That evening at dinner—not after it as most people would but during it as Desnos would—we read through The New Revelations of Being, the work I hated and felt was the least like Artaud’s voice. In reading it again of course I changed my mind. Artaud certainly believed his apocalyptic visions. According to René Thomas, before he departed for Ireland Artaud could barely sleep in the face of his fear. But now I saw the Tarot and the Kabbala as mere forms he played people against, reading their responses, seeing patterns and numbers in people. Perhaps he was a magician who saw beyond even magic. Artaud was playing with how people believed or disbelieved, and it made him reach beyond both. Artaud had approached a singularity where all forms eroded even his pain, even his very idea of existing and not. He would be an anarchist who seized the void.
“I think,” I put in, “his spells represent a positive turning-point.” The ideas formed just a second before I spoke them. “He was plagued by nightmares about being tortured, by voices from his parents, from people who mocked him, by anger and guilt, and when he turned it outward he purged himself of them, he started to defend himself—even against himself.”
Barrault turned quickly to me. “I think you’re right!” he exclaimed. Mademoiselle Renaud smiled warmly at me.
“It’s still a defense mechanism,” argued the doctor, “but there is something to that, Geoff.”
When we finished I went to the kitchen to bring out the coffee, cream, sugar, and assorted cheeses. Barrault trailed me. “I think your friend wants to spend time with you,” he confided. “He’s hospitable and kind, but…”
I lowered my head. “I know. And I’m getting a taste of my own medicine.” Dr. Bernard came in, too. He made a move to take over the serving but I brushed him off. He stood there watching me as I gathered everything. I felt there was no harm in saying to both of them, “I thought love conquered everything, once. But it doesn’t conquer pain. Even when two people love each other. And if one’s love is not completely requited—because the other person’s love is different—that’s not the real pain. That’s just a pleasant conceit for romance novels. The real separation is life, not any lack of love.” Of course I was talking about my situation, but I hoped Barrault took my meaning that somewhere in his cave, Artaud still loved him. I was sure Bernard understood my message to him, too.
“True, that,” Barrault said softly. So considerate and discreet, he slipped back into the front room. Bernard just stood and looked at me, but by now I was no longer uncomfortable with being stared at.
“These dinners were not what you bargained for,” I told him. He liked my friends and enjoyed having pleasant, erudite companions who shared his interests, but what he wanted—what he had originally asked for—was not to spend more time with Artaud’s problems. Then, like the moron I was, my brainstorm came when I was placing cups on the tray. “You’re blackmailing Fouks!” I gasped aloud.
Dr. Bernard went over and shut the kitchen door.
“You have to be! Why else would he show you so much? And you’re getting something out of this, too,” I realized aloud. He did not answer. “Fouks is violating procedure of course, but I sense you and he share more than what you hold over him.”
Bernard cocked his head to the side. “I should know by now I cannot keep anything from you for long. Yet I always say too much to you anyway. Yes, Fouks and I pore over Artaud’s letters together. It’s completely irregular. Fouks wants a physician’s advice and he certainly cannot consult those at Ville-Évrard—or outside of it, except for me. And I, while my primary interest is in Artaud, not only for your sake Geoff but for mine…”
His voice trailed away and he regarded me with eyes that seemed to look right into me. Dr. Bernard was nothing like Artaud in this, though Artaud’s eyes had done the same thing. I felt a bit of anxiety whenever Bernard looked at me that way, whereas I had longed for it from Artaud. “Fouks is so young! I want to guide a young doctor. He’ll steal Artaud’s letters anyway, so I’m in this with him to prevent him from hardening against his patients. That happens, you know—especially to a researcher who no longer practices. Fouks, to his credit, at least tries to know Artaud’s oeuvre to know the man beyond the patient, but the language Artaud uses in his correspondence is so bellicose and obscene! I fear Fouks is reacting emotionally to it and closing his mind to any treatment for Artaud, and thus to schizophrenics in general. And what is the point of research if it does not eventually lead to treatment?”
Mulling Bernard’s words, I arranged the cups and he handed me the condiments. What a risk he was taking—he could lose this expensive flat, these modern appliances, if he was found out. He, at his age, could lose his practice and so could Fouks. The whole thing was unethical. “Fouks,” Bernard added, “I fear, thinks what Lacan thinks, that Artaud is incurable. It has disillusioned Fouks—he had arrived at the opposite of where he started, which was to help Artaud out of his admiration for him.
“And in a sense it reminds me of your sudden disillusionment with science. I would also warn you against that, Geoffrey,” Bernard insisted.
With this change of subject we could speak freely again. We went back into the main room to serve coffee. “I would never turn my back on science, Bernard,” I said, setting down the tray. “What I have lost faith in is utopias.” Antonin Artaud had made me see there would never be a humanistic Golden Age, no perfection of man—that was a pale copy of the Christian Heaven. Again, we were trapped by language. Artaud now doubted language entirely and in his work offered it up as only approximations of consciousness just as science today doubted “truth,” offering no simple truth, no certainties, only gradations of probability. Not words nor species nor atoms were mere objects; all had fuzzy boundaries and multiple trajectories. Louis Pasteur, for whom Desnos had such contempt, had treated inoculation as theatre and Artaud approached the theatre as contagion, as a biological issue. Yes, there was a relationship between Artaud and science, or at least between Artaud and medicine, but one had to work hard to see it, especially now that he was known as a “madman” and an advocate of the irrational. It all centered on the body.
“Science doesn’t offer ultimate answers but it does offer answers and without it, Artaud would have died at age five,” Bernard warned me.
“I know that,” I said. “Artaud spent weeks in a coma.”
“Never give up on science!” Bernard insisted. Barrault and Mlle. Renaud and Louis were listening quietly. I allowed them to serve themselves. “Toulouse is on the right track with his ‘biocraty.’ Poetry and art as therapy—I believe it. I believe man lives on his creations like bread. My rabbi—” He closed Revelations of Being on his papers and grinned.
“No secrets!” I teased him, and everyone else smiled at him.