Artaud 1937 Apocalypse – Letters from Ireland by Antonin Artaud
Antonin Artaud’s 1937 apocalyptic journey to Ireland and his writings from that journey form an extraordinary moment of accumulating disintegration and tenacious creativity in his work. After publishing a manifesto prophecy about the catastrophic immediate-future entitled The New Revelations of Being, Artaud abruptly left Paris and travelled to Ireland, remaining there for six weeks and existing without money, travelling first to the isolated island of Inishmore off Ireland’s western coast, then to Galway, and finally to Dublin, where he was arrested as an undesirable alien, beaten by the police, and summarily deported back to France. On his return, he spent nine years in lunatic asylums, including the entire span of the Second World War. During that journey to Ireland – on which he accumulated signs of his forthcoming apocalypse, and planned his own role in it as ‘THE REVEALED ONE’ – Artaud wrote letters to friends in Paris and also created several magic spells, intended to curse his enemies and to protect his friends from Paris’s forthcoming incineration and the Antichrist’s appearance at the Deux Magots cafe. To André Breton, he wrote: ‘It’s the Unbelievable – yes, the Unbelievable – it’s the Unbelievable which is the truth.’ Many of his writings from Ireland were lost, and this book collects all of his surviving letters, drawn together from archives and private collections, together with photographs of the locations he travelled through. This edition, with an afterword and notes by the book’s translator/editor, Stephen Barber, marks the seventieth anniversary of Artaud’s death.
Artaud 1937 Apocalypse – Letters from Ireland by Antonin Artaud
Translated and edited by Stephen Barber
Photographs by Karolina Urbaniak
Artworks by Martin Bladh
Hardbound, 120 pages 190 x 148mm
Voice Christophe Delesques
Production Karolina Urbaniak
The New Revelations of Being [Preface]
I say what I have seen and what I believe; and whoever says I have not seen what I have seen, I will now tear off their head.
—Because I am Brute who cannot be forgiven, and it will be that way until Time is no longer Time.
—Neither Heaven nor Hell, if they exist, can combat that brutality that they forced onto me, perhaps in order that I would serve them… Who knows?
—In any case, so I would tear myself away from them.
It is a true Desperate One who is speaking to you and who knows the happiness of being in the world only now that he has left the world behind, now that he has become absolutely separated from it.
—The Dead – the others are not separated. They are still turning around their own dead bodies.
—I am not dead, but I am separated.
—I will therefore say what I have seen and what is…
To André Breton, 23 August 1937
(Letter, sent from Kilronan port, Inishmore island):
Very dear friend,
—I’ve seen that life in Ireland is horrendously expensive!
—I doubt that in the cities you could get by on less than one pound a day.
—Here where I am, you would pay one pound a week – there are 9 houses, 3 shrubs in the cemetery, and it would take you + 2 hours of walking to reach the village of Kilronan, where there’s a post-office, 4 hotels, 2 alcohol stores and around sixty or so houses. The boat from mainland Ireland stops here twice a week.
—So those are the practical details.
—Now, are you entirely certain that you will not be deeply involved in the World’s Momentous Events until three years from now, that’s to say from 1940? You will be involved, in the full sight and knowledge of everyone, perhaps. But it seems to me that very shortly from now you will enter into a New Path, which will moreover be your true Path.
—Just remember what I said to you one evening:
—‘there exists in you such a spirit of justice, that it is inconceivable to me that it could remain unused in connection with others, and that it will not manifest itself one day in front of a huge number of people’.
—If I’ve been insistent in telling you on several occasions how I’ve been struck by the profound feeling of human integrity and of enlightened justice that I can identify in you, it’s been no kind of flattery, but instead a prediction that I was making to you in a covert form.
It’s probable that many things are going to disturb you and repel you, from the very first sight and moment, in what is now going to be accomplished. But your profound sense of justice will enable you to rise above all that – because this time the end is going to burn up the means.
