Antonin Artaud

Dafato Team | Nov 23, 2023

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Antonin Artaud, born on September 4, 1896 in Marseille and died on March 4, 1948 in Ivry-sur-Seine, is a French theater theorist, actor, writer, essayist, draftsman and poet.

Poetry, directing, drugs, pilgrimages, drawing and radio, each of these activities has been a tool in his hands, a means to develop his art.

All his life, he fought against physical pain, diagnosed as hereditary syphilis, with medication and drugs. This omnipresence of pain influences his relationships as well as his creation. He also underwent a series of electroshock treatments during successive internments, and he spent the last years of his life in psychiatric hospitals, notably that of Rodez. If his mental imbalances made his human relations difficult, they also contributed to feed his creation. There are on the one hand his texts "insane of Rodez and the end of his life", on the other hand, according to Évelyne Grossmann, the dazzling texts of his beginnings.

Inventor of the concept of "theater of cruelty" in Le Théâtre et son double, Artaud tried to radically transform literature and especially theater. If he did not succeed in his lifetime, he certainly influenced the post-May '68 generations, especially the American theater, and the situationists of the late 1960s who claimed his revolutionary spirit. He also influenced the anarchist Living Theatre, which claims him in the play The Brig where he puts Artaud's theories into practice.

In his immense work, he makes art delirious (as Gilles Deleuze, great reader of Artaud, will make delirious the theory around the body without organ). His graphic work is also important. He was the subject of an important bequest to the Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou in 1994. Some of his works were exhibited in 2011.

On the question of biography, Florence de Mèredieu warns that Artaud's work and life are "a titanic effort to ruin the beacons and limits supposed to channel the existence and being of an individual." He puts himself on stage continuously, living as if at a distance from himself. He writes "Antonin Artaud was at first a perverted model, a tried sketch that I took back myself at a certain moment, to return at home dressed". He will spend his life to disturb all the data of what we call, in our societies a civil state.

Youth (1896-1920)

Antonin Artaud was born on September 4, 1896 in Marseille. He came from a well-to-do bourgeois family. His father, Antoine-Roi Artaud, a long-distance captain, and his mother, Euphrasie Nalpas, were first cousins: his two grandmothers were sisters, both born in Smyrna (Izmir - now in Turkey). One, Catherine Chilé, was raised in Marseille, where she married Marius Artaud, the other, Mariette Chilé, grew up in Smyrna, where she married Louis Nalpas, a ship's supplies merchant. Her maternal uncle, John Nalpas, met her father's sister, Louise Artaud at their siblings' wedding, and they also married. John and Louise settled in Marseille, the families were very close, the children formed a close-knit tribe. Antonin had a pampered childhood in Marseilles, from which he kept memories of tenderness and warmth.

However, this childhood was disrupted by the disease. The first disorder appeared at the age of four and a half, when the child complained of headaches and saw double. It is thought to be meningitis following a fall. Electricity was already recommended as a treatment. His father bought a machine that transmitted electricity through electrodes attached to the head. This machine is described in the Traité de thérapeutique des maladies nerveuses by Doctor Grasser. Although it was very different from electroshock therapy, this system was part of electrotherapy and the child Artaud suffered a lot from it.

Other traumas will follow. At the age of six, he almost drowned during a stay with his grandmother in Smyrna. But his first great shock came from the death of his seven-month-old sister, who was pushed around by a maid's violent gesture. She appears in the writings of Antonin Artaud as one of his "daughters of the heart":

"Germaine Artaud, strangled at seven months old, looked at me from the Saint-Pierre cemetery in Marseille until that day in 1931, when, in the middle of the Dôme in Montparnasse, I had the impression that she was looking at me from very close."

However, Antonin also has a sense of play and staging. He is entrusted with the setting up of the crib every year at Christmas. For the children of the family, his talent as a director is apparent in his tableaux vivants: reproductions of famous paintings, or family shows put on with his cousins. Often, Antonin's shows have "macabre resonances": a funeral at dusk, (Antonin playing the role of the corpse). On another occasion he invented a staging to frighten his cousin Marcel Nalpas. It was, according to his sister's account, a macabre scene with skulls and candles in a room. Antonin then let Marcel in by declaiming a poem by Baudelaire. (Marcel was a friend of Marcel Pagnol, who quotes him in "Le temps des secrets", under his pseudonym "Nelps", short for Nalpas). In this Theatre of Cruelty, Theatre of Fear, Marie-Ange sees the influence of Edgar Poe.

Artaud was fourteen years old when he founded, with his friends from the Sacré-Coeur school in Marseille, a small magazine where he published his first poems inspired by Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud and Edgar Poe. But in his last year of high school, in 1914, he suffered from depression, did not take the baccalaureate, and the following year his family took him to Montpellier to consult a specialist in nervous diseases. He was sent to the sanatorium of La Rouguière in 1915 and 1916 and published poems in February 1916 in La Revue de Hollande. The review board declared him initially fit for service before the army reformed him temporarily for health reasons, then definitively in December 1917 thanks to his father's intervention.

The year 1914 is a turning point in the life of the young man, because of the war, but it is also for Antonin his last year of college. He must take the philosophy exam, but his health does not allow it. Artaud is in a state of depression after his first sexual experience, which he describes as dramatic, as a trauma that he will often return to in his writings. He has the feeling that something was stolen from him. This is what he expressed to Colette Allendy in 1947, shortly before his death.

Between 1917 and 1919, he made a number of stays in health resorts and nursing homes. He painted, drew and wrote. Later, during his stay at the Henri-Rouselle hospital for a detoxification cure, he indicates that he started taking Laudanum in 1919. "I have never taken morphine and I do not know the precise effects. I know the analogous effects of opium in the form of Sydenham's Laudanum."

Early years in Paris (1920-1924)

In 1920, on the advice of Dr. Dardel, his family entrusted Antonin Artaud to Dr. Édouard Toulouse, director of the Villejuif asylum, and he became his co-secretary for the writing of his journal Demain. The doctor encouraged him to write poems and articles until the magazine disappeared in 1922. In June of that same year, 1920, Artaud, who was interested in theater, met Lugné-Poë and left Villejuif to live in a boarding house in Passy. He also became interested in the Dada movement and discovered the works of André Breton, Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault.

He met Max Jacob who directed him to Charles Dullin. Dullin integrated him into his company in 1921. There, he met Génica Athanasiou with whom he fell in love and to whom he wrote a large number of letters collected in the collection Letters to Génica Athanassiou with two poems. Their stormy passion will last six years. Until 1922, Antonin Artaud published poems, articles and reviews in several journals: Action, Cahiers de philosophie et d'art, L'Ère nouvelle, a journal of the entente des gauches. Artaud's theatrical adventure began in 1922 with the first rehearsal of the Atelier's shows, where he played Molière's L'Avare. Other roles followed, always with Dullin, who asked him to design the costumes and sets for Les Olives by Lope de Rueda. A copy of these drawings is kept at the Centre Pompidou. The whole of 1922 was occupied by the theater and by the numerous roles Artaud played despite his failing health and the financial difficulties of the company. He plays Apoplexy in La Mort de Souper, an adaptation of Nicole de La Chesnaye's Condemnation of Banquet, and the role of Tiresias in Jean Cocteau's Antigone, directed by Charles Dullin.

At the same time, he also produces at the request of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler a collection of eight poems printed in 112 copies and he met André Masson, Michel Leiris, Jean Dubuffet and Georges Limbour. His correspondence testifies to the interest that artists and writers have for him. It occupies a very large place in the collection of his works.

