Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 259


By the same author
Already published
Correspondence with Jacques Riviere
Umbilical Limbo
Nerve Scales
Art and Death
Unpublished Prose and Poetry
Cup and Ball
Seven Letters


The Alfred Jarry Theatre
Two Stage Scenarios and Two Production Plans
On Literature and the Plastic Arts



In preparation
The Theatre and its Double
The Cenci
Documents on The Theatre and its Double
Documents on the Cenci


The New Revelations of Being
Correspondence with Andre Breton



Translated by Alastair Hamilton






First published in Great Britain in 1972
by Calder & Boyars Ltd
I 8 Brewer Street London WI

Originally published as
Antonin Artaud: Oeuvres Completes, Tome III
by Editions Gallimard, Paris, 1961

Editions Gallimard, 1961

This translation, Calder & Boyars Ltd, 1972


ISBN o 7145 0778 4 cloth edition

ISBN o 7145 0779 2 paper edition

Any paperback edition of this book whether published

simultaneously with, or _subsequent to, the hard bound
edition is sold subject to the condition that it shall not,
by way of trade, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise
disposed of, without the publishers' consent, in any form
of binding or cover other than that in which it is published.

Printed in Great Britain by

Western Printing Services Ltd, Bristol

Eighteen Seconds II
Two Nations on the Borders of Mongolia I5
The Shell and The Clergyman I9
Thirty-Two 26
The Butcher's Revolt 38
Flights 43
The Master of Ballantrae by Stevenson, adapted by
Antonin Artaud 48

Reply to an Inquiry 59
Cinema and Abstraction 6I
The Shell and The Clergyman 63
Witchcraft and the Cinema 65
Distinction Between Fundamental and Formal
Avant-Garde 68
Plan for Setting up a Company for the Production of
Short Films which will Pay off Quickly and Surely 69
The Polish Jew at the Olympia 74
The Precocious Old Age of the Cinema 76
The Liabilities of Dubbing 80

Antonin Artaud 85
Antonin Artaud Tells us about German Cinema 88

I 92 I
To Max Jacob 93
To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles 95
I92 2
To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles (February) 97
To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles (March) 98
To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles (June) 99
To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles (around November-
December) 100

To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles (April) IOI

To the Director of the Comedie-Frarn;aise ( 2I February) 102

To Jean Paulhan (2 July) I04
To Jean Paulhan (29 August) 106
To Abel Gance (27 November) 108

To Jean Paulhan (around March) 109
Correspondence (March) IIo
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (7 June) II2

To Madame Yvonne Allendy (I2 February) II4
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (I6 February) II5
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (I9 February) II6
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (Io March) II7
To Madame Yvonne Allendy ( 2 I March ) II9
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (26 March) I2I
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (I April) I23
To Dr. Allendy. Telegram (6 April) I24
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (Io April) 12 5
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (I5 April) I26
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (I9 April) I2 8
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (2 1 April) 130
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (22 April) I33
To Madame Yvonne Allendy. Telegram (26 April) I34
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (Io July) I35
To the newspaper L' Intransigeant (10 September) I36
To Madame Yvonne Allendy I37
To Jean Paulhan (9 November) I38
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (around November) 140
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (2 3 November ) 141
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (2 5 November) 142

To Jean Paulhan (16 March) 143
To Jean Paulhan (2 3 March) 144
To Jean Paulhan 145
To Madame Yvonne Allendy (6 June) 146
To Dr. Rene Allendy ( 12 July ) 148

Post-Script (around 3 January) l5l

To Roger Vitrac (1 l February) 15 2

To Louis Jouvet (15 April) 155
To Louis Jouvet (2 7 April) 15 7
To Louis Jouvet (2 9 April) 15 9
To Maitre Maurice Gan;on. Draft of letter ( 3 May) 161
To Louis Jouvet (2 6 June) 162
To Rene Daumal. Draft of letter (14 July) l 64

To Louis Jouvet (2 August) 168

To Louis Jouvet (2 7 August) 169
To Louis Jouvet (17 September) 170
To Louis Jouvet (second half of September) 173
To Jean Paulhan (2 3 September) 1 74
To Louis Jouvet (around 15 October) 175
To Louis Jouvet (2 0 October) 176
To Jean Paulhan 179
To Auguste Boverio (December) l 80
To Steve Passeur. Draft of letter (12 December) 18 2
To Steve Passeur. Draft of letter l 85

To Roger Vitrac. Draft of letter 186

To Roger Vitrac. Draft of letter (1 7 December) 1 88
To Roger Vitrac. Draft of letter (2 7 December) 189
To Raymond Rouleau. Draft of letter l 92