To André Breton, 5 September 1937 (Letter with an accompanying Magic Spell, sent from Galway):
I am entrusting to you a Magic Spell that I’m sending to Madame X. If she sees my handwriting, she may well not open the envelope. So write the address in a style that doesn’t look like mine. And do send it to her, I beg of you.
—You are going to see, once you have examined the Magic Spell, that things are about to become serious and that this time, I’m going to the very end of everything.
—Madame X.’s grave responsibility lies in having said that there are no more Gods. That’s the reason for my hatred of her.
—Because there are still Gods, even though God no longer exists. And ranged above gods there is the unconscious, criminal law of Nature, and the gods and Us – that is, We the Gods – are collectively victims of that law.
—Paganism had everything right, but Men – who are always utter bastards – betrayed the Pagan Truth. So christ has returned in order to illuminate the Pagan Truth, which all the various christian Churches have been shitting on in an ignominious way. This christ I’m talking about was a Magician who fought with Demons in the desert, using a cane as his weapon. And a trace of his blood remained imprinted on that cane. That trace disappears when you wipe it away with water, but then it comes back.
To Anne Manson, 5 or 6 September 1937 (Letter written in Galway but then torn into four pieces – only two of which were written upon – and not sent):
—It’s certain that in Paris, there’s an intention to get me arrested.
—You mustn’t worry about this.
—A rich woman – whom I had charitably warned to leave behind her involvement with communism since otherwise she would herself have to take the blame for risking being caught up in the coming massacre of an insurrection of the forces of the left – replied to me that she would have me burned as a sorcerer. And that I was a wretchedly bad actor. She told me, moreover, that she wanted to eat alive all those who still speak of God. I then replied in specifying to her the torture that would be imposed upon her for her revolt – the torture that would take place after the massacre which she herself is instigating – and I told her that, in accordance with the Justice of God – I would then perform some bad acting over her dead body on that day.
To Anne Manson, 13 September 1937 (Letter, partly lost, sent from Dublin):
It’s not a force of hatred that christ wants to extend over the world’s surface, but a colossal force of love. This force will direct itself to the hearts of human beings and instruct them about the void of life and what is sublime about the disappearance of forms. Mankind will resist christ and will want to kill the man who is the representative of this force. As a result, this force will manifest itself in all of its force, and in its cruelty, but solely in order to have done with that resistance of mankind. Because cruelty is not some kind of luxury, Anne – so don’t be stupid and sentimental at the same time as you are sublime. To be cruel, you have to have become illuminated. That’s the truth. I’m warning you: Just don’t play games with me. Cruelty is not some kind of game, and I do not love it. But I will impose cruelty when I have to.
To Anne Manson, around 17 September 1937 (Letter, partly lost, sent from Dublin):
Get going to the Deux Magots, Woman, betray me. Tell them there that I’m in Dublin so that they can come and capture me.
—But warn them too that they are going to get what is coming to them. And it will be unstoppable and WITHOUT Mercy.
Just tell them that I shit on the republic, on democracy, on socialism, on communism, on Marxism, on idealism, on materialism – whether it’s dialectical materialism or not, because I shit on dialectics too, and I’m going to give you further proof of that.
—I shit on the Popular Front and I shit on the Government of the Popular Alliance, I shit on the International Workingmen’s Association, in its 1st, 2nd and 3rd variants, but I also shit on the idea of a National Homeland, I shit on France and on every last one of the French – with the exception of those to whom I’ve personally issued warnings from here in Ireland and those with whom I’m in correspondence.
—The French – whether they believe themselves to be on the Right or on the Left – are all a bunch of cunts who want to own things, and in that stinking café to which I’m now sending you – where they all exhausted and exasperated me with their quarrels and their little self-interests – I never saw anyone except people who wanted to own things, people stuck in one place, stuck, petrified to the point of blindness by existence, and every one of them has spread their darkness over Existence. To the point of being driven crazy, I have had ENOUGH of them.
To Jacqueline Breton, 17 September 1937
(Magic Spell, sent from Dublin):
17 – 9 – 2
I will send a Magic Spell
to the First One who dares to touch you.