In 1923, he published, on his own account and under the pseudonym of Eno Dailor, the first issue of the magazine Bilboquet, a sheet composed of an introduction and two poems:

"All magazines are slaves to a way of thinking and, in fact, they despise thinking. We will appear when we have something to say."

1923 is the year when Artaud adds cinema to the modes of expression he cultivates (painting, literature, theater). On March 15, the filmmaker René Clair launched a vast investigation in the magazine Théâtre et Comœdia illustré, because, according to him, few filmmakers knew how to take advantage of "the camera. He then turned to painters, sculptors, writers, and musicians, asking them two questions: 1) "What kind of films do you like?" and 2) "What kind of films would you like to see created? Antonin Artaud answered that he liked cinema as a whole because everything seemed to him to be created, that he liked its speed and the redundant process of the cinematograph. He would later have the opportunity to shoot with a large number of directors, including Carl Dreyer, G.W. Pabst and Abel Gance. The cinema appears to him "as an essentially sensual medium that overturns all the laws of optics, perspective and logic."

March 1923 was also the month of his break with Charles Dullin, when the Atelier created Huon de Bordeaux, a melodrama in which Artaud played the role of Charlemagne. But he disagreed completely with the director and the author of the play on the way of acting. On March 31, the role was taken over by another actor: Ferréol (Marcel Achard). Questioned by Jean Hort, Artaud is said to have said: "I left the Atelier because I no longer got along with Dullin on questions of aesthetics and interpretation. No method, my dear. (...) His actors? Puppets..."

Through Mrs. Toulouse, Antonin is introduced to André de Lorde, a Grand-Guignol author and librarian by trade. André de Lorde has already directed an adaptation of a short story by Edgar Poe, The System of Doctor Tar and Professor Feather, which takes place in an insane asylum. And he developed what he called the "Theater of Fear" and the "Theater of Death," a style that would inspire Antonin Artaud for the Theater of Cruelty. Hired by Jacques Hébertot, Artaud plays the role of the prompter at the Théâtre de la Comédie des Champs-Élysées in the play by Luigi Pirandello: Six characters in search of an author, directed by Georges Pitoëff, with Michel Simon in the role of the director. Artaud and Simon had in common a great admiration for Alfred Jarry.

Antonin Artaud's correspondence with Jacques Rivière, director of the NRF, began that year, in May-June, when Artaud was performing Ferenc Molnár's Liliom at the theater, directed by Pitoëff. A correspondence that Rivière published later. Most of his theatrical training is due to Pitoëff, about whom Artaud is full of praise in his letters to Toulouse or to Génica, with whom he lives "a year of complete love, a year of absolute love.

In his letters to Génica, Antonin details all the events of his daily life, even the smallest. These Letters to Genica are collected in a book, preceded by two poems dedicated to her.

The entry into literature: the surrealist period (1924-1927)

In 1946, Antonin Artaud described his entry into literature as follows: "I began in literature by writing books to say that I could not write anything at all, my thought when I had something to say or write was what was most denied me.... And two very short books ride on this absence of an idea: The Limbo Umbilic and The Nerve Weigher."

His real entry in literature begins in the years 1924-1925, period of his first contacts with the NRF and his Correspondence with Jacques Rivière which is published in 1924. Jacques Rivière refused Artaud's poems, and it is from this refusal that this correspondence between the two men was established. This first publication reveals the very particular role that the epistolary writing plays in all the work of Artaud. Literary critics agree that the rejected poems are rather conventional, whereas the letters testify, by their accuracy of tone, to Artaud's sickly sensitivity, which is found even in the shortest bills and also in his letters to Génica and to Doctor Toulouse.

In those years, if Artaud complains about the need to take chemical substances, he also defends the use of drugs. It is the use of drugs that allows him "to liberate, to elevate the spirit." In the circles of the literature, but also of the theater and the cinema, the use of the opium is very widespread, praised until the surrealist circles, the surrealism presented itself as a drug in the preface of The Surrealist Revolution: " The surrealism opens the doors of the dream to all those for which the night is stingy. Surrealism is the crossroads of the enchantments of the sleep, the alcohol, the tobacco, the ether, the opium, the morphine; but it is also breaker of chains, we do not drink, do not take, do not prick ourselves, and we dream (...) ".

This metaphor indicates that it is up to literature to play the role of narcotic. But Artaud prefers to confront reality, and he praises the merits of the abnormal lucidity that the drug gives him in Art and Death. Opium constitutes for him a territory of transition which ends up devouring all his territories. Although Jean Cocteau warned that "Opium de-socializes us and distances us from the community", this has everything to please the great anarchist that Artaud is.

From 1924, he adheres to surrealism, and while launching himself to the assault of the republic of letters he begins a career of theater and cinema.

Inspired by the paintings of André Masson, he wrote his first text for the first issue of the magazine La Révolution surréaliste published in January 1925. It was his admiration for Masson that led him to join the Surrealist movement, at the same time as the painter, on 15 October 1924. Artaud, who lived neither the Dada experience, nor the early days of surrealism, is at first circumspect on the theory of psychic automatism dear to André Breton. His passage by surrealism will moreover less influence his literary evolution, than what remains, in the group, of the anarchism of Dada. From 1924 to 1926, Artaud participates actively in the movement before being excluded. The permanence of the Central Office of Surrealist Research, created on October 11, 1924 at 15 rue de Grenelle, is ensured by Pierre Naville and Benjamin Péret who are the directors. The dynamism of Artaud's texts, his vehemence, brought new blood to a movement that was withering away, and supported by Breton, his mission was to "chase away from surrealism everything that could be ornamental".

After the Enquête sur le suicide (Investigation on Suicide) published in the first issue of the journal, Artaud wrote an address to the Pope in the third issue of Révolution surréaliste (April 15, 1925), which he revised in 1946 for the publication of the complete works of Antonin Artaud, as well as an Address to the Dalai Lama, which he revised in 1946, again with a view to the publication of the complete works. Other texts are still published in the magazine. But the link with the collective will go in reducing until the rupture bound to the adhesion of the surrealists to the communism. Differences already appeared from the number one in the group. Artaud tried to take back in hand this Central Surrealist of which André Breton entrusted him the direction on January 28, 1925. However, at the time when Breton was considering joining the French Communist Party, Artaud left the group: "The Surrealists are much more affected than I am, I assure you, and their respect for certain fetishes made by men and their kneeling before Communism is the best proof of this. Signed AA January 8, 1927, postscript added to the Manifesto for an aborted theater."

On the occasion of his departure, Louis Aragon, Breton, Paul Éluard, Benjamin Péret and Pierre Unik published a brochure entitled Au Grand Jour (The Big Day), intended to publicly inform the public of Artaud's and Philippe Soupault's exclusion from the Surrealist group, and of the signatories' membership in the Communist party. Artaud is violently taken to task: "For a long time we wanted to confuse him, convinced that a real bestiality animated him. We don't see why this scoundrel should delay any longer in converting, or, as he would undoubtedly say, in declaring himself a Christian." Brochure to which Artaud responds without delay in June 1927 with a text entitled To the great night or the surrealist bluff, in terms more chosen but no less violent: "Whether the surrealists have chased me or I myself have been kicked out of their grotesque simulacrum, the question for a long time is not there. That the surrealism agrees with the Revolution or that the Revolution must be made outside and above the surrealist adventure, one wonders what it can make well to the world when one thinks of the little influence that the surrealists managed to gain on the morals and the ideas of this time ".

