From Book 4: Domnine

I understand that Paule Thévenin’s daughter Domnine is still alive. This section is offered with respect and affection.

            “Do you know what Artaud is doing now?” Breton told me. “He is learning his ABCs.”


“He feared he could not write anymore, and he said this to Paule Thévenin and her husband in front of their four-year-old child at table. Well, after dinner the girl—” He paused.

“Her name is Domnine,” I said.

“Well, Domnine offered to teach him what she was learning in school. She told him she would teach him how to write, and then he would be able to write poems again. So he and she went right out and purchased some pencils and copy-books. He’s been writing and rewriting his ABCs with her. He displays those copybooks proudly, while she beams like she’s his teacher. ‘Mômo’ is slang for ‘child,’ you know.”

I smiled. “I thought it meant ‘idiot’!”

“It means that, too. It means a lot of things—lunatic, brat. It’s patois.”

I shook my head. My friend was now a millionaire, living in an expensive rest home where he held the keys to the gate, an institution he had had to break into one night, and he was a celebrated visionary sought out by unknowns and celebrities alike, and still playing his madman role he held court like Socrates at his table at the Flore or the Deux-Magots, but his version of a resurrected success was to wear that long, dark, dilapidated coat stuffed with notebooks and pencils, and to draw self-portraits so unflattering some people could not bear to look at them, and to study his ABCs with a little girl for a tutor that he spoke to as if she were the adult.

“I remember I asked him, long ago, if Artaud would return to the helplessness of being a child,” I told Breton, “Artaud always seemed to exalt childhood even though his was not happy—and he’s answered, finally, for he gave me no reply back then. He’s reentered childhood as an adult and his grandmothers are his daughters, and his love-interests are his daughters, and a mere girl is his teacher…”

“And he has you for a shadow,” Breton replied. “He told me, when we were still speaking, that you were his independent shadow, you walked with him but could separate from him like the shadows in Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr. And he called you his ‘brother,’ too.” Again, I sensed the resentment in him.

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