types of illness that saved winemakers from adverse "harmful" advertising. The country continued to use wine as a traditional drink. Magnan's death in 1916 dampens public distrust of this drink. She continued to associate herself with the "declining lower classes," and the only memory of her was cartoons on the walls of cafes, testifying to a past "glory."


But since the nature of humans had not changed for centuries, both here and in ancient Rome, they longed for "bread and spectacle" here, and the unique "absinthe killings" were already fading from the pages of the newspapers. Due to pressure from various distillers, many European countries have revised their use of absinthe, although it has always been used less than 10 mg / l.


Switzerland in 2005 again authorized the use of absinthe for local consumption. Today, nearly 100 later, the Green Fairy is alive again and enchants us with its unique color and taste.

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