Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Antonin Artaud, the Man Suicided by Society.

Here is a man, whose defiant brilliance emanates from the utmost of human anguish.
He was a true visionary of his age, but he also transcended all space, time, all caverns of thought and disrepute. Like a feral jackal he stalked the unknown, unexplored realms and states of mind in search of his true self, and in doing so, managed to share his own anatomy, his higher thoughts and soul with us, his readers, in ways that border on the occult in their brilliance.
But behind all these mournful blasphemies against man there is real love. And he is genuine, for every sentence was written as it had been lived.
-- Tengal



Before committing suicide, I ask that I be given some real assurance of being; I should like to be sure about death. To me, life seems merely a consent to the apparent legibility of things and their coherence in the mind. I no longer feel like some irreducible crossroad of things death heals, heals by severing us from nature; yet what if I am no longer anything but a mere detour ridden by pains but not by things?
If I commit suicide, it will not be to destroy myself but to put myself back together again. Suicide will be for me only one means of violently reconquering myself, of brutally invading my being, of anticipating the unpredictable approaches of God. By suicide, I reintroduce my design in nature, I shall for the first time give things the shape of my will. I free myself between the beautiful and the hideous, the good and evil. I put myself in suspension, without innate propensities, neutral, in the state of equilibrium between good and evil solicitations.
For life itself is no solution, life has no kind of existence which is chosen, consented to, and self-determined. It is a mere series of hungers and adverse forces, of petty contradictions which succeed or miscarry according to the circumstances of an odious gamble. Like genius, like madness, evil is unequally apportioned in each man. And as with evil, likewise with good: both are the product of circumstances and of a more or less active leavening.
Certainly, it is abject to be created and to live and feel yourself in the darkest corners of your mind, down to the most unthought of ramifications of your irreducibly predetermined being. After all, we are only trees and it is probably written in some crook or other of my family tree that I shall kill myself on a given day.
The very idea of the freedom of suicide falls down like a lopped tree. I create neither the time nor the place nor the circumstances of my suicide. I do not even invent the thought of it; will I at least feel it when it uproots me?
It may well be that at the very instant my being will dissolve; but what if it remains whole? How will my ruined organs react? With what impossible organs will I register the laceration of this suicide?
I feel death upon me like a torrent, like an instantaneous bound of lightning whose capacity surpasses my imagination. I feel a death loaded with pleasures, with swirling labyrinths. Where is the idea of my being therein?
But look at God all of a sudden like a fist, like a scythe of slicing light. I willingly severed myself from life, I wished to turn my destiny inside-out.
This God has disposed of me to the point of absurdity. He has kept me alive in a void of negations and furious renunciations of myself; he destroyed in me everything , down to the finest dust of conscious, sentient life.
He reduced me to being like a walking robot, but this robot felt the rupture of his unconscious self.
And how I have wished to produce proof of my life. I wish to get back in touch with the resonant reality of things, I wish to smash my pre-destination.
And what does this God say to that?
I had no feeling of life, every moral idea was like a dry arroyo in my veins. For me, life was no object or shape; it had become a series of rationalizations. But these rationalizations, like a motor running, didn't even get off the ground, but were inside me like possible 'diagrams' which my will vainly tried to rivet on.
But even to get to this state of suicide, I must await the return of my conscious self; I must have a free hand in all the articulations of my being. God has placed me in despair as in a constellation of dead-ends, whose radiance culminates in me.
I can neither live nor die, nor am I capable of not wishing to die or live.
And all mankind resembles me.

Antonin Artaud

Translated by David Rattray
Taken from Antonin Artaud: Anthology, edited by Jack Hirschman
Portrait by Man Ray

Seven Poems: Fragments