I am going to beat
his little gob of a fake proud cock
to a pulp.
I am going to flay his arse in front of 100,000 people !
HIS PAINTING WHICH WAS
STRIKING HAS NOW BECOME
HIS VOICE IS TOO UGLY
IT’S THE ANTICHRIST
About the author
Antonin Artaud’s work has a world-renowned status for experimentation across performance, film, sound, poetry and visual art. In the 1920s, he was a member of the Surrealist movement until his expulsion, and formulated theoretical plans across the first half of the 1930s for his ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ and attempted to carry them through. He made a living as a film actor from 1924 to 1935 and made many attempts to direct his own film projects. In 1936, he travelled to Mexico with a plan to take peyote in the Tarahumara lands. In 1937, preoccupied with the imminent apocalypse, he travelled to Ireland but was deported, beginning a nine-year asylum incarceration during which he continued to write and also made many drawings. After his release in 1946, he lived in the grounds of a sanatorium in Ivry-sur-Seine, close to Paris, and worked intensively on drawings, writings and sound-recordings. He died on 4 March 1948. His drawings have been exhibited on several occasions, notably at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna in 2002 and at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in 2006.
About the editor
Stephen Barber’s books have been acclaimed as ‘brilliant, profound and provocative’ by The Times newspaper in the UK, and he has been called ‘a writer of real distinction’ and ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ by The Independent newspaper. The Sunday Times newspaper hailed his books as ‘exhilarating and disquieting’.
He is the author of many fiction and non-fiction books, including studies of Antonin Artaud, Pierre Guyotat, Jean Genet and Eadweard Muybridge. Among his recent books are England’s Darkness (Sun Vision Press) and Berlin Bodies (Reaktion Books). He has also collaborated on books with the poet Jeremy Reed and the photographer Xavier Ribas. His books have been translated into many languages and have won numerous prizes and awards. He is currently a professor of art and film at the Kingston School of Art, Kingston University, London.
Martin Bladh is a Swedish-born artist of multiple mediums. His work lays bare themes of violence, obsession, fantasy, domination, submission and narcissism. Bladh is a founding member of the post-industrial band IRM, the musical avant-garde unit Skin Area and co-founder of Infinity Land Press. His published work includes To Putrefaction, Qualis Artifex Pereo, DES, The Hurtin’ Club and Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome. He lives and works in London.
Karolina Urbaniak is a visual artist, sound designer, professional
photographer and co-founder of Infinity Land Press. Her published work includes To Putrefaction, The Void Ratio and Altered Balance – A Tribute to Coil (a collaboration between Urbaniak and the award-winning poet and novelist Jeremy Reed).
Urbaniak is currently working on a multimedia project Death-Mort-Tod – A European Book of the Dead with British writer Steve Finbow. The book is forthcoming with Infinity Land Press in Fall 2018.
p.s. Hey. Really happy to return to the blog in the company of this birth announcement for the latest book from the eternally crucial and beauty manufacturing press Infinity Land. Please explore the evidence for their fantastic new Artaud book and pony up for it if you have the means. Thank you, and many thank yous to IL masterminds Martin and Karolina. ** James Nulick, Hi, James. Why am I not entirely surprised you have roots as a firebug? Serious question: I don’t know why I’m not totally surprised. Thank you. I hope everything’s swell on your end. ** KeEtOn, Hi. That movie sounds familiar. NYC often gives me the willies, but not this time for some reason. Funny: I was just listening to ‘Strumpet Eye’ on repeat yesterday. ** David Ehrenstein, Morning, sir. Really, ‘The Shining’? Hm, I think I would say my pick would be between ‘Dr. Strangelove’ and ‘Clockwork Orange’ or ‘2001’. Maybe. ** Misanthrope, Hi there. Everything seems to be going very well on the ‘Them’ front so far, but you can judge for yourself, and you can tell Ishmael that in person. Cool. ** Bill Hsu, Hey, Bill! Very glad you liked ‘Crowd’. Yes, each of the performers has a complicated