Who am I?
Where do I come from?
I am Antonin Artaud
and if I say it
as I know how to say it
you will see my present body
fly into pieces
and under ten thousand
notorious aspects
a new body
will be assembled
in which you will never again
be able
to forget me.

(Post-Scriptum), translated by Clayton Eshleman and Norman Glass.

French writer and actor.

Born September 4, 1896, in Marseilles.

He moved to Paris in 1920, where he became an actor. He did, in fact, cut a striking figure.

He was a minor figure in the surrealist movement until 1927, when he helped start the Théâtre Alfred Jarry, which would go in other directions.

In 1935 he there put on his play, The Cenci, which was his first example of the Theater of Cruelty.

Artaud had a lifelong problem with mental illness. He spent most of 1936 in Mexico, where he used peyote. This certainly did not help matters. In Ireland in 1937 on a boat, he is straightjacketed after threatening to hurt himself, and is sent back to France. For about 9 years from that point, he stays in various hospitals and mental institutions, in Rouen, Paris, and, primarily, Rodez. There, he was made victim to medical ignorance, and was given electroshock therapy and a variety of other "treatments".

January 13, 1947 he delivered a lecture at the Theatre du Vieux Colombier.

Died March 4, 1948, at the Hospice d'Ivry in Paris. His final work was To Have Done With The Judgment Of God.

Insanity often produces great genius in art. Then again, it sometimes produces works which are simply bizarre and disturbing. To some of us, that alone is a form of genius.

Artaud was quite prolific, and wrote prose as well as poetry- some of it more coherant than the rest. It is interesting to read him to find out what happens when you mix insanity with the avant garde.

Susan Sontag and Jacques Derrida have had interesting things to say about Artaud, but then again, Harold Bloom lists him as a Canonical author for the Chaotic Age, so he's not as pomo and trendy as you would think.

Let's have a look at the folowing Jack Hirshman translation of one piece which was published by one of Artuad's doctors, Dr. Gaston Ferdière, in the December 1959 La Tour de Feu. About the piece, the doctor writes "I add here a specific example of Artaud's mental derangement, the dedication to the Führer of The New Revelations of Being... One recognizes here the faulty memory (so frequent with Artaud along with mistaken identity), mystical ideas, glossolalia, etc...." I too add it here as a specific example of Artaud's mental derangment.


in memory of the
Romanische cafe in
Berlin one afternoon in
May of '32,
and because I pray
give you the
grace to remember
all the wonders by which HE (sic)
this very day

Kudar dayro Zarish Ankkara

(December 3, 1943)

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