The cinema (1924-1928)

Disappointed by the theater, which offered him only small roles, Antonin Artaud hoped for a career of a different scale in the cinema. "In the cinema, the actor is only a living sign. He is the whole scene, the author's thoughts. He then approached his cousin Louis Nalpas, artistic director of the Société des Cinéromans, who got him a role in Surcouf, le roi des corsaires (1924) by Luitz-Morat and in Fait divers, a short film by Claude Autant-Lara, shot in March 1924, in which he plays "Monsieur 2", the lover strangled in slow motion by the husband.

Still through his cousin, Artaud meets Abel Gance and sympathizes with him, to the great astonishment of the filmmaker's entourage, reputedly difficult to access. For his film Napoleon (1927) in preparation, Abel Gance promised him the role of Marat.

Antonin Artaud begins to write scenarios in which he tries to "join the cinema with the intimate reality of the brain". Thus Eighteen Seconds proposes to unroll on the screen the images that scroll through the mind of a man, stricken with a "strange disease", during the eighteen seconds preceding his suicide.

At the end of 1927, learning of the preparation of Jean Epstein's film The Fall of the House of Usher, Artaud proposed to Abel Gance that he play the role of Roderick Usher: "I don't have many pretensions in the world, but I do have the pretension of understanding Edgar Poe and of being a type like Master Usher myself. If I don't have that character under my skin, nobody does. I realize it physically and psychically. My life is Usher's and his sinister hovel. I have pestilence in the soul of my nerves and I suffer from it. Letter to Abel Gance, November 27, 1927, quoted in Artaud, œuvres. After a few attempts, Artaud was not selected.

The same year, Artaud justifies to the surrealists his participation in the filming of Léon Poirier's Verdun, visions of history, on the grounds that

"It is not a patriotic film, made for the exaltation of the most ignoble civic virtues, but a left-wing film to inspire the horror of war to the conscious and organized masses. I no longer compose with existence. I despise good even more than evil. Heroism pisses me off, morality pisses me off. Letter to Roland Tual of October 28, 1927 "

Of the ten or so scripts written and proposed, only one will be filmed: La Coquille et le Clergyman by Germaine Dulac. Artaud expresses his objectives:

"I have tried, in the following scenario, to realize this idea of visual cinema, where psychology itself is devoured by acts. Without a doubt, this scenario does not realize the absolute image of all that can be done in this sense; but at least, it announces it. Not that the cinema must do without all human psychology. It is not its principle. On the contrary. But to give to this psychology a much more lively and active form, without these links that try to make the motives of our acts appear in an absolutely stupid light instead of displaying them to us in their original and deep barbarism. - The Shell and the Clergyman and other writings on cinema - Cinema and reality-."

Hired at the same time by Carl Theodor Dreyer for his film The Passion of Joan of Arc, Artaud abandoned the role of the clergyman that had been assigned to him and followed only intermittently the realization of The Shell. On the evening of the first screening at the Studio des Ursulines, February 9, 1928, the surrealists who had come in a group to the session noisily expressed their disapproval.

From then on, the magic of cinema no longer exists for him. Despite this, he pursued a career as an actor to support himself. The advent of talking pictures turned him away from this "machine with a stubborn eye" to which he opposed "a theater of blood that at each performance would have made him gain something physically".

In 1933, in an article published in the special issue Cinema 83 no 4 Les Cahiers jaunes he wrote a eulogy of the cinema: "La Vieillesse précoce du cinéma".

"The cinematographic world is a dead world, illusory and cut off. The world of cinema is a closed world, without relation to existence."

In 1935, he appeared two final times in Lucrèce Borgia by Abel Gance and in Kœnigsmark by Maurice Tourneur.

Antonin Artaud has appeared in more than twenty films, without ever having obtained a leading role or even a supporting role of importance.

The Alfred Jarry Theater (1927-1930)

Having left Dullin, Artaud joined Georges and Ludmilla Pitoëff's company at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées. Then with Roger Vitrac, Robert Aron and the material help of Dr. René Allendy, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who treated him, he founded the Alfred Jarry Theater in 1927. He defines a new conception of dramatic art, published later, in 1929-1930, in a pamphlet entitled Théâtre Alfred Jarry et l'Hostilité publique, written by Roger Vitrac in collaboration with Antonin Artaud, which recalls the objectives of the Théâtre Alfred Jarry "to contribute to the ruin of the theater as it currently exists in France", but also to "privilege humor, poetry of fact, the human marvelous."

The Alfred Jarry Theater presents four series of shows: Les Mystères de l'amour by Vitrac, Ventre brûlé ou la Mère folle by Artaud and Gigogne by Max Robur (pseudonym of Robert Aron), Le Songe by August Strindberg disrupted by the Surrealists (June 1927), the third act of Le Partage de midi by Paul Claudel performed against the will of the author, whom Artaud publicly described as an "infamous traitor. It follows a quarrel with Jean Paulhan and the reconsideration of the surrealists (January 1928). Victor ou les enfants au pouvoir by Vitrac will be the last representation (December 1928).

In 1971, Jean-Louis Barrault made a comparison between Alfred Jarry and Antonin Artaud: "When you read the very interesting texts that Artaud wrote in the Théâtre Alfred Jarry, you realize that for him, Jarry was not limited to Ubu roi (...). There is a subtlety in Jarry, an esotericism that is much closer to Artaud than the schoolboy pranks of Ubu roi (...) Even so, with Artaud, there was a sense of laughter (...) Laughter is a weapon for unblocking, for debunking false statues and false institutions. The laughter is a weapon (...) that the artists have and that demystifies the institutions wanting to be eternal.

In his biography published in 1972, Jean-Louis Barrault acknowledges all that he owes to Artaud:

"What had he revealed to me? With him, it was the metaphysics of the theater that got under my skin. At the Grenier (des Grands-Augustins), I instinctively approached Artaud. Although his frail health made it difficult for him to put his ideas into practice, his contribution was much more technical than intellectual. And if we got so close during this short period, it is because he in turn had discovered in me a lot of sensations that he shared in advance in our souls, fire and laughter went hand in hand.

"We saw each other almost daily. He asked me to do the same. I did it. He would agree, then he would yell: "They've taken my personality! Then he would run away, and I would hear him laughing. As long as he was lucid, he was fantastic, royal, funny. But when, under the effect of drugs or suffering, the machine started to grind, it was painful. We suffered for him.

Artaud in film, theater and literature (1930-1935)

From July to December 1929, Antonin Artaud and Roger Vitrac elaborate the brochure that will be entitled Théâtre Alfred Jarry et l'Hostilité publique, and he refuses to sign the Second Manifesto of Surrealism that attacks Breton. The brochure, which appeared in 1930, was a set of photo-montages, directed by Artaud, photographed by Eli Lotar. Roger Vitrac, Artaud and his friend Josette Lusson posed for the photos. Artaud writes two staging projects, one for Sonate by Strinberg, the other for Le Coup de Trafalgar by Roger Vitrac. But he decides to leave the Alfred Jarry Theatre. He explains this in a letter to Jean Paulhan dated March 16, 1930: "I know that the brochure has had a very bad effect on all those who do not forgive old stories (...) The Alfred Jarry Theater has brought me bad luck and I do not want it to cause me to fall out with the last friends I have left."

Artaud, who was pursuing his literary, cinematographic and theatrical activities at the same time, was already thinking elsewhere. In 1931, he attended a performance of the Balinese Theatre presented as part of the Colonial Exhibition and told Louis Jouvet of the strong impression he had made:

"Of the almost uselessness of the word which is no longer the vehicle but the point of suture of the thought, of the necessity for the theater to try to represent some of the strange sides of the constructions of the unconscious, all that is filled, satisfied, represented and beyond by the surprising realizations of the Balinese Theater which is a beautiful camouflet to the Theater such as we conceive it ".