To Raymond Rouleau. Draft of letter (2 January) 193
To Louis Jouvet (5 January) 196
To Louis Jouvet (10 January) 198
To Jean Paulhan (19 January) 2 00
To Andre Gide. Draft of letter (20 January) 204
To Jean Paulhan (22 January) 205
To Jean Paulhan. Draft of letter (29 January) 211
To Louis Jouvet. Draft of letter (around the beginning of
February ) 213
To Louis Jouvet. Draft of letter (around the beginning of
February) 216
To Louis Jouvet (5 February) 217
To Jean Paulhan (7 February) 219
To Louis Jouvet (9 February) 221
To Louis Jouvet (27 February) 223
To Louis Jouvet (1 March ) 224
To Louis Jouvet (1 March) 225
To Louis Jouvet. Draft of letter (12 March) 227
To Jean Paulhan (March) 229
To Jean Paulhan (21 March) 230
To Louis Jouvet (20 May) 231
To Jean Paulhan (16 December) 232
To Jean Paulhan (15 October) 234
To Jean Paulhan 235
To Jean Paulhan (16 October) 236

In a street, at night, on the edge of a pavement, under a lamp

post, stands a man in black, gazing into space, fiddling with his
cane, holding a watch in his left hand. The hand of the watch
indicates the seconds.
Close shot of the watch indicating the seconds.
The seconds pass infinitely slowly on the screen.
At the eighteenth second the film will be over.
The time that passes on the screen is in the mind of the man.
It is not normal time. The normal time is eighteen real
seconds. The events which are to take place on the screen con
sist of images in the man's mind. The point of the scenario is
that although the events described happen in eighteen seconds
it takes an hour or two to project them onto the screen.
The spectator is to see the images which, at a certain point,
file through the man's mind.
This man is an actor. He is about to achieve fame and to
win the heart of a woman with whom he has long been in love.
He has been stricken by a strange malady. He has become
incapable of keeping up with his thoughts; he has retained
complete lucidity, but he can no longer give a shape to the
thoughts that come to him, he cannot express them in appro
priate actions and words.
He is at a loss for words; they no longer answer his call, and
all he sees is a procession of images, masses of contradictory,
disconnected images.
This prevents him from participating in the life of others and
from indulging in any activity.
Shot of the man at the doctor's. His arms folded, his fists
clenched. The doctor towering over him. The doctor passes his
The young man is again standing by the lamp-post at the
moment when he becomes fully aware of his condition. He cur
ses; he thinks: just as I was about to start living and win the
heart of the woman I love, who has yielded after such
resistance !
Shot of the woman, beautiful, enigmatic, a hard, closed face.
Shot of the woman's soul as the man imagines it.
Landscape, flowers, gorgeous lighting.
Gesture of the man cursing:
Oh ! to be anything ! to be that wretched hunchback news
vendor who sells his papers at night, but to be in full possession
of one's mind, to be really master of one's mind, to think !
Quick shot of the newsvendor in the street. Then in his room,
his head in his hands, as though he were holding the globe. He
really is in possession of his mind. He can hope to conquer the
world and he has the right to think that he really will conquer
it one day.
Because he also possesses INTELLIGENCE. He does not know
his limitations, he can hope to possess everything: love, fame,
power. And in the meantime he works and he searches.
Shot of the newsvendor gesticulating before his window;
towns moving and trembling under his feet. Then again at his
table. With books. His finger pointed. Swarms of women in the
air. Piles of thrones.
He only has to discover the central problem, the problem on
which all the others rest, and he will be able to hope to conquer
the world.
He does not even have to solve the problem, he just has to
discover the central problem and what it consists of, in order
to settle it.
Ah ! but his hump? He might even be relieved of his hump.
Shot of the newsvendor in the middle of a crystal ball. Rem
brandt lighting. And a bright point at the centre. The ball be
comes the globe. The globe becomes opaque. The newsvendor
disappears in the middle and springs out like a jack-in-the-box,
his hump on his back.
And off he goes in search of his problem. He appears in
smoky dens, in gatherings where some ideal is being sought.
Ritual assemblies. Men make violent speeches. The hunchback
sitting at a table, listening. Shaking his head, disappointed. In
the middle of the group, a woman. He recognises her: it is she !
He shouts: hey ! Arrest her ! She is spying, he says. Hullabaloo.
Everybody gets up. The woman runs away. He is soundly
beaten and thrown out.
What have I done? I have betrayed her, I love her ! he says.
Shot of the woman at home. At her father's feet : I recog
nised him. He is mad.
And he goes further continuing his search. Shot of the man
on a road with a kick. Then, by his table, looking through
books,-close shot of the cover of a book: the Cabala. Sud
denly there is a knock at the door. Policemen enter. They rush
at him. He is put into a straight-jacket and taken to a lunatic
asylum. He really goes mad. Shot of the man struggling with
bars. I shall discover the central problem, he yells, the problem
from which all others hang like clusters of fruit, and then:
No more madness, no more world, no more mind, above all
no more anything.
But revolution sweeps through the prisons and asylums; the
doors of the asylum are opened; he is rescued. You are the mys
tic, people shout, you are our master, come ! And, humbly, he
says no. But he is dragged away. Be king, they tell him, accede
to the throne ! And, trembling, he mounts the throne.
His attendants withdraw and he is left alone.
Vast silence. Magical astonishment. And suddenly he thinks
I am master of everything, I can have everything.
He can have everything, yes, everything except for his mind.
He is still not master of his mind.
But what is the mind? What does it consist of? If only one
could be master of one's physical self. Be able to manage any
thing, to do everything with one's hands, with one's body. And
in the meantime the books accumulate on the table. He falls
And in the middle of his reverie, comes a new dream.
Yes, to be able to do everything, to be an orator, painter,
actor, yes, but is he not an actor already? He is indeed an actor.
And there he is, on the stage, with his hump, at the feet of his
mistress who is acting with him. And his hump is also false: it
is feigned. And his mistress is his real mistress, his mistress in
real life.
A magnificent auditorium, crammed with people, and the
King in his box. But he is also acting the part of the king. He
is king, he hears and sees himself on the stage at the same time.
And the king has no hump. He has realised that the hunchback
on the stage is none other than his own effigy, a traitor who
took his wife and stole his mind. So he stands up and exclaims:
Arrest him! Hullabaloo. A commotion. The actors call upon
him. The woman shouts: It is no longer you, you have lost your
hump, I do not recognise you. He is mad! And at the same
time the two characters dissolve into each other on the screen.
The whole auditorium trembles with its columns and candel
abra. It trembles more and more. And against this trembling
background all the images file past, also trembling, the king,
the newsvendor, the hunchback actor, the lunatic, the asylum,
the crowds, and the man finds himself on the pavement under
the lamp-post, his watch in his left hand, his cane swinging.
Hardly eighteen seconds have elapsed; he contemplates his
misery for the last time and then, with no hesitation or emo
tion, takes a revolver from his pocket and fires a bullet into
his head.


