Sunday, May 3, 2009

Antonin Artaud

One of my favourite writers is Antonin Artaud. French, living in the early part of the 20th century, he came to create a body of work that was original as it was shocking. Like Holderlin, he suffered from schizophrenia. Unlike Holderlin, who lived in a different epoch, he was to be institutionalised on a number of occasions, famously to be treated by Jacques Lacan at one point. Artaud appeared in a number of movies with small (but never the less distinguished) roles. He early on turned his hand to poetry, famously entering into correspondence with Jacques Riviere who edited the journal 'Nouvelle Revue Francaise '. He wrote books as well, notably 'The Theatre and its Double' and 'Heliogabalus'. The oeuvre which he left is quite extensive in range and scope.

Artaud is interesting because his schizophrenia really comes to the foreground in his work. His poetry contains many scatological elements, and his general language using propensities display characteristic schizophrenic traits. He shocks with his imagery, his invention of concepts such as the Theatre of Cruelty, and his persistent drive to create something new and revolutionary. His radio plays were banned before being aired, he was expelled from the Surrealist movement of which he was a member. But there was one thing about his life that would transcend the disappointments of his numerous setbacks - and that was his ability to overcome the condition of schizophrenia to produce works of considerable cultural importance.


Sandeep said...

I came across a reference to Antonin Artaud in a book. It seems he was one of the few who has narrated his schizophrenia experiences in first person

I have been unable to find a genuine full-blown account by him.

Would you know of a book (in English) where he narrates his experiences ?

Dr Paul Fearne said...

A great book is 'Blows and Bombs' by Stephen Barber. Check it out! Paul.