Pursuing his quest for a theater of the dream and the grotesque, of risk and danger, Artaud successively wrote two manifestos of the Theater of Cruelty:

"Without an element of cruelty at the base of any show, the theater is not possible. In the state of degeneration in which we find ourselves, it is through the skin that metaphysics will be brought into the minds of people (1932).

His first production, Les Cenci, performed with sets and costumes by Balthus, at the Folies-Wagram theater, stopped due to lack of funds. The play was withdrawn after 17 performances (1935). Criticism was divided and Pierre-Jean Jouve's laudatory article in the NRF came too late. Artaud considers it as a "half failure": "The conception was good, he writes to Jean Paulhan. I was betrayed by the realization.

This experience marks the end of Antonin Artaud's theatrical adventure, and he is already thinking of leaving for Mexico to "SEEK" himself, as he writes to Jean Paulhan in a letter dated July 19, 1935. Shortly before, he had attended a performance of Jean-Louis Barrault's Autour d'une mère, an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel Tandis que j'agonise. He writes a note that will be published in NRF No 262 of July 1, 1935:

"There is in Jean-Louis Barrault's show a kind of marvelous horse-centaur, and our emotion in front of him was great. This show is magical as are the incantations of the negro wizards when the tongue that beats the palate makes rain on a landscape; when in front of the exhausted patient, the wizard who gives to his breath the shape of a strange malaise, drives out the evil with the breath; and as in Jean-Louis Barrault's show, at the moment of the mother's death, a concert of cries takes life. I do not know if such a success is a masterpiece, in any case, it is an event What does it matter that Jean-Louis Barrault brought back the religious spirit with descriptive and profane means, if all that is authentic is sacred; if all his gestures are so beautiful that they take on a symbolic meaning "

On April 6, 1938, will appear a collection of texts under the title The Theater and its double including The Theater and the plague, text of a conference literally incarnated. Artaud played on stage the last convulsions of a plague victim "His face was convulsed with anguish (...). He made us feel his dry and burning throat, the suffering, the fever, the fire of his entrails (...) He represented his own death, his own crucifixion. According to Anaïs Nin's account, at first people were breathless, then they began to laugh, then one by one they began to leave. "Artaud and I went out in the light rain (...) He was wounded, badly wounded. They don't understand that they are dead, he said. Their death is total, like a deafness, a blindness. It is the agony that I have shown. Mine, yes, and that of all those who live.

From voyages to drifts (1936-1937)

In 1936, Artaud left for Mexico. He writes that he went on horseback to the Tarahumaras. "It was not yet noon when I encountered this vision: I was on horseback and I was moving fast. Yet I could see that I was not dealing with sculpted forms, but with a definite play of lights that added to the relief of the rocks. This figure was like Indians. It seemed to me, by its composition, by its structure, to obey the same principle to which all this mountain in sections obeyed." He discovers peyote, a substance whose "physical hold is so terrible that to go from the house of the Indian to a tree located a few steps away it was necessary to appeal to desperate reserves of will." His initiation takes place during the Dance of the Peyote, after the twelfth phase. "I took part in the rite of the water, of the blows on the skull, of this kind of healing that one passes to oneself, and of the inordinate ablutions.

Of this stay in the Sierra Tarahumara, we only have Artaud's testimonies and we have no certainty about his initiation to the peyote rite. Nor is it certain that he actually attended the dances of the Indians, or even that he really went to this territory of difficult access: was he inspired by the accounts of explorers? In 1932, he had already published in the magazine Voilà two articles on regions where he had never been: Galapagos and the islands at the end of the world and Love in Changaï. However, according to J.M. Le Clézio, the question of the anthropological veracity of Artaud's texts makes little sense: "To reduce this incantation, this appeal, to the nothingness of a travel report by seeking authenticity would be absurd and vain.

In addition to the account of his trip to Mexico, there are many other texts by Antonin Artaud entitled Textes Mexicains, as well as the texts of three lectures given at the University of Mexico, reproduced in the Arbalète edition by Marc Barbezat in 1963. The first one Surrealism and revolution dated Mexico, February 26, 1936, the second one Man against destiny dated Mexico February 27, 1936, the third one The Theater and the Gods dated Mexico February 29, 1936.

The three lectures were collected under the title Revolutionary Messages, which is the title Artaud gave to his texts in the letter he sent to Jean Paulhan on May 21, 1936, and which includes other texts by Artaud published in Mexico, mainly in El Nacional, but also in Revistas de revistas, especially for the exhibition of paintings by Maria Izquierdo and sculptures by Eleanor Boudin. The three lectures were translated into French because Artaud had sent them to Jean Paulhan.

The conference entitled Surrealism and Revolution begins with the presentation of the tract of January 5, 1936, at the Grenier des Grands-Augustins written by Georges Bataille. Artaud describes the Surrealist movement and Contre-Attaque as follows: "A terrible boiling of revolt against all forms of material or spiritual oppression agitated us all when Surrealism began. Yet not everything was capable of destroying anything, at least in appearance. For the secret of surrealism is that it attacks things in their secret."

And to describe his withdrawal of the surrealism he declares: "December 10, 1926 at 9 o'clock in the evening, in the café of the Prophet in Paris, the surrealists meet in congress. It is a question of knowing what, in the face of the social revolution that is rumbling, Surrealism will do with its own movement. For me, given what we know of the Marxist communism to which it was a question of rallying, the question could not even arise. Does Artaud not care about the revolution? I was asked. I don't give a damn about yours, not mine," I replied, leaving Surrealism, since Surrealism had also become a party.

Among Artaud's many articles published in Mexico, The Social Anarchy in Art, published on August 18, 1936 under the title La anarquía social del arte in El Nacional, defines the role of the artist as follows "The artist who has not auscultated the heart of man, the artist who ignores that he is a scapegoat, that his duty is to magnetize, to attract, to make fall on his shoulders the wandering angers of the time to unload it of its psychological malaise, that one is not an artist. "

Upon his return to France, he found his fiancée Cécile Schramme, whom he had met in 1935 at the home of René Thomas. The young girl belongs to the Belgian bourgeoisie. Her father was the director of the Brussels tramways and her mother a rich Flemish heiress. Artaud helped organize an exhibition of María Izquierdo's gouaches in January-February 1937, but on January 25 and until March 3, he entered a detoxification program at the French Center for Surgery, the costs of which were paid by Jean Paulhan. Cécile, who had become Antonin's companion before his departure, shared his daily life in Montparnasse, even accompanying him in his drug taking.

Artaud makes contact with the literary circles of Brussels. On May 18, 1937, he went to Brussels to give a conference at the Maison de l'Art. In front of a full house of 200 to 300 people, he recounts his Mexican adventure. There are then three different testimonies. Seized by a crisis, he left the room shouting: "Who says I'm still alive? According to the testimony of Marcel Lecomte, who attended the conference, Artaud would have cried out, "By revealing this to you I have killed myself." Other witnesses tell that he would have arrived on stage saying: "As I have lost my notes, I will speak to you about the effects of masturbation among the Jesuits". In reality, we do not know for sure what he was talking about: his trip to Mexico according to some, pederasty according to him. In any case, he caused a scandal. Artaud was lodged with his family-in-law. Until then, his father-in-law enjoyed showing him around the tramway sheds. But the scandal of the conference put an end to the project of marriage with Cecile. Their relations were broken off on May 21.