Two nations on the borders of Mongolia are quarrelling for

reasons incomprehensible to Europeans;
They want to start a war which would put a match to the
powder-keg of the entire Far East;
the League of Nations send one dispatch after the other, but

only confuse the issue;

Russian gold is at the bottom of it all, of course;
the French consul flounders amongst infinitely complicated
deals in this pointless conflict;
a lama tells him that the psychological reason for the conflict
rests on tone and sound rather than form;
the only way of settling everything would be to send them
a surrealist poem;
an attempt is made to send it by telegram; but the mutilated
inflammatory poem puts a match to the powder-keg;
hostilities are about to commence;
one method remains:
air mail;
the poem reaches its destination after numerous mishaps.

Scene between the lama and the consul in which he tells

him what to say to them;
the consul is converted to surrealism.

French diplomats shrug their shoulders:

amusing scenes between Poincare and Briand who rush off
to Montparnasse;
intervention of love
intervention of a woman
definition of a certain Surrealism.

Dizzy speed, sound ;

how the aeroplane swims in time ;
a mist of occultism for air traffic.

Lengthy pataphysical analysis of their dispute in which ab

surdity combines with profound logic, a paradox.

Surrealism mixed in cocktails,

an Eiffel tower of alcohol;
alcohol whose strength induces a sense of elevation;
a mental music of strength and intensity;
with this alcohol one can understand China;
the necessity of absolute speed;
Briand 's cigarette swelling like an elephant 's trunk.

Their appalling disconcertion at being transported in an un-

controllable instrument which does not vibrate,
which travels in a direct line of action,
and therefore lacks communication, atmosphere;
the vibrating propellor imitates the haze of poetry;
the veins of the air crash and contract.

Hence the idea of the character poem;

hitherto all poems were words;
painting tried to create a non-durable, almost verbal emo
the characters created by an actor never really took off;
poems are needed which cross and multiply and counter
balance the forces of China.

The Dream of the rays of alcohol;

their colour and their force lying like towns;
what a chess-board for a diplomat !
a race of child people
And at moments a face seems to be moving in it.
The woman is in front of him and looks at him.
The candelabra seem to follow the movements of the couples.
The priest enters the house.
to be captured by words.

These Mongols,
these Tartars,
these Afghans,
you think they fight over mines, over towns;
wrong, they fight over words.

Power of meaning,
supremacy of quality.
You act a play. Ten thousand meanings hang over every
phrase, every word, the slightest intonation. Add similar in
tonations, use every possibility, and see what you get.
Look at my head as it talks.
The point of what I am saying would seem to be in my
speech; wrong again ! with the tiniest muscle of my face I can
create worlds of instantaneous images, simply surrendering my
self to every inflexion of my inner desire, to my urge to live, by
modelling feelings.
You see.
And he shows:
the revolt of China,
the degradation of the child peoples,
the fear of the supernatural,
the feeling of the invisible,
the faith in the League of Nations,
the consciousness of the fakir,
the anticipation of inspiration,
the man watching his double,
the calculations of astrology,
the East against the West,
the lucidity of the seer,
the blindness of America,
the sleight of hand of the conjuror,
the precision of the juggler,
the clarity of mind of the magician.
What could one not do with all this.
But the consul is stupid;
he telegraphs;
incredulity of the French government ;
apparition of the blundering little magician;
the impression he makes on our politicians;
their trip to Montparnasse;
in a dream they send the scribe.

