Filmed by Preetha Jayaraman
One green bottle hanging on the wall, one green bottle hanging on the wall, and if one green bottle accidentally falls, I hope it’s not the bottle of Absinthe. I’ve downed the emerald-green potion countless times, being a sucker for the anise seed, among other things, but I haven’t been visited by the green fairy, living as I do in the 21st century when excesses in spirits and psychotropics are discouraged. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, Absinthe had a cult following. Many green fairies have been depicted by artists after soaking up the 148 proof booze, and here’s the shortlist of writers who devoured the magic potion: Alfred Jarry, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Emilie Zola, Earnest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde. Jarry painted himself green and stood on the handlebars of his speeding bicycle, Van Gogh cut off an earlobe and dashed off a self-portrait with a bandaged ear, and Verlaine shot Rimbaud in a lover’s quarrel. If all this has been attributed to the green bottle, so have their masterpieces.
And here I sit, in my pigeonhole in the 21st century, peering into the computer screen and waiting for the green fairy to pop out of the bottle, far from 148 proof, and I turn green with envy.