Succubations & Incubations Selected Letters of Antonin Artaud (1945-1947)

 

This selection of letters (1945-1947) from Artaud’s consummate work, Suppôts et Suppliciations [Henchmen and Torturings] translated into English for the first time, provides readers with a vivid, uniquely intimate view of Artaud’s final years. They show Artaud at his most exposed, and they are perhaps his most explosive, tragic, sad, even humorous. Each of the correspondents that came into contact with Artaud during this time were in their own way deeply affected since his project was essentially an “attack / on the mind of the public.”

Commenting on and elaborating key themes from his earlier writing, while venturing into new territory, Artaud recounts his torture and violation in asylums, his crucifixion two thousand years ago in Golgotha, his deception by occult initiates and doubles, and his intended journey to Tibet, where, aided by his “daughters of the heart,” he will finally put an end to these “maneuvers of obscene bewitchment.” Artaud also speaks of his plan to create a “body without organs” and extends this idea to the visual arts, where he argues that painting and drawing must wage a ceaseless battle against the limits of representation.

The apocalyptic vision for mankind that led Artaud on a journey, beginning in Mexico in 1936 and ending, tragically, in Ireland in 1937, with a mental breakdown, silence, and long internment in asylums, concluded with the extremely prolific late period from which these letters were drawn. There is an unmistakable unity of vision that permeates the letters: the vision of an unceasing, ubiquitous, and malignant plot “to close the mouth of lucidity” by any means, and which must be resisted at all costs.

 

Translated by Peter Valente & Cole Heinowitz

With an introduction by Jay Murphy

Illustrated by Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak

 

What is important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend a culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical to that of hunger.

 – Antonin Artaud

[As quoted in Paul Auster’s The Art of Hunger, Sun & Moon Press, Los Angeles, 1992]