But at the same time a real aeroplane was flying the gold
from England, on a parchment, to the country opposed to the
one supported by the Soviets and all returns to normal for fear
of complications.

(Scenario ) 8


At present two courses seem to be open to the cinema, of which

neither is the right one.
The pure or absolute cinema on the one hand, and on the
other this sort of venial hybrid art. The latter persists in expres
sing, in more or less successful images, psychological situations
which are perfectly suitable for the stage or the pages of a book,
but not for the screen, and which only really exist as the reflec
tion of a world which seeks its matter and its meaning else
It is obvious that everything we have so far been able to see
in the guise of abstract or pure cinema is far from satisfying
what appears to be one of the essential demands of the cinema.
Because however capable of conceiving and adopting abstrac
tion man's mind may be, we cannot help being irresponsive to
purely geometric lines, of no valid significance on their own,
which do not belong to any sensation which the eye of the
screen can recognise and classify. However deep we may look
into the mind we find, at the bottom of every emotion, even if
it be intellectual, an effective sensation of a nervous order. This
contains the susceptible, even if elementary recognition of
something substantial, of a certain vibration which invariably
recalls states, either known or imagined, clothed in one of the
multiple forces of nature, in real life or in dreams.Pure cinema
would therefore imply the restitution of a certain number of
forms of this type moving according to a rhythm which is the
specific contribution of this art.
Between purely linear visual abstraction (and a play of
shadows and lights is like a play of lines) and the film with
psychological undertones which might tell a dramatic story,
there is room for an attempt at true cinema, of which neither
the matter nor the meaning are indicated by any film so far
In films telling stories the emotion and humour depend solely
on the text, to the exclusion of the images. With a few ex
ceptions the whole idea of a film is in its sub-titles; the emotion
is verbal: it calls for explanation, or the support of words, be
cause the situations, images and acts revolve round a clear
meaning. We must find a film with purely visual sensations the
dramatic force of which springs from a shock on the eyes,
drawn, one might say, from the very substance of the eye, and
not from psychological circumlocutions of a discursive nature
which are nothing but visual interpretations of a text. We are
not trying to find an equivalent of the written language in the
visual language, which is simply a bad interpretation of it. We
are trying to bring out the very essence of the language and
transport the action into a level where every interpretation
would become useless and where this action would act almost
intuitively on the brain.
In the following scenario I have tried to produce this visual
cinema where psychology itself is devoured by the action. No
doubt this scenario does not accomplish all that can be done in
this direction, but at least it heralds it. Not that the cinema
must be devoid of all human psychology, on the contrary; but
it should give this psychology a far more live and active form,
free from the connections which try to make our motives appear
idiotic instead of flaunting them in their original and profound
This scenario is not the reproduction of a dream and must
not be regarded as such. I shall not try to excuse the apparent
inconsistency by the facile subterfuge of dreams. Dreams have
more than their logic. They have their life where nothing but a
sombre truth appears. This script searches for the sombre truth
of the mind in images which emerge exclusively from them
selves, and do not draw their meaning from the situation in
which they develop but from a sort of powerful inner necessity
which projects them into the light of a merciless evidence.
The human skin of things, the derm of reality-this is the
cinema's first toy. It exalts matter and makes it appear to us in
its profound spirituality, in its relationship with the mind from
which it emerges. The images are born, are deduced one from
the other as images, impose an objective synthesis more pene
trating than any abstraction, create worlds which ask nothing
from anyone or anything. But from this mere game of appear
ances, from this sort of trans-substantiation of elements, is born
an inorganic language which moves the mind by osmosis and
with no sort of transposition in words. And by the fact that it
plays with matter itself the cinema creates situations which
emerge from the simple collision of objects, forms, repulsions
and attractions. It does not separate itself from life but returns
to the primitive order of things. The most successful films of
this type are those which are dominated by a certain humour,
like the early Malec and the most inhuman Chaplin films. The
cinema studded with dreams, which gives you the physical sen
sation of pure life, is fulfilled by excessive humour. A certain
agitation of objects, shapes and expressions is only well inter
preted by the convulsions and jerks of a reality which seems to
destroy itself with an irony which makes the extremities of the
mind cry out.

