The Artaud Project


Reading Jonathan’s Franzen’s THE KRAUS PROJECT has given me an idea or license to embark on a project that might draw attention to a voice that was silenced or simply ignored by the orthodox literary world: Antonin Artaud. There is already a good amount of research available on the Internet, but I was thinking of going through some of Artaud’s writings peicemeal and adding commentary, kind of the way Franzen does with The Kraus Project, circa 2013.


Going through old notebooks (diaries), I take note that there was not much more for me in “society” when employed by the State as a park maintenance “worker” living in the Historic Tark House than there is for me living on government relief in an apartment complex in Brick. The big difference is the immense privacy I had out there (to blast music, beat on drums, and hang out in the woods). Eureka! I have been a recluse for a long time.

How many couples are together just out of fear of being alone? How many stay in a job they hate out of fear and shame of depending on government relief?

Haven’t I overcome those fears by detaching from the tyranny of public opinion? I have intuited all along the phantasmagoric quality of being in the world. In 1996 (age 29), I wrote, “I will not go out of my way to replace my lost mate. It will not be the center of my attention. Why would I frantically search to become ensnared by overwhelming want for emotional security? Maybe I can develop the capacity to rest in the void.”

Artaud would definitely support the Anti-Psychiatry Movement, as would Toole. When I leave the current apartment, there will be an interlude, but I may be able to find psychological continuity through literature and personal studies and investigations. I have a small collection of obscure texts, and I will keep in my possession certain notebooks from various periods of my life when I was in similar “interludes” between residences.


I wish the oceans would rise and drown our entire civilization. I’m obviously in a foul and depressed mood this morning, most likely because of the emptiness and dejection I experienced during and after my little journey to and from my hometown yesterday. I would say it was a complete waste if not for the glorious melancholy that has come over me. Ah, to be a miserabilist: the quality of seeming to enjoy being depressed.


I sit in the thin woods all morning until my hunger demands I go into the apartment to heat up the blackeye pea concoction I had prepared with a big fat ham bone.

Something worth noting from Franzen’s The Kraus Project:

Freud’s psychic architecture of id, ego, and superego is more mysterious and suggestive in German: the It, the I, and the Over-I. I’m not just the good old familiar me, I’m also an IT, a “thing” in the world.

If you look too closely at the self, it disappears.

It is the words, not the It, that exist independent of me. The words I write are not the It I am.

Then there’s the Marxist critique: psychoanalysis is a bourgeois institution, a diversion for those with the time and money for it. The real It is economic and class relations, which create the ideology that governs you; and so no wonder the It is scary to you.

The bottom line is that we know less than we think we know. There is no cure for the human condition. Professionals and so-called experts who presume to sell a cure are outright liars.

For Karl Kraus, psychoanalysis is the disease of the mind, for which it believes itself to be the cure.

(Franzen 2013)


One of the main stressors in life may be this lack of opportunity to express ourselves. Who is interested in our complaints, observations, and investigations? The main thing has to be to be able to hold our own interest in what is going on within us.

I couldn’t resist the compulsion to replace the Artaud Anthology I had given to T of Matawan who escaped from Dirty Jersey awhile back. Artaud’s work is so rare, and he was so much more of a madman than my other Teachers, Schopenhauer and Cioran. I have no need of a library. My small collection is potent.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) went to Mexico in 1936 at age 40 to experiment with peyote, then returns to France with his condition shaky. In 1937, he travels to Ireland. Aboard a boat, he is straightjacketed after threatening to damage himself, and sent by the police back to France, then was in many mental hospitals for the next 9 years until released in 1946. He dies in 1948, just one month after To Have Done With the Judgment of God was censured from the airwaves. It would not be broadcast for another 30 years.

So, why am I so fascinated with Artaud?

The Phenomenology of Suffering?

His mental suffering? His spiritual anguish? his total rejection of the bourgoise … his rebellion … his hatred of psychiatry.


Is it possible that writing serves as an excuse for doing nothing? If this is true, what a brilliant strategy!

It makes perfect sense that, after a lifetime of investigating diverse literature, I should by now be zeroing in on those thinkers I am most drawn to, those who also happen to be most ignored, persecuted by ignorance, misunderstood, or flat out mocked by the mob – those who uttered unpleasant and disturbing truths which society would rather repress.

I care very little whether I seem to anyone to exist.

Artaud (in a letter to Jacques Riviere, a publisher)

Life itself is an insoluable problem. I will not even attempt to come up with, let alone verbalize or articulate, some wishful solution to or cure for being born. We exist for no reason whatsoever. Do we know what we are? Sometimes I get a glimpse of what we are, I mean, I experience it in my intestines and emotions: what Schopenhauer called the will, what Kant called the thing-in-itself. It is better never to have been born, but as long as I am alive, I do take a certain delight in tackling the great problem of existence in depth.

Like Emile Cioran, I have been exposed to a wide variety of “street” philosophers, and not merely “academic” philosphers. Many talented individuals haven’t understood anything. Very few people have understood. And yet, as Cioran had said in an interview about suicide:

You can meet someone just like that in the streets or in a bistro, it’s a revelation. It’s someone who has went indepth, who has tackled the great problem.

I enjoy deep conversations with “strangers” who are willing to be honest about the depths of their thought and feeling about life. Some people can’t handle being around deep and honest thinkers because they really don’t want to understand anything, whereas there are those of us who have, as Cioran puts it, tackled the great problem.


3 thoughts on “The Artaud Project

    • I’ll save it on the flashdrive and check it out. I’m off to be interrogated by a new psychiatrist … Feeling brainy. I’ll include Fools For Nothingness in my current investigations. Thanks for the link.

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