Les Nouvelles Révélations de l'Être was published on July 28, 1937: this thirty-two page booklet, signed "Le Révélé", was printed by Denoël without the author's name. It is a text with an apocalyptic tone based on his interpretation of tarot cards and horoscopes. A few days later, on August 12, 1937, Artaud embarked at Le Havre for an Irish journey. On August 14 he disembarked in Cobh, then stayed in the village of Kilronan, in one of the Aran Islands. Financially destitute, he asked Paulhan, his family and the French consulate for help. He seems to have left without paying his lodging with a couple in Kilronan and in a hotel in Galway. His mother would later discover, during her research, that he had been lodged at the Saint Vincent de Paul night shelter in Dublin, where he returned on September 9. He had written to his family that he was following in the footsteps of Celtic culture, "that of the Druids who possess the secrets of Nordic philosophy, know that men are descended from the God of Death Dispaler and that mankind must disappear by water and fire."

On September 23, 1937, Antonin Artaud was arrested in Dublin for vagrancy and disturbing the peace. On the 29th, he was forcibly put on board an American liner calling at Le Havre. Upon his arrival in France the next day, Artaud was handed over directly to the French authorities who took him to the Hôpital Général, shackled in a straitjacket. He was placed in the insane ward. He was judged to be violent, dangerous to himself and to others, and suffering from hallucinations and ideas of persecution, as indicated in the certificate of October 13, 1937, drawn up by Dr. R. before his transfer to the Quatre-Mares: "says that he is presented with poisoned food, that he is gassed in his cell, that cats are put in his face, sees black men near him, believes he is being hunted by the police, and threatens those who surround him. Dangerous for himself and for others, and attests that it is urgent to have the above-mentioned admitted to the departmental asylum." He was transferred under compulsory placement to the psychiatric hospital Les Quatre-Mares in Sotteville-lès-Rouen. According to the certificate of October 16, 1937, established by Doctor U. of the Quatre-Mares hospital, and reproduced, Artaud "presents a psychotic state based on hallucinations and ideas of persecutions, of poisoning by people hostile to his religious convictions as an Orthodox Christian, claims to be a Greek subject, a caricaturist in Paris, which he would have left in order to take refuge in Dublin, from where he was turned away, he believes, in order to attack him on the boat. Paranoid protests. To be maintained in observation treatment".

The first internments (1937-1943)

On November 8, 1937, the prefect of the Seine-Inférieure declared Antoine Artaud "dangerous for public order and personal safety", so that Artaud was interned in the Quatre-Mares asylum. Little information is available about this internment. The hospital was destroyed during the war. We do not know what treatment was applied to him. A part of his file would have remained after the war and would have been the subject of requests which would never have succeeded. But as he was declared dangerous, he was isolated in a cell and condemned to immobilization by a straitjacket.

His family and friends, who had no news, were worried. His mother Euphrasie undertakes research. She addressed herself in turn to Doctor Allendy, to Jean Paulhan, to Robert Denoël. She finally found her son in December 1937. Antonin, who did not recognize her, gave details of his Irish adventure. Euphrasie accuses the Irish police, whose methods are responsible for Antonin's condition, and the Irish authorities demand payment of a debt left by Antonin.

In February 1938, Antonin sent a letter to "Mr. Minister of Ireland, Legation of Ireland in Paris", in which he declared that he was the object of a misunderstanding, saying that he was writing on the advice of Dr. Germaine Morel, head doctor of the insane asylum in Sotteville-lès-Rouen. "I am a Greek subject, born in Smyrna, and my case is not of direct interest to Ireland. I left Paris, pursued for my political opinions, and I have come to ask for asylum in the very Christian Ireland. The French police are trying to pass me off as someone else. I ask you, Mr. Minister, to kindly intervene for my immediate release.

In April 1938, his mother's efforts to have him transferred were successful. Artaud was admitted to the psychiatric center of Sainte-Anne, where he stayed for eleven months. No details of this stay are known, except for the fortnightly certificate of April 15, 1938, signed by Dr. Nodet, which states: "Syncretic megalomania: leaves for Ireland with the cane of Confucius and the cane of St. Patrick. Memory sometimes rebellious. Addiction for 5 years (heroin, cocaine, laudanum). Literary claims perhaps justified to the extent that delirium can serve as inspiration. To be maintained". Artaud refused all visits, including from his family. However, he never stopped writing, although no text by him is known at that time, and despite the hypothetical declaration of Jacques Lacan who would have declared him "definitively lost for literature", the "graphorée" indication on the following transfer certificate gives an indication.

The certificate of February 22, 1939, drawn up by Doctor Longuet of Sainte-Anne during Antonin Artaud's transfer to the Ville-Évrard hospital (near Neuilly-sur-Marne, Seine-Saint-Denis) indicates: "Delusional syndrome of paranoid structure, active ideas of persecution, of poisoning, splitting of the personality. Psychic excitement at intervals. Old drug addiction. Can be transferred." From this date, he was interned at Ville-Evrard for three years and eleven months. Considered incurable, he received no treatment. But he wrote many letters, including a "Letter to Adrienne Monnier", which was published in the Gazette des amis du livre of March 4, and which remains the only known text of Artaud for the period 1938-1942. In response to Jean Paulhan's reproach, Adrienne Monnier replies that this text bears witness to the great imaginative wealth that psychiatrists call "bouts of delirium. During this period, Antonin Artaud also filled school notebooks with gris-gris, which mixed writing and drawings. From 1940, the situation of the internees in the hospitals becomes more difficult because of rationing. His mother and friends send him parcels, but his letters all contain appeals for food to be sent to him, and also to Genica Athanasiou, for heroin.

At the beginning of 1942, Antonin was in a worrying state: he was hungry and frighteningly thin, having lost ten kilos. His mother alerted his friends and persuaded Robert Desnos to take steps with Gaston Ferdière to have Artaud transferred to another hospital.

The electroshock technique was imported by German doctors during the period of occupation of France. At the time when Artaud was interned at Ville-Évrard, Dr. Rondepierre and a radiologist named Lapipe began to apply the electroshock technique. They carried out tests on rabbits and pigs, and then on patients the same year. In July 1941, they presented their results to the Société Médico-Psychologique. Artaud was not yet subjected to the treatment, but everything fell into place. Antonin's mother, remembering the tests performed on the child with electricity, asked Dr. Rondepierre if it would be a good idea to use this method for her son. The elements of the medical file are contradictory on this point. A letter from Dr. Menuau to the mother in 1942 indicates "an attempt at treatment that did not change the condition of the patient." This is in total contradiction with a letter, addressed to Gaston Ferdière by Euphrasie Artaud, in which the doctor says that Antonin was too weak to bear the treatment. The use of electroshock did take place, but it may have resulted in a prolonged coma, and for this reason Rondepierre preferred to keep the incident quiet? In the absence of further information, this remains a mere hypothesis.

In November 1942, Robert Desnos contacted Dr. Gaston Ferdière, a long-time friend of the Surrealists and head physician of the psychiatric hospital in Rodez (Aveyron), located in the "non-occupied" zone where the food shortage seemed less severe. But the psychiatric hospitals were subject to the same, if not worse, restrictions as the general population. The steps taken were successful and Artaud was transferred on January 22, 1943.