. The lens discloses a man dressed in black, busy pouring a liquid

into glasses of various sizes and volumes. He does this with a
sort of oyster shell and breaks the glasses after having used
them. The accumulation of flasks next to him is incredible. At
one point a door opens and there appears a debonaire-looking
officer, complacent, bloated and overloaded with medals. He
drags an enormous sabre behind him. He appears like a sort
of spider, now in dark corners, now on the ceiling. With each
new broken flask the officer makes another hop. But now the
officer is behind the man dressed in black. He takes the oyster
shell from his hands. The man looks on in peculiar astonish
ment. The officer goes round the room a few times with the
shell, then, suddenly drawing his sword from its scabbard, he
shatters the shell with a gigantic blow. The whole room trem
bles. The lamps flicker and in each trembling reflection gleams
a sabre point. The officer walks out heavily and the man dres
sed in black, who looks very like a clergyman, goes out after
him on all fours.
The clergyman is seen crawling along the pavement of a
street on all fours. Street comers shift over the screen. Suddenly
a carriage appears drawn by four horses. The officer is in the
carriage with a very beautiful woman with white hair. Hiding
in the comer of a street the clergyman sees the carriage go by;
he follows it, running as fast as he can. The carriage stops be
fore a church. The officer and the woman get out, go into the
church, walk towards a confessional. But at that moment the
clergyman leaps, throws himself at the officer. The officer's face
cracks, granulates, beams ; the clergyman no longer holds an
officer but a priest. It looks as though the white-haired woman
also sees the priest, but with a different expression, and a suc
cession of close shots show the priest's face, sycophantic and
welcoming as it appears to the woman, and rough, bitter and
terrible when it looks at the clergyman. Night falls suddenly.
The clergyman lifts the priest, holding him at arm's length;
and around him the atmosphere becomes absolute. He finds
himself at the top of a mountain ; superimposed at his feet is a
network of rivers and plains. The priest leaves the arms of the
clergyman like a bullet, like a cork that explodes and falls diz
zily into space.
The woman and the clergyman pray in the confessional. The
clergyman's head sways like a leaf and suddenly it seems that
something is talking inside him He rolls up his sleeves and

gently, ironically knocks three times against the walls of the

confessional. The woman gets up. Then the clergyman knocks
with his fist and opens the door like a fanatic. The woman is
in front of him and looks at him. He pounces on her and tears
off her bodice as though he wanted to lacerate her bosom. But
her bosom is replaced by a breastplate of shells. He tears off
this breastplate and brandishes it in the air, where it gleams.
He shakes it frantically in the air and the scene changes to a
ball-room. Couples enter, some mysteriously and on tip-toe, the
others busily. The candelabra seem to follow the movements of
the couples. All the women wear short dresses, show their legs,
throw out their chests and have short hair.
A royal couple enters ; the officer and the woman. They take
their places on a platform. The couples embrace each other
boldly. In a comer a man on his own in a large empty space.
In his hand he has an oyster shell in which he is curiously ab
sorbed. He gradually turns out to be the clergyman. But, over
throwing everything in his way the same clergyman enters
holding the breastplate with which he had been playing so
frantically. He raises it in the air as though he wanted to slap
a couple with it. But at this moment all the couples freeze, the
white-haired woman and the officer dissolve into the air and
the same woman reappears at the other end of the room in the
frame of a door which has just opened.
This apparition seems to terrify the clergyman. He drops the
breastplate which gives out a gigantic flame as it breaks. Then,
as though he were overcome by a sudden feeling of shame, he
makes as if to pull his clothes round him. But as he seizes the
tails of his coat to draw them round his thighs, they lengthen
and form an immense road of night. The clergyman and the
woman rush into the night.
The chase is interrupted by a succession of shots of the
woman with different expressions : now with an enormous swol
len cheek, now putting out her tongue which stretches into in
finity and onto which the clergyman hangs as if it were a rope.
Now with her chest horribly puffed out.
At the end of the chase the clergyman is seen coming into a
corridor with the woman behind him, swimming in a sort of
Suddenly we see a large door studded with iron. The door
opens, pushed by an invisible hand, and the clergyman is seen
walking backwards and calling someone in front of him who
does not come. He goes into a large room. In this room there is
an immense glass bowl. He approaches it walking backwards,
still beckoning the invisible figure.
We feel that the figure is close to him. He raises his hands in
the air, as though he were embracing the body of a woman.
Then, when he is sure of holding the shadow, this sort of in
visable double, he pounces on her, strangles her with expressions
of incredible sadism. And we have the impression that he is
putting the severed head into the bowl.
He reappears in the corridors, looking care-free and whirl
ing a large key in his hand. He turns down a corridor at the
end of which is a door, he opens the door with the key. After
this another corridor, at the end of this corridor is a couple
whom he recognises as the woman and the officer loaded with
A pursuit begins. But from all sides fists rap at a door. The
clergyman finds himself in a ship's cabin. He gets out of his
bunk and goes onto the bridge of the ship. The officer is there,
laden with chains. Then the clergyman seems to collect his
thoughts and pray, but when he raises his head two mouths,
which seem to join on a level with his eyes, reveal the woman,
who was not there a moment ago, next to the officer. The body
of the woman rests horizontally in the air.
Then a paroxysm shakes him. The fingers of both his hands
seem to be groping for a neck. But between his fingers there are
skies, phosphorescent landscapes,- and, all white, looking like
a ghost, he passes with his ship under vaults of stalactites.
Shot of the ship in the distance, in a silver sea.
And a close shot of the face of the clergyman, lying down and
From the far end of his half-open mouth, from the space be
tween his eye-lashes, comes a glistening steam which collects in
a comer of the screen, forming a sort of town decor, or very
luminous landscape. The face finally disappears completely and
houses, landscapes and towns pursue each other, knotting and
unknotting, reshaping in a sort of incredible firmament of cel
estial lagoons, grottoes with incandescent stalactites, and under
these grottoes, between these clouds, in the midst of these la
goons, the silhouette of the ship passes to and fro, black against
the white background of the towns, white against sets which
suddenly tum black.
But doors and windows open on every side. Light wells into
the room. Which room? The room with the glass bowl. Ser
vants, housekeepers invade the room with brooms and buckets,
rush to the windows. On every side they scrub intensely, fran
tically, passionately. A sort of stiff governess, dressed entirely in
black, enters with a bible in her hand and stands by a window.
When one can distinguish her face she turns out to be the same
beautiful woman. A priest is seen hurrying along a path out
side, and further off a girl, in a garden dress, with a tennis
racket. She is playing with a strange young man.
The priest enters the house. Valets come out from all sides
and fom1 an imposing line. But for cleaning purposes the glass
bowl, which is nothing but a sort of vase filled with water, has
to be moved. It passes from hand to hand. And at moments a
face seems to be moving in it. The governess calls the children
in the garden, the priest is there. And the children tum out to
be the woman and the clergyman. It looks as though they are
going to be married. But at that moment, in each comer of the
screen, there appear the images passing through the brain of the
sleeping clergyman. The screen is cut in half by the appearance
of an immense ship. The ship disappears but down a staircase,
which seems to climb up to the sky, comes the clergyman with
no head and holding in his hand a parcel wrapped in paper.
Once in the room, where everybody has assembled, he un
wraps the paper and takes out the glass bowl. Everybody is
rivetted. Then he bends down and breaks the glass bowl : he
takes out a head which is none other than his own head.
The face makes a hideous grimace.
He holds it in his hand like a hat. The head rests on an oyster
shell. As he raises the shell to his lips the head dissolves and
turns into a sort of blackish liquid which, closing his eyes, he