backstory and little narrative arc that plays itself out during the piece, and I wrote those. They’re the silent, semi-secret center. I think you’re well home by now, yes? And even through your jet lag? Yes, a few days later, and you’re home, perky sounding, and even fogged in. Nice Berlin art stuff. I’ve managed to see some pretty great shows here too (Adrian Piper and Reza Abdoh retrospectives, shows by Charles Ray, Oscar Tuazon, Jordan Wolfson). ** Liquoredgoat, Hey, D. Always nice to see you. Oh, funny, yeah, I felt pretty sure it was yours. My brain does that too. Not infrequently. Thanks a lot about ‘TMS’. In a way it feels like ages ago, but I’m pursuing what I was doing there in the gif fiction, so it doesn’t feel entirely far away. But yeah. I’ll … check about the Bladerunner bazaar. I don’t … think it exists, but I’ll scour. I do greatly prefer the Selected Bill Knott to the book he put together himself, yes, for sure. Take care, bud. ** Josh, If you’re seeing this, I’m very sorry that your photo accidentally ended up in the post. I deleted it the moment I saw your comment. Very, very sorry. ** Kier, Hey, hey, hey, Kier! That Springsteen song is one of only two songs by him that I particularly like. ‘Candy’s Room’ is the other one. I sort of … got used to this apartment or went into full on denial or something. It’s just weirdly there now. It has been very hot here, but off and on. Weird, shifty, unpredictable temperature rises and falls, like everywhere these days, I guess. It’s okay today. There’s a Fujiko piece in Oslo? Wow, cool. Yes, in fact one of Zac’s and my projects in progress is a documentary film about Fujiko. We’ll have to come up to Oslo and film it. I hope your visit to Stavanger wasn’t too painful. Yeah, just so sorry for that loss in your life. Sensible, yeah, to maybe err on the side of caution and wait to do the operation after Paris, if you do that. Paris! Today I’ve only woken up, had coffee, smoked three cigarettes on the sidewalk, and then started this. We have our third performance tonight, so I’ll head over to the theater in a while. You good? Catch me up. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I’ve heard/seen World Cup stuff blasting out of every other bar/restaurant I walk by here in the East Village, but I don’t know who’s rocking it and who’s not. Is Iceland still in it? Oh, wow, From Nursery To Misery. I’ll definitely check out that short film. Cool, thank you. God, yes, that horrifying news about the art school fire. Just unbelievable. So, so terrible. Hope everything’s going well with the Compendium and you though. ** Alex rose, Hi, Alex! Thank you. ‘Them’ seems to be going pretty well so far. A couple of great reviews, and the audiences are big enough and noisy at the end. Love to you too, my friend and maestro. ** Sypha, Hi, James. I saw ‘Ernest Scared Stupid’ in a theater, and I wasn’t even a kid! ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. I … think I know that video from ages ago. I’ll check. And check those curious sounding B-Shoc and Wiseau-like things. Wowzer. Everyone, Some new Steve Erickson write-ups for you to pour over: His reviews of the Indonesian film MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS here, and of the Brazilian film ARABY here, and his take on the re-release of Godard’s LES CARABINIERS here. How was the Reed play? Is it new or older? Family bootlegs might get me to that store. Wow, that’s pretty odd and exciting. ** Cody, Hi. I got back to you by email. Thanks so much! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Thank you, and welcome back to you! Things are pretty good here. ‘Them’ seems to be going really well so far, knock on wood and etc. And we did have the PGL meeting, and I think I can announce the big PGL meets NYC event quite soon. We’re excited. Can you meet up with her on a weekend to do the photos or … ? I trust and hope there’s a way. You’re going to Amsterdam! Super congratulations! Yay! Does your brother in central Amsterdam? Do know where? (I know the place pretty well from living there.) That’s so great!!! I look forward to talking with you again too! Have a really lovely weekend! ** H, Hi. The shows have been good so far, thank you. I sure do understand busy. Enjoy it if you can. ** Right. We’re caught up, and let’s proceed. Have excellent weekends in the company of Artaud and otherwise. See you on Monday.