From Book 2: Napoléon

            The role of Roderick Usher went to another actor, but Jean-Paul Marat in Gance’s film Napoléon belonged to Antonin Artaud. We attended the premier held at the Paris Opera. Napoléon Vu par Abel Gance, originally intended as a six-film series, was now a four-hour epic film promised to be on par with D.W. Griffith’sContinue reading “From Book 2: Napoléon”

From Book 3: Mexico and Trotsky

Days later, when I again visited the studio, Artaud had the gall to tease Sonia and me in front of Anita about knowing how to show an attractive young lady a good time on her first visit to Paris. When Anita in her effervescent voice demanded the details, Sonia threw a bottle of ink atContinue reading “From Book 3: Mexico and Trotsky”

From Book 2: Escaping the Police

            Hands tore at me and I threw my fists out blindly, making contact with eyes and cheeks. The air cleared and I crawled onstage. Now Breton was nowhere to be seen. I hauled Desnos up by the arm. Holding his handkerchief against the flow of blood, Desnos stumbled in the direction I shoved himContinue reading “From Book 2: Escaping the Police”

From Book 2: Saint-Pol-Roux’s Banquet

            One evening, while Catherine sat with Suzanne in the dining room planning a supper for our father’s birthday, Franz on the sofa sheepishly unfolded a few old newspaper articles he’d saved. “This should interest you,” he whispered. “Surrealism’s biggest public scandal.” We sat quietly together to read them. The event was an honorary banquetContinue reading “From Book 2: Saint-Pol-Roux’s Banquet”

From Book 2: Morocco

            We stood there looking at each other with the door wide open. From the auditorium a roar of clapping and boos accompanied the appearance of a man onstage, a genteel-looking old peacock obviously accustomed to more civilized public gatherings and who now had the thankless job of introducing André Breton. His tremulous voice wasContinue reading “From Book 2: Morocco”

From Book 3: A Challenge

            The poor woman now laid her large, beringed fingers on my arm and was thrusting a letter before my eyes. Her name was Valentine Hugo. I remembered the name as the costume designer for The Passion of Joan of Arc. There it was, in Breton’s unmistakable handwriting: I will love you so long asContinue reading “From Book 3: A Challenge”

From Book 3: Desnos and Youki

            The weekend—two days of rain, two days of revelation—was over and now the sun was out, drying up the puddles in the streets, puddles that had caught the glitter and frivolous paper streamers of some Montparnasse street party. The sun turned the glistening streets to dry pavement and raised my fears. Artaud was likeContinue reading “From Book 3: Desnos and Youki”

Martin Esslin: Artaud was not “Woke”

Learning the fact that “woke” is actually a Beat term brought back my frustrating memories of the arguments about Artaud between me, who had actually read Artaud’s works, and my ex, who had never read Artaud but was a fan of Allen Ginsberg. While I admire “Howl,” Ginsberg is a disgusting distorter of Antonin Artaud’sContinue reading “Martin Esslin: Artaud was not “Woke””

From Book 3: A Night on the rue Mazarine

            Artaud was galvanized after his return to Paris. He wrote to and met with Breton frequently, but something about him was different. Now he had Cécile Schramme, who had waited for him. Everyone noticed the remarkable effect that this young Belgian girl seemed to have on the thirty-nine year-old man. He became energetic, humorousContinue reading “From Book 3: A Night on the rue Mazarine”

From Book 1: Teacher’s Pet

“How can you keep track of so many people?” I asked. I was already thinking how I could devise a deck of cards to remember them all. Soupault, with his lamppost, was the ace, and Desnos was the joker, of course. I figured Artaud for the king, Péret for the knave, and this Simone couldContinue reading “From Book 1: Teacher’s Pet”