The medical school is a small town in Central Europe. The

lecture is ending. The professor, a handsome young man, looks
slightly absent-minded. The impression he makes on his
students. The faces of a few students. A sort of profound and
gentle authority. One of his favourite students goes up to him
and hands him a book, which he takes, kindly.
The student says : ' My mother would like to see you this
evening after dinner.'
That evening, in a bourgeois house. A nervous girl. The

The professor comes in. Talks to the mother. His eyes wan
der in an odd way towards the girl.
He goes up to the girl.
She looks ill. She looks at him. Suddenly she stands up and
pulls him towards a window.
She tells him her story :
She was engaged to a young man of noble birth, she became
his mistress, she is pregnant. Her fiance has abandoned her.
What she wants, she tells him hesitantly, growing more and
more excited as she speaks, is some occult intervention. She
feels he could do a great deal for her.
The young man, with a cold, piercing look in his eyes:
She must come to see him tomorrow, towards midnight.

The life of the young man. He lives alone, no one near him.
He is seen walking through empty rooms. He enters his labora
Flasks, books, containers. That is all.
He has put on a long gown.
With a worried expression he goes to the window several
times, and gazes out at the little square.
At one moment he seizes a book, opens it on a table without
sitting down. He becomes engrossed, raises his eyes. The moon
gleams in the sky. His set features seem to exhale a profound
In the square, opposite the little house where the professor
lives, is an inn. Men talk and smoke. Suddenly the girl crosses
the square. She passes through the light from the inn, very
beautiful. The men watch her for a moment in surprise. She
rings at the door.
The men glance at each other.
The young professor goes down to open the door, a candle
stick in his hand.
They go upstairs.
One feels that the girl is slightly anxious. Once in the room
the young man takes her hands and stares at her in a strange,
tender way. She is evidently touched. She looks round at the
Suddenly the young man's face alters. He becomes breath
The girl draws back, astonished, worried. He calms down,
goes to the window which he opens. He obviously feels ill. He
sits down.
In great anxiety she watches him, motionless.
Her hands toy with a flask on the desk.
Suddenly he stands up, makes a brisk movement. As though
he were going to ask something.
He stands up, is about to speak.
And suddenly falls to the ground in a faint.
The girl screams loudly and, panic-stricken, unable to stay
a moment longer in this sinister house, runs away.
She is leaving. Men gather in the square. The people in the
inn rush out, surround the girl. They drag her into the inn. She
pulls herself together. She explains :
The young man had an attack in front of her.
They decide to help him. The people make their way into
the house.