In December 1942, Artaud's health had deteriorated further; he weighed between 52 and 55 kilos. Desnos took steps to get Antonin out "lost in the mass of demented people, misunderstood, undernourished. It was only on January 22, 1943 that Desnos and Dr. Ferdière obtained his transfer to Rodez, where he was installed on February 11, 1943 for three years, until May 25, 1946. In the meantime, Artaud made a short stay at the hospital in Chezal-Benoît, where the twenty-four hour certificate gave the following observations: "Presents an extremely intense chronic delirium of a mystical and persecutory nature. Transformation of his personality, of his civil status. Talks about his personality as if it were a foreign person. Hallucinations likely." The short stay at the psychiatric hospital in Chezal-Benoît was a mandatory administrative step because of the demarcation line. Artaud stayed there from January 22 to February 10.

In Rodez, Dr. Gaston Ferdière, one of the pioneers of art therapy, immediately paid close attention to Antonin Artaud.

The years in Rodez (1943-1946)

When Artaud arrived in Rodez, on February 11, 1943, the hospital was not yet using electroshock. It was only shortly after his arrival, in May 1943, that Dr. Delmas-Marsalet's device was delivered to the hospital by the Solex workshops.

Thus, even in Rodez, the electroshock technique was used, as this therapy was supposed to be very effective. Artaud underwent a first series in June 1943. But the second session caused a fracture of a dorsal vertebra, which forced him to stay in bed for two months. This did not prevent the doctors from continuing the treatment from October 25, 1943 with a series of 12 electroshock sessions, which they were pleased with, judging that they obtained "less gesticulation and mental confusion."

In September, Antonin Artaud wrote two texts adapted from Lewis Carroll's Variations à propos d'un thème and Le Chevalier de Mate-Tapis as part of his art therapy. On December 14, Henri Parisot offers him the opportunity to publish a small book with Robert. J. Godet publisher, a small volume including A Journey to the Land of Tarahumaras which had appeared in the NRF in 1937, and to increase it. Artaud writes The Rite of Peyote among the Tarahumaras. In January 1944, Dr. Ferdière gave Artaud a private room, where he still wrote Supplement to the Journeys to the Tarahumaras. The artist also made small drawings, wrote and adapted. But his life as a writer and artist was put on hold between the electroshock sessions, which resumed in June 1944, 12 sessions from May 23 to June 16, 1944. Antonin Artaud wrote to Doctor Latrémolière on January 6, 1945:

"Electroshock, Mr. Latrémolière, makes me despair, it takes away my memory, it numbs my thought and my heart, it makes me an absentee who knows himself to be absent and sees himself for weeks in pursuit of his being, like a dead man next to a living man who is no longer him, who demands his coming and whose home he cannot enter."

On August 23, 1944, he sent a letter asking his mother to stop the electroshock treatment. With each series of sessions, he lost consciousness for two or three months. He said that he needed this consciousness to live: "This treatment is also a terrible torture because you feel suffocated at each application and fall as if into an abyss from which your thoughts no longer return.

From January 1945, Artaud began to make large drawings in color that he commented in a letter to Jean Paulhan of January 10, 1945: "These are written drawings, with phrases that are embedded in the forms before precipitating them." The following month, he begins to work daily on small school notebooks where he writes and draws. These are the Notebooks of Rodez, mixing writing and drawings. In Rodez, in fifteen months, Artaud realized a hundred of them. After the 106 notebooks of Rodez, the 300 notebooks of the return to Paris will follow.

1945 is the year of Artaud's creative rebirth. He tirelessly wrote, the subject of his texts always being the question of another theater to be invented. The artist wrote comments to his large drawings. Evelyne Grossman sees there "The theatricalized interaction, scripted and cruel, of the drawing and the letter at Artaud The poetic and critical comments that Artaud offers here of his own drawings, after he has so often written and since the beginning of the twenties, on so many other painters (Masson, Lucas de Leyde, Balthus) to be gathered as Writings on art." Two years later, in a letter addressed to Marc Barbezat, Artaud wrote: "I have an idea to operate a new gathering of the activity of the human world, idea of a new anatomy. My drawings are Anatomies in action."

That same year, Les Tarahumaras were published by Henri Parisot in the collection "L'Âge d'or" that he directed at Fontaine Publishing under the title Voyages au pays des Tarahumaras. Some of Artaud's writings are released from the hospital despite the protests of Dr. Ferdière, who protects Artaud's financial and moral rights in the name of the defense of the property of the insane under administrative authority. These were the Letters from Rodez which appeared the following year, in April 1946

In September 1945, Jean Dubuffet visited Antonin Artaud. An emotional correspondence with Jean and Mrs. Dubuffet will follow, especially since Dubuffet's research often takes him to insane asylums. In 1946, Dubuffet made a portrait of Artaud: Antonin Artaud, hair blooming. He tells Dubuffet and Paulhan of his desire to leave the hospital. Dubuffet inquires about the possibilities of leaving. Shortly before, Artaud called Raymond Queneau and Roger Blin to come and get him. He said he had been released by Doctor Ferdière. Ferdière did indeed consider releasing him, but he temporized because Artaud always declared himself the prey of bewitchments, in particular in a letter to Jean-Louis Barrault on September 14, 1945.

In February 1946, the publisher Guy Lévis Mano (GLM) published several letters from Artaud to Henri Parisot under the title Lettres de Rodez.

Marthe Robert and Arthur Adamov visited Artaud on February 26 and 27, 1946, Henri and Colette Thomas on March 10 and 11. On February 28, Artaud asks, in a letter to Jean Paulhan, that he be taken out urgently:

"And I ask you, Jean Paulhan, to do something so that freedom is finally restored to me. I don't want to hear any more from any doctor, as has been said here: I am here, Monsieur Artaud, to straighten out your poetry. My poetry is my own business and a doctor, no more than a police officer, has no competence in poetry, and that is what the doctors, for the past 9 years, have never understood about me."

Back in Paris, Artaud's visitors, very impressed by the asylums, consider it necessary for him to return to Paris. A "Support Committee of Antonin Artaud's friends" chaired by Jean Paulhan, with Jean Dubuffet as secretary, includes Arthur Adamov, Balthus, Jean-Louis Barrault, André Gide, Pierre Loeb, Pablo Picasso, Marthe Robert, Colette and Henri Thomas. Roger Blin and Colette Thomas work to organize a gala for Artaud at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater.

Return to Paris and last years (1946-1948)

Artaud's friends got him out of the Rodez asylum and returned to Paris to an "open" clinic, that of Dr. Delmas, in Ivry. On May 26, 1946, Jean Dubuffet, Marthe Robert, Henri and Colette Thomas welcomed him at the Austerlitz train station. On June 7 of the same year, a tribute to Antonin Artaud was held at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernardt, with a speech by André Breton at the opening, and texts by Artaud read by Adamov, Jean-Louis Barrault, Rober Blin, Alain Cuny, Jean Vilar and Colette Thomas. On June 8, he records on the radio Les malades et les médecins, a text broadcast on June 9, published in issue 8. On June 13, the auction of paintings donated by artists (Pierre Brasseur is the auctioneer), brings him enough money, added to the small sum collected at the Sarah-Bernardt theater and his royalties, to live until his death.

During the period in which he was housed in the Ivry-sur-Seine clinic, Artaud was free to move about. He wrote in more than four hundred school notebooks, drew self-portraits and portraits of his friends in graphite and colored chalk. Still suffering, Artaud resumed his consumption of drugs to ease his pain. He did not undergo detoxification, but continued to write. He gives notably the director Michel de Ré the text Alienate the actor. He also wrote a Letter against the Cabal addressed to Jacques Prevel published in 1949 by Aumont, and on June 22, he signed two contracts with Marc Barbezat: for L'Arve et l'Aume and for Les Tarahumaras.

