From Book 1: Sleepwalking

Previous scene here.

            “Sh, Roger, don’t tease,” Justine told him. Then, suddenly startled, she looked past him. I sensed a new presence in the room and turned to see Franz standing over us in his robe, swaying a little and gawking at us open-mouthed. Catherine appeared in the doorway with a bundle of blankets which she quickly dropped to the couch, and with an apologetic smile she shooed my brother back to the stairs. He clomped up them obediently. Artaud sat up and Justine, visibly shaken, put her hand to her throat.

            “He’s asleep—he sometimes sleepwalks,” Catherine explained, “and I should go to bed too or he’ll just get up again. I’ve left a nightgown and some pajamas here—no theatres tonight! You’re welcome to stay. Goodnight.” She headed for the stairs, then paused, and came back smiling to place a finger on Artaud’s shoulder, then on Justine’s. “As long as you’re good, you two. This is an innocent slumber party.” And Justine, having just regained her composure, blushed a deep red.

            “Of course, Catherine,” she mumbled.

            “Thank you,” Artaud said politely.

            “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.

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

            I leaned against the couch and drew up my knees. “Well—that’s the point, isn’t it? Not even trying?” I was thinking of that absurd “automatic” drawing of Justine and also that poem for Georgia shouted by that Philippe Soupault of the lamppost. Apparently anyone could be a Surrealist, and perhaps that was their goal—poetry made by all, by the rich arts patron and by the common laborer until there was nothing to auction or admire, to follow or impose, only a living dream state.

            “Not for me!” Artaud declared. “For Breton, for others, but not me. I don’t believe in throwing pieces of paper with words on them in the air, watching them fall, gluing them onto a page and calling that poetry. I call that bullshit. Poetry must be wrenched from us.” He pointed to the door. “What she said had a meaning for her; it wasn’t just playful nonsense. Nor is Surrealism.”

            “So you don’t reject logic, after all,” Roger replied. “I thought that was key, rejecting logic.”

            The other man snorted. “It’s incarnation I’m after—full consciousness. I couldn’t care less about logic! Breton—” and he whipped his cigarette butt into the fire, “—blats forever about rebelling against logic precisely because he thinks logic is intelligible, which is a mistake. I have found the logic of illogic.” 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 Roger’s mocking glance, I shifted to watch the other man as he ranted, “So now he’s leading us into scientific materialism while still gushing about fantasy and dreams. Ridiculous! Joining the Party is only his thinly disguised attempt to keep Surrealism alive, and of course we must prop it up, mustn’t we? We mustn’t let our movement die when its time has come. Our only purpose is to keep squeezing out these avant-garde literary journals like so many turds, isn’t it?” Eyeing my issue of La Révolution surréaliste he made another sweeping gesture of disgust. I wanted to laugh but didn’t dare for fear he’d misunderstand me; I wasn’t laughing at him.

            Roger looked troubled. “I’m not sure why you joined them at all. Wherever you are going, you have a focus and they’re floundering.”

            Artaud jerked his chin in a tense nod. “Quite. When Surrealism becomes an institution, I shall hurl bombs.”

            Roger asked me where my room was, ostensibly so he could change, which I knew was a ruse; we were all men after all. Artaud didn’t seem to suspect anything however, so we left him glowering into the fire. “I didn’t warn you, did I?” Roger asked me outside my room. “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?”

            Roger shrugged. “Artaud makes people uncomfortable. I didn’t want you to resent me, I guess. Oh well, I may as well use your room now. Modest me!” He went into my room with a grin.

            I returned and sat down again by the hearth, feeling Artaud’s eyes on me and unsure what to say. He merely raised his eyebrows in acknowledgment though and went on brooding. “I’m thinking about the bastard who’s following me,” he said finally. “I’d rather face him, but he was armed and I’m not. When I was nineteen I was stabbed in the back once, in Marseilles; I’ll never make that mistake again.”

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

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