Some time later.

The young man is seen at home, lying in bed convalescing.
The girl is there, looking after him. People are standing in the
corners, talking, looking happy.
A sort of musician with white hair is talking to a pastor. He
seems to be pleased about the young man's recovery. 'From
now on he will no longer be alone.'
They nod towards a large woman putting some flasks in
order, dragging a large trunk, then the conversation changes,
they look towards the bed. The camera switches to the back of
the girl who is lifting the invalid's head, to give him something
to drink. Seen from behind she looks tenderly attentive.
But this time we get a shot of the girl's face, full of infinite
sadness ; she seems to be thinking about something else.
While the young man drinks, looking totally indifferent.
The girl puts the empty cup on the bed table. The maid, who
has been watching them, takes it away with a curiously gentle
Those present withdraw, one after the other on tip-toe, tak
ing their leave ceremoniously.
The maid brings up the rear. She is massive and powerful.
Hard muscles, large bones, very masculine. On the whole she
looks brutal, almost aggressive, but she becomes curiously gentle
every time she is near her master.
In the room the young man and the girl have remained
The young man rests his head on the pillow. He still breathes
with difficulty. He seems to be asleep. And yet there are
moments when he seems to turn his eyes towards the girl-a
bright point shifts under his eyelids and slides to one side. The
girl gazes straight ahead.
Downstairs a last visitor turns almost unconsciously towards
the house as he is leaving and catches a glimpse of the hostile
face of the maid closing the door.
A clock in the room says half-past eleven.
The maid dozes in the kitchen.
The clock now says one. The girl still gazes straight ahead.
Half sitting up the young man looks at her without any sort of
Now the girl weeps silently.
The young man watches her unemotionally, as though he
were in no way taken in by what he sees. Nevertheless he sits
right up and leans towards her.
His lips form a question.
The girl, her eyes raised, her face strained, does not reply.
Time goes by. The pendulum of the clock. The young man
still watches her. The girl's body relaxes in little jerks. Her face
seems to grow calm. Then, the young man touches her shoul
der. She starts again, and grows agitated. A maternal expres
sion passes over her face, which gradually seems to become
more gentle.
She now looks at the young man with bewildering gentleness,
then, her strength seeming to abandon her, she leans back in
the chair as though she had fainted. The young man who has
been observing her sharply and tensely, assumes a slightly cun
ning expression. He staggers up. He stands over her, takes her
wrist and talks to her.
The girl has another convulsion and trembles from head to
Her left arm waves desperately, then stops, trembles, and at
the end of her finger a sort of luminous point seems to form
and gradually turns into a man. The young man stares at the
point, but when the man is in front of him a supernatural emo
tion seizes him too and a nameless fear appears in his set fea
tures, his trembling lips, his cadaverously pale face.
His eyes roll up. He shuts them. He is about to fall.
He then drops the girl's hand, leans for a moment against
the edge of the bed, then drags himself to a dimly-lit mirror.
Before the mirror, on a sort of stand, is a glas.s ball with facets,
which revolves projecting flames.
The young man has dropped his head onto his chest, as
though he were afraid of looking up.
He leans over, grabs a large sword leaning against the mir
ror, and lifts it. He points it behind him, closing his eyes.
The silhouette of the spectre shakes as though it were suspen
ded.The point of the sword seems to attract it.
This silhoutte can be seen in the mirror, behind the young
The young man looks at it and shields his face with his hand.
Then he lowers his hand and suddenly uncovers his face? There
is a similarity between the face of the spectre and his own.
The glass ball dissolves. The spectre disappears. Everything
grows dark again. The young man has now returned to his bed.
The girl watches him, calmly. He takes her hand and seems to
reassure her by saying:
'When I am better we shall make the experiment. '
The clock on the table says five.
A pale light comes in through the window.
The maid climbs the stairs sleepily, holding a lamp. She
opens the door and gazes at the couple by the bed.