From September 14 to October 4, 1946, Artaud stayed in Sainte-Maxime with Colette Thomas (who had a family home there), Paule Thévenin and Marthe Robert. There he wrote L'Adresse au Dalaï Lama and L'Adresse au Pape and finished Le Retour d'Artaud le Momo. He also corrected texts from 1925 in preparation for the publication of his complete works at Gallimard (these were finally published posthumously).

On January 13, 1947, in front of a full house at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, Artaud made a brilliant return to the stage with a lecture entitled from the poster: Histoire vécue d'Artaud-Momo, Tête à tête par Antonin Artaud, Le Retour d'Artaud le Momo Centre Mère et Patron Minet-La Culture indienne. According to André Gide,

"There were there, towards the back of the room which could contain about 300 people, a dozen jokers who had come to this session in the hope of having a laugh. But no, after a timid attempt at heckling, we witnessed a prodigious spectacle, Artaud triumphed, held mockery and insolent foolishness in check, he dominated. Never before had Antonin Artaud seemed more admirable to me. Of his material being nothing remained but expressiveness. When leaving this memorable session, the audience was silent.

- André Gide, in Combat of March 19, 1948, published after Artaud's death.

At the end of 1947, Artaud le Momo (Bordas), Van Gogh le suicidé de la société (K éditeur) and Ci-git (K éditeur) were published in quick succession.

In November 1947, Artaud recorded for the radio Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu with the participation of Maria Casarès, Paule Thévenin and Roger Blin. Scheduled for February 1, 1948, the program will not finally be broadcast, the director of the French Radio, Wladimir Porché, afraid of the language too raw used by Artaud (and this against the advice of a jury composed of artists and journalists). The text was published posthumously in April 1948.

Stricken with rectal cancer, diagnosed too late, Antonin Artaud was found dead on his bed, undressed, sitting up, with a shoe in his hand on the morning of March 4, 1948, probably the victim of an overdose of chloral hydrate. On the last page of his last draft notebook (notebook 406, sheet 11), the last sentence appears:

"To continue to

A few hours after his death, all his belongings - notes, books, notebooks, manuscripts, drawings hanging on the walls - were stolen or put in a safe place, depending on the interpretation.

Antonin Artaud was buried civilly in the Parisian cemetery of Ivry by his circle of friends. His family will transfer his remains almost thirty years later (April 1975) to the Saint-Pierre cemetery in Marseille.

Artaud had agreed by contract with the Gallimard publishing house on September 6, 1946, to the publication of his complete works (composed of at least four volumes), which he had himself listed in a letter dated August 12, 1946 to Gaston Gallimard. These complete works will finally see the light of day posthumously and in a very different form, in twenty-five volumes, through Paule Thévenin.

Artaud's aesthetic is constantly built in relation to surrealism, first by being inspired by it, then by rejecting it (notably in the form that André Breton gives it).

André Breton, in his first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924), mentions Artaud in passing, without giving him any particular importance. The second Manifesto (1930) came after Artaud's break with the Surrealists, and Breton addressed a severe, though aesthetically undeveloped, critique of him (his grievances were mostly personal). In particular, he denounced the fact that the "ideal as a man of the theater" of "organizing shows that could compete in beauty with the police raids" was "naturally that of M. Artaud".

This judgment, which seemed irrevocable, was corrected by André Breton after Artaud's hospitalization: in the Avertissement pour la réédition du second manifeste (1946), Breton said that he had no more wrongs to reckon with Desnos and Artaud, because of "events" (Desnos had died in a concentration camp and Artaud spent several months in a psychiatric ward undergoing electroshock therapy). Pure politeness perhaps; the fact remains that Breton, in interviews published in 1952, recognizes Artaud as having a profound influence on the Surrealist approach. He also said of him that he was "in greater conflict with life than any of us.

For Jean-Pierre Le Goff, the surrealist approach is essentially ambivalent, "marked at its two poles by the figures of André Breton and Antonin Artaud. These two visions of the surrealism are as opposed and complementary at the same time. Breton sought essentially the beauty and the wonder in the life, he wished to tame by means of the art "the disturbing otherness" of the unconscious, centering his thought on the "positive dynamics of the Eros" leading to the revolution.

Artaud breaks with this vision of the poetry and the life, explaining in his text "To the big night or the surrealist bluff" that "they like as much the life as I despise it". Artaud's rage to exist is not characterized by the capacity to wonder, but on the contrary by the suffering and the incurable anguish. That is felt in his literary aesthetics: Artaud declares in Le Pèse-nerfs that "all the writing is of the cochonnerie" . In fact, he violently refuses any kinship with literature and the literati. Still in Le Pèse-Nerfs he continues: "All the literary gentry is dirty, and especially that of these times. All those who have reference points in the mind, I mean on a certain side of the head, on well-localized locations of their brain, all those who are masters of their language, all those for whom words have a meaning, all those for whom there are altitudes in the soul, and currents of thought, those who have the spirit of the times, and who have named these currents of thought, . Artaud thus moves away irreparably from any Platonism in art: "Plato criticizes the writing as body. Artaud as the erasure of the body, the living gesture that takes place only once. "

The glance posed by Artaud on Breton was ambivalent. In 1937, at the time when he writes the New revelations of the being, he calls Breton "the Angel Gabriel". He addresses him in the same way in the letters that he writes him from Ireland. But Breton is also the one of whom Artaud will say (to his friend Jacques Prevel), towards the end of his life, in Paris: "If you stirred up the poetry of André Breton with a ragman's hook, you would find verses there" (In the company of Antonin Artaud, by J. Prevel).

At the time of the Surrealist exhibition at the Maeght Gallery in July 1947, André Breton had asked him to participate. Artaud's refusal in a letter to Breton dated February 28, 1947, leaves no doubt about his position towards Surrealism. He writes:

"But how, after that, André Breton, and after having reproached me to appear in a theater, do you invite me to participate in an exhibition, in an art gallery, hyper-chic, ultra-flourishing, resounding, capitalist (having its funds in a communist bank) and where any demonstration, whatever it is, can only have the stylized, closed, fixed character of an art temptress.

Antonin Artaud had a profound influence on theater, particularly American theater, but also on the situationists of the late 1960s who claimed his revolutionary spirit.

Pierre Hahn reports that in May 1968, when the universities were occupied, Artaud's Letter to the University Rectors was posted on the front door.

"The newspaper Le Mave quoted in its only issue an extract from Le solitaire de Rodez. And Pour une critique révolutionnaire presented a poster representing a burned faculty, with a text taken from Antonin Artaud's conference at the Vieux Colombier on January 13, 1947."

Artaud said, among other things: "I realized that the time has passed for gathering people in an amphitheater even to tell them truths and that with society and its public, there is no other language than that of bombs, machine guns and all that follows - Antonin Artaud quoted by Pierre Hahn. Artaud could obviously only attract to him extreme revolutionaries like the situationists.

In the same way, the theater of the extreme that was the American theater of the 1960s, took to the letter the instructions given by Antonin Artaud in the theater of cruelty. In The Brig of the Living Theatre, the actors are locked in cages, humiliated, beaten, reduced to the passive and neutral elements of which Artaud speaks: "Without an element of cruelty at the base of any spectacle the theater is not possible. In the state of degeneration in which we are, it is by the skin that we will make enter the metaphysics in the spirits."

