Watchfiends & Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period

Antonin Artaud, Author, Bernard Bador, Editor, Clayton Eshleman, Translator
Antonin Artaud, Author, Bernard Bador, Editor, Clayton Eshleman, Translator Exact Change $17.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-878972-18-7
Reviewed on: 02/01/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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These eleven pieces represent the first English translations of work from what Eshleman calls Artaud's ``second'' period (1946-48), the two years between his seven-year confinement in various mental institutions and his death. After his brush with surrealism, Artaud rejected membership in modernism's various movements, but continued to work with its theme of merging art and life in both his writings (The Theatre and its Double) and performances (including an appearance in The Passion of Joan of Arc). As documented in Eshleman's worthwhile biographical introduction, Artaud's quixotic theatrical crusades proved shattering. In this collection, readers witness Artaud's re-birth: in the poem ``Artaud the Momo,'' one of several texts presented in both French and English, Artaud takes on the ironic persona of the village idiot, pathologically sexualized, ``burst dead at the foot of a bound.'' Bodily and linguistic preoccupations merge, as Artaud continues his fascination with ``doubleness''--of persons, places, gods, language and himself. In ``Here Lies'' and ``Interjections,'' he explores what he sees as the inherent duplicity of identity: ``This is how/ daddy and mommy were/ pulled out of me.'' The aborted radio broadcast ``To Have Done with the Judgement of God'' concludes that after we have disposed of belief in God, ``it is man that we must now decide to emasculate.'' Artaud intersperses his often cogent social critique with Dada-esque ravings of pure sound, creating a one-man carnival of voices. The result holds up remarkably well; his ``Fragmentations'' of the poetic voice prove prophetic to today's fractured poetic state of affairs. (Dec.)
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