This image is the cover for the book Cocaine


A new translation of the Italian novelist’s cautionary comedy of excess and despair in 1920s Paris—“this little romp is always a pleasurable one” (Publishers Weekly).

Paris, 1920s. The City of Light is a dizzy and decadent bohemia for Tito Arnaudi, a young Italian medical student turned bon vivant journalist. To escape the moralizing of his Italian hometown—or perhaps it was merely a whim—Tito got on a train to Paris without so much as a letter of introduction. Soon enough, he finds employment inventing lurid scandals and gruesome deaths to newspapers. But his own life becomes even more outrageous than his press reports when he acquires three demanding mistresses.

Elegant, witty, and wicked, Pitigrilli’s classic novel was first published in Italian in 1921 and captures the lure of a bygone era even as it charts the comical tragedy of a young man’s downfall. The novel’s descriptions of sex and drug use prompted church authorities to place Cocaine on a list of forbidden books, while filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder wrote a screenplay based on the tale. Even today, Cocaine retains its venomous bite.


Pitigrilli was the pseudonym of Dino Segre, born in Turin in 1893 to a well-to-do Jewish father and a Catholic mother. He worked as a foreign correspondent in Paris during the 1920s, and under his pen name became equally celebrated and notorious for a series of audacious and subversive books that were translated into sixteen languages. Pitigrilli was accused of serving as an informant to the fascist authorities under Mussolini, who defended the writer against charges of perversity, saying: "Pitigrilli is right ... he photographs the times. If society is corrupt it's not his fault." Pitigrilli fled Italy after the German occupation, living in Switzerland and Argentina, but returned to Turin and converted to fascism before his death in 1975.

New Vessel Press