René Lalou recalls that "With the manifestos of the Theatre of Cruelty, as with the performances of the Cenci where he associated Stendhal with Shelley, Artaud was one of the renovators of the mise en scène, and Jean-Louis Barrault always recognized what he owed him.

Christian Gilloux compares Artaud's reflection on what the theater should be with Peter Schumann's interpretation in the Bread and Puppet Theatre. "There will be no set; it will be enough for this service of hieroglyphic characters, ritual costumes, mannequins ten meters high... These instructions of Antonin Artaud could be attributed to Peter Schumann." The refined form, meticulously shaped, the slowness of the processions, this Artaudian game of Doubles that we find in Bread and Puppet starts from "This conception of the baroque theater that makes man both the external envelope through which life manifests itself and the place where it plays out its dramas - Franck Jotterand quoted by Christian Guilloux."

The renewal of staging by the authors of the New Theatre comes in large part from their reading of Antonin Artaud and the way he conceived stage writing.

January 16, 1948 Artaud receives the Prix Sainte-Beuve for Van Gogh le suicidé de la société

In 1973, the Argentinian rock group Pescado Rabioso, led by Luis Alberto Spinetta, named its third album "Artaud" in reference to the poet. Spinetta dedicated the work to Artaud after having read him well. The theme is a response to the despair created by his reading. The album will be recognized as the best Argentine rock album, in a list made by Rolling Stone magazine (Argentina) in 2007.

In 1981, the singer Colette Magny devoted an entire side of a record to him: Thanakan.

In 1983, the English batcave group Bauhaus dedicated a song to the writer in their album Burning From the Inside.

In 1986, FR3 broadcast the conference given by Artaud on January 13, 1947 at the Vieux Colombier, "before a full house.

In 2003, the writer Bernard Noël published Artaud et Paule at Lignes

In 2010, from October 5 to November 6 at the Théâtre de l'Atelier, Carole Bouquet read the Letters to Génica and other poems by Artaud. She repeated her performance in Rodez in 2011, invited by the Rodez Antonin Artaud Association.

In 2013, the Rodez Antonin Artaud Association created by Mireille Larrouy, a French teacher, presented an exhibition: Antonin Artaud, self-portraits.

In 2014, from March 11 to July 6, 2014 the Musée d'Orsay presented an exhibition associating Vincent van Gogh and Antonin Artaud. The works of van Gogh was organized in a course that mixed a selection of paintings of the painter, drawings and letters of Van Gogh with graphic works of Artaud. Antonin Artaud's text Van Gogh le suicidé de la société was read on this occasion every evening

In 2015, the Compagnie du Chêne Noir revived the January 13, 1947 conference Artaud le Momo, in a staging by Gérard Gelas at the Théâtre des Mathurins under the title Histoire vécue d'Artaud-Mômo from January 29 to April 12, with Damien Remy in the role of Antonin Artaud.

The world of song has also paid tribute to him by evoking him or quoting him. Serge Gainsbourg in 1984, Serge Gainsbourg dedicates a verse of his song Hmm, hmm, hmm from the album Love on the beat :

"I want to talk about Antonin ArtaudYeah, genius starts earlyBut there are times when it makes you hard.

A track from the album Folkfuck Folie, released in 2007 by the French black metal band Peste noire, is a "radio extract from Antonin Artaud".

A song from the triple album Messina by Damien Saez pays tribute to him in 2012. Entitled Les fils d'Artaud, the song evokes the author:

"To the children of TruffautTo these oceans without a shoreTo us the sons of ArtaudTo the children of TruffautTo the loves without a chapelTo us the sons of ArtaudTo the nights to eat your gall."

Hubert Félix Thiéfaine, famous for his vague and philosophical texts, slips a passage from a lecture by Artaud at the end of his song "Quand la banlieue descendra sur la ville" (When the suburbs descend on the city) from the compilation "40 ans de chansons".

Graphic work and manuscripts

On March 3, 1948, in a holographic will on plain paper, Antonin Artaud wrote: "...I give capacity to Madame Paule Thévenin 33 rue Gabrielle in Charenton to receive all the sums due to me from the sale of my books Van Gogh, Ci-Gît, Suppôt et supplications, Les trafics d'héroïne à Montmartre, Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu. Ps: It is understood that the translation rights of these books will also be given to her, in charge of paying me the amount. Challenged by the heirs, the work of Paule Thévenin gave rise to an "affair of the manuscripts of Antonin Artaud" which Libération reported in 1995. Among these manuscripts were Artaud's drawings, which the Bibliothèque nationale de France exhibited in 2007 along with all the manuscripts.

The drawings of Antonin Artaud were brought together by Paule Thévenin and Jacques Derrida in Antonin Artaud, drawings and portraits published on October 31, 1986, republished by Gallimard in 2000. In 1994, Paule Thévenin made an important bequest of Antonin Artaud's drawings to the Centre Pompidou, which gives access to about forty of his works that Jean Dubuffet, a lover of the art of the insane, greatly appreciated when he visited Artaud in Rodez.

A large part of the graphic works of the Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou can be consulted online. As an example, to avoid a complete copy-paste, are given below the oldest and the most recent accessible online:

Artaud's drawings and paintings were exhibited during his lifetime by Pierre Loeb at the Galerie Pierre from July 2 to 20, 1947 under the title Portraits and Drawings by Antonin Artaud. It was precisely Pierre Loeb who had advised the poet to write about van Gogh, after Artaud, overwhelmed by the Van Gogh exhibition of February 2, 1947, at the Musée de l'Orangerie, had shared with him his impressions, which were quickly written and published under the title Van Gogh le suicidé de la société. At that time, at Pierre Loeb's house, Hans Hartung expressed to the art critic Charles Estienne his desire to illustrate Artaud's texts. When he learned of this, Artaud reacted violently in a letter addressed to "Mr. Archtung" to whom he explained bluntly that there could be no question of it. "Because his works are about the invisible and the intimate. To have them illustrated by someone else would be obscene. He is the only one who can claim the manifestation of his works. And then, himself, he draws shadows, bars." The letter includes one of his blackened, raw forms of which he has the secret, which are his gris-gris. Many of his works are preserved at the Centre Pompidou, including a self-portrait of December 1947, and a portrait of Henri Pichette


works used for the sources


  1. Antonin Artaud
  2. Antonin Artaud
  3. Cinq certificats des psychiatres sont réunis en fac-similé par Evelyne Grossman sur la même page.
  4. Selon les propos de Patrick Coupechoux, auteur de Un monde de fous, dans l'émission Concordance des temps, diffusée sur France Culture le 30 juin 2007
  5. L'œuvre est diffusée, pour la première fois, sur France Culture en 1973, éditée sous forme de CD par Sub Rosa puis par André Dimanche.
  6. Alors que Artaud était encore à l'asile psychiatrique de Rodez
  7. a b Ubiratan Teixeira (2005). Dicionário do teatro (en portugués) (2ª edición). São Luiz: Geia. p. 36.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Esslin, Martin (2018) [1977]. Antonin Artaud. Alma Books. ISBN 9780714545622.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Shafer, David A., 1958– (15 April 2016). Antonin Artaud. London, UK. p. 16. ISBN 9781780236018. OCLC 954427932.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Sellin, Eric (2017) [1975]. The dramatic concepts of Antonin Artaud. Thompson, Peter. New Orleans, Louisiana: Quid Pro Books. ISBN 9781610273718. OCLC 988943807.
  11. Delarge J. Antonin ARTAUD // Le Delarge (фр.) — Paris: Gründ, Jean-Pierre Delarge, 2001. — ISBN 978-2-7000-3055-6

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