To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, February 18, 2013

Antonin Artaud: The Old Caca Love Box

A first translation from French by Clayton Eshleman

                                                                   Paris, 27 December 1946

                                                        To M. Gilbert Lély

    I did indeed receive your letter urging me to send you the promised text for your special issue on love. But I did warn you that I could tell you only what I think. It was you who questioned me, it is to you that I respond.
   For I have had, for a long time, nothing more to say about love. It’s a feeling that I believed I had and understood, at a time when I was developing false ideas about life, for in truth I never found any love in it, only in me:
   attachment (if that), selfish friendship, esteem, provisional consideration, external sympathy,
   but love, in the, one could say, alchemical sense of the word, never.
   Example: the King of Thulé’s love, IN Gérard de Nerval’s poem,
   love in the valley of the dappled lawn, from Edgar Poe’s Eleonora;
   as for love in Baudelaire, it reaches its highest expression in the A Martyr, Carrion, A Voyage to Cytherea which are no more than a fall into the depths.
   André Breton alone remains, in his life as in his acts, faithful to this kind of decantating, from a pure and detached attraction, from life into more than life.
   I mean: in his thinking, but who is there who will follow him in life?
   And then, what is love in reality? So many poets, philosophers, painters, heros, clergy, saints, mystics, martyrs, tortured ones have passed through, and over, that the thing sickens perhaps even more than the word.
   Love is a unique feeling, so unique that the idea of sharing it with others, of having this feeling concomitantly with others, horrifies me.
   What I think about it, apart from this, is for me:
   for me alone, and I forbid anyone to talk about it, talking strictly to myself, to speak of it at the same time as I.
   Besides I now believe that this feeling is called hate, and, for me, is called the flagellation of a hate, which will lead me I don’t even know where.
   An old fetid smell of the idea of old love came back to me one day at Rodez, in March of 1946, the day when I saw getting off at the Rodez station Marthe Robert and Arthur Adamov who, after nine years of internment, were coming to look for me and to claim me. And I have always asked myself what notion of repressed love, one that had through time how many faces, through history how many characters,
   sent them to me that day.
   I thought a great deal about love in the Rodez asylum, and I dreamed there of some daughters of my soul, who would love me as daughters, and not as lovers, I their pre-pubescent, lascivious, salacious, erotic and incestuous father;
   and chaste, so chaste as to be dangerous.

   For one can only love one’s creations.
   The woman who loves inclines to mother,
   the man who loves wants the tiny atom of life that loves him and which the
   (the what?)
   has pushed toward him,
   to feel itself, above all, descended from him.
   One cannot evade, in the world such as it is made, this idea of primogeniture, not the first child of his father, but the father of the first child.
   As for the interpenetration of souls, the mystique of deep love, a woman wants, if not on earth, at least in the depths of the arbitrary idea of I no longer know what bottomless heaven, not to be born after the man she loves, but at least at the same time,

   In love there is the idea of service. And one does not indefinitely serve the same being.
   There is nothing more exhaustible than the idea of devotion.
   Besides, it seems to me a fundamental indiscretion that one can ask me this question, that this question can be asked.
   Love is that untouchable thing of which one only speaks with a sealed mouth, through how many strata of earth?
   And there is no secret drawer, there is no dark register that offers an account of what it is, this pariah of satisfied realities.
   Love is a forgotten feeling. And that’s all.

   --No. Man’s passional body no longer delights in the King of Thulé! –Too many lovers have cuckolded me for me to believe that this feeling still exists. And I am not saying outside its place, outside its old dwelling-place, at Madam Poetry’s; for I forbid poetry to still harbor the unfaithful, there is no life-long faithful, short of decanting life. From life to more than life. And this is no longer poetry, but a kind of ghastly autopsy.
   This decantation has to be brought about, on our old bodies gone to war against the invisible and the uncreated (as if that had ever existed   :   the uncreated) – with our bodies kept whole in the dungeons of the uncreated, in this same chaos of the uncreated where life rekindles its wars, when there is no more to eat or to drink, and when to drink is the same as to eat.

    Where has my lover gone? I would  then say to the King of Thulé.
   And my lover’s just as good as yours!
   And do you know what the King of Thulé answered me before dawn, when his legend was still being established, (but where did time go farther than its own legend taking shape?)
   And it’s now that he answered me.
   Now, this very last night, spent in my chimney hole;  --and all that was left to me of love was a black, indescribable army, that unavowable army of succubi and incubi armed with their sole hatred for what remains in me of an unused feeling :
   The feeling of love exhausted before it could be born, this machine of magnetized rust between the blood and the shit of being, called
   “My lover is not up to yours, and you will surrender yours to me at once!” responded the King of Thulé.
   Thus is hell born.

    You wanted to devote this special issue of Variétés to eroticism. Then, you changed it to the idea of love.
   That is not being half-mistaken, for nothing deserts love more, is further away from the idea of love, than the machine used for fucking, copulating and fornicating.
   It is in despair of love that all the old monkeys of hate, described in the Ramayana, invented the obtuse machine, the old box of caca humus, called sex, anus,
   And that!
   That, what?
   The dyke’s sloping tongue, which, in the garrets of the mind, wriggles over that :
   magma desire : Ca-Ca.
   And let breath, from Ca to Ca, end up strangling the Virgin.
   After that, we’ll see.

                                                                        Antonin Artaud

   P.S.   –Besides, the old box of caca humus will return when man has stopped being that low ferret scratching at sex as if to force papa’s secret out from his very mama mouth,
   And when papa-mama himself will have given up his seat to man, without hieroglyph and secret keyboard.
   But it will take a lot of blood to cleanse the shit-box, awash, not with shit, but with god-love.
   It’s the old haggler from Sinai who spread love-essence about;
   But why didn’t it occur to anyone that to fiddle with the essences
   (infinitesimals of principle, principles, embryos, magma larvae)
   was to let in all the microbes
   that are in the pruritus of the mind :
   sows, cinders of life.
                                                                         Antonin Artaud.

                                                                         31  December  1946

[The foregoing is translated from Artaud's Oeuvres Completes, volume XIV, Gallimard, Paris, 1978. The translator also thanks Mark Polizzotti for some helpful translation suggestions.]

1 comment:

Ed Baker said...

Artaud and his "group" for me and somehow of what I've read of their "stuff P O P !

" (...)let in all the microbes
that are in the pruritus of the mind :
sows, cinders of life."

from my point of view/departure into "things"
(art and poems) ... this "love/eroticism" is The Plinth to leap out-off from. In one of my pieces (NEIGHBORS, unpublished book as ms) I open with a Breton quote on the copyright page mock-up):

"the imaginary is what tends to become the real"

interesting ho the erotic in morphed by the Taste Police into what is called (and marketed) as "love" !

"And then, what is love in reality? So many poets, philosophers, painters, heros, clergy, saints, mystics, martyrs, tortured ones have passed through, and over, that the thing sickens perhaps even more than the word."

Here. Now: am in-between my own writing of AS I RE:CALL POEMS OF AN URBAN HERMIT .... before an I-hope-final tweaking.... and since I never read when I write and never write when I read I think for a few days I will re-visit my Artaud-Breton-Batille-Cahun-etcs section of my library...

pee est ... letter-writing is ALSO a form that I've used bothe in the 70's and recently...

Cid once wrote to me that : "Ed, your poetry is in your letters" that was in about 1973.... now, since 1998 I (usually) begin with / in letters... mostly actual ones ... see SHE INTRUDES and etc.

will print this Clay trans out and re-read...

thanks for passing this off to us who "dig" this kind of "stuff"