Artaud the Mômo
is Antonin Artaud's most extraordinary poetic
work of the brief final phase of his life, from his return to Paris from a
nine-year incarceration in France's psychiatric institutions in 1946 until
his death in 1948. The work is an unprecedented anatomical excavation
carried through in vocal language, envisioning new gestural futures for
the human body in its splintered fragments, while also generating
black-humor illuminations into Artaud's own status as the scorned
Marseille-born child-fool, the “mômo” (a self-naming that fascinated Jacques
in his writings on this work). Artaud moves between extreme
irreligious obscenity and delicate evocations of his immediate corporeal
perception and his sense of solitude. The book's five-part sequence ends
with Artaud's caustic denunciation of psychiatric institutions and of the
very conception of madness itself.
This edition, translated by Clayton Eshleman—the acclaimed foremost
translator of Artaud's work—presents the work in the spatial
format Artaud intended, for the first time since its original edition in
1947. It also incorporates the eight original drawings by Artaud—showing
reconfigured bodies, weapons of resistance and assault—which he selected
for that edition, having initially attempted to persuade Picasso to
collaborate with him.
The editorial material draws on Artaud's previously unknown manuscript
letters of 1946-48 to the book's publisher, Pierre Bordas, which give
unique insights into the work from its origins to its publication.