From Book 1: Artaud Disturbs People Sometimes

            “Bless her,” Justine whispered when Catherine had gone, “she’s so sweet.” She rubbed her eyes. “The cats will have shredded my curtains by tomorrow. That was your brother, wasn’t it? I thought I would faint. Excuse me!” We watched her snatch the nightgown and flee the room after these disjointed statements.

            Roger gazed after her in admiration. “Justine is a Surrealist if anyone is, without even trying.”

            I leaned against the couch and drew my knees up. “Well—that’s the point, isn’t it? Not even trying?”

            “Not for me!” Artaud declared. “For Breton, yes, and others, but not me. I don’t believe in throwing pieces of paper with words on them up into the air, watching them fall, gluing them onto a page, and calling that poetry.* I call that bullshit. Poetry must be wrenched out of one.” He pointed to the door through which Justine had exited. “What she said had a meaning for her; it wasn’t just playful nonsense. And nor is Surrealism just mindless fun—it has a meaning beneath it all.”

            “So you don’t reject logic, after all,” Roger replied. “I thought that was a tenet of Surrealism, the rejection of logic.”

            The other man snorted. “It’s incarnation I’m after—the fully lived life. I couldn’t care less about logic! Breton—” and he whipped his cigarette butt into the fire,
“—wastes so much time and effort rebelling against logic precisely because he thinks logic is intelligible, which is a mistake, because logic is unintelligible. That is what I want people to understand. Logic—what is termed logic—is actually illogical.” At this Roger rose and approached the fire, and shoved a log into it so he could turn his back on Artaud and hide his expression.

Refusing to share his mocking glance, I shifted so Roger was no longer in my way as the other man ranted on: “So now, he’s leading the people I call my friends toward scientific materialism while still gushing about fantasy and dreams. Ridiculous! Joining up with the Communists is only a thinly disguised attempt to keep Surrealism alive, and of course we must remain a cohesive group, mustn’t we? We mustn’t let our movement die out when it has passed its productive phase, must we? Our only purpose is to keep squeezing out these avant-garde literary journals like so many turds, isn’t it?” He made again that sweeping gesture of disgust. I wanted to laugh but didn’t dare, for fear he’d misunderstand me. I certainly wasn’t laughing at him.

            Roger, looking a little troubled, was contemplating Artaud. “I’m not sure why you joined them at all,” he said. “Wherever you are going, you have a focus—” and there was a dark undertone in his voice that indicated exactly what he thought of that focus, but Artaud seemed not to notice. “And they’re floundering.”

            Artaud jerked his chin once in a tense nod. “Quite. When Surrealism becomes an institution, I shall be the anarchist hurling bombs.”

            Roger asked me where my room was, ostensibly so he could change, which I recognized immediately as a false display of delicacy; we were all men after all. Artaud didn’t seem to suspect anything, however, and we left him to sit glowering into the fire. “I didn’t properly warn you, did I?” Roger asked the moment we were beyond his hearing. “I hope you don’t mind him staying; I feel as though I’ve imposed him on you. Although he will leave if you ask him to.”

            “Good God, I’m not going to kick him out!” I hissed, truly hoping he couldn’t hear us. “At this hour? Why would I want to do that?”

            Roger shrugged. “Artaud sometimes makes people uncomfortable, that’s all. I didn’t want you to resent me, I guess. Oh well, I may as well use your room, since I said I would. Modest me!” He went into my room with a grin and shut the door.

            I went back to the front room and sat down again by the hearth, feeling Artaud’s eyes on me and unsure of what to say to him. He merely raised his eyebrows in acknowledgment though, and went on brooding. “I’m thinking about that man who’s been following me,” he said after a few minutes. “I really would have preferred not to run from him, the bastard, except he was armed and I wasn’t. I was stabbed in the back once, in Marseilles, when I was nineteen; I’ll never make that mistake again.”

            “He struck at you with a weapon?” I exclaimed.

*Yes, I know this is Dada, not Surrealism. This is one of the many deliberate errors in my novels, which also include double identities and wordplay.

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