A month later . . .
In the inn the same men are smoking and talking. Night
falls in the little square. The street lamps light up one by one.
The lamp-lighter goes past in the distance.
In the fa<;ades of the houses windows are seen lighting up.
The girl crosses the square.
She is stopped by a sort of hearse which jolts along.
Within the inn the men cross themselves, vaguely.
They have certainly seen the girl who goes into the house.
In the house the maid comes down, opens the door.Her face
has grown sad and worried. Her exuberance has vanished.
She is no longer as strong as she was in the beginning. She looks
thinner: 'The master is upstairs.He is expecting you.'
She says these words with a resigned, telling look.
The young man is at the head of the staircase, wrapped in
his long gown, looking kind and gentle, but apparently more
worried than ever.
The scene of the girl climbing the stairs adopts an exaggera
ted importance. It evokes a climb to the stake. The girl looks
round her slowly.
She has got to the top.The young :man opens a door, stands
aside. They enter the room with the mirror and the glass ball.
The young man shuts the door with a meditative, closed ex
pression.The girl sits down, he takes her hands almost tenderly.
She looks at him, smiles vaguely.
Suddenly the young man leaves her, rushes to the door and
tears it open:
The maid is there, stiff and pale; she stares at the young man
with bright eyes.
The young man simply closes the door.
He returns to the girl, nonchalantly, in full control of him-
The room grows dark.
Stars gleam in the window.
The young man seats the girl before the mirror.
Her expression has changed completely. She looks pert, al
most happy. When the young man is very close to her he takes
her hands gently:
'You shall give him to me today.'
The young man watches her with a deep, piercing look. Then
a furtive smile appears on his face as his thoughts go beyond
The girl looks at his face in the mirror. It is handsome, calm,
exudes purity and youth, inspires unlimited confidence.
She feels happy, lightly closes her eyes.
The young man sets the ball into motion. He has turned
round. The girl is dreaming.
A whole world seems to file past in the mirror, an aquatic
world full of fibres and exploding globules of air. Paws seem to
scratch at the window pane, produced by the virtuality of the
mirror. An animal head appears.An infinity of masks, beasts
with phosphorescent eyes, all full of immeasurable anxiety.
Several of these bestial heads are crowned by tiaras, garlands,
tresses of flowers. But everything moves, wobbles, trembles, as
though the foundations of things had broken. And more heads
opening, bursting. Sparkling eyes drift away.
The girl's face seems lost in this dream. Now the aquatic
world seems to leave the mirror. Anxious, vibrating paws grow
The girl shakes as though she were stifling, oppressed by an
unbearable nightmare.
Suddenly, as though swept away by a mighty hand, this
phantasmagoria dissolves. The mirror has become calm, clear,
but a real face soon appears.
The face of a young man. But completely transformed, un
recognisable, hideous. A ghastly passion suffuses it.
Petrified, the girl gazes at it. Dazed. Incapable of moving or
In the mirror we see the young man take his hand out of his
pocket, draw out a black noose which hangs like the lianas of
a dream.
But suddenly the scream, which has been hovering on the
girl's parched lips, bursts out. She trembles, stands up, turns
The young man is suddenly calm. Was it a dream? He looks
at her gently. But the girl is scared. She looks as though she is
not going to stay a minute longer in the room. Without apolo
gising, without saying good-bye, she rushes round the room for
an instant like a caged beast. The young man looks at her in
apparent amazement. He hands her her hat which she takes
like a sleep-walker and rushes out. The young man, looking
very gloomy, goes back to his room and closes the door behind

In the cellar . . .
For an instant a light filters past a half-open worm-eaten
door studded with nails. Then the door opens completely and
the young man comes out with a dark lantern. He carefully
turns the key, which he looks at very closely before putting it in
his pocket. But he changes his mind and keeps it in his hand.
He starts to climb the stairs. When he comes to a recess he
stops, looks round. He frowns, he suddenly looks wicked. He
casts the light of the lantern on the recess. The light reveals
the maid, cowering there, trembling, frightened :
' What were you doing there?'
He seizes her, pushes her violently into the light. Then re
leases her, throwing her forward :
'Go up!'
She goes up the stairs with the hurried step of an old woman,
stumbling and panic-stricken.
Upstairs, in the hall, he catches up with her. ' What were you
doing there? ' He pulls her to him. His face is ghastly.
' You wanted to know what was in the cellar. This foul curi
osity is consuming you ! ' His anger makes him ill, kills him. He
trembles, totters, staggers. He can no longer bear it :
' Well I'll tell you. There is nothing. Nothing but paraffin.
Chests, that's all. That's how I like it.
' And this key, you see (he shows it to her), this is the key of
the cellar (the one he is holding).
' If you touch it you die.'
The words seem to whirl round in his mouth. His lips trem
ble as if they were moving electrically.
' And now be off!'
He rushes away from her, taking the stairs four at a time,
locks himself in his room.
The woman falls to the ground in a faint.
The camera catches up with her, whirls away from her,
goes up the stairs and comes up against the closed door of the
The next day we see a ghost-like figure in the shops, at the
dairy, the butcher's, the ironmonger's, the grocer's. At the gro
cer's the figure examines some paraffin lamps, asks their price,

War has been declared . . .

The young man is leaving. Curiously enough he is seen hav
ing large bars put before all his windows, heavy and intricate
locks on the doors. He checks the resistance of the iron bars,
knocks them with his fingers, shakes them, tests the bolts in the
locks. Knocks the floor with a heavy club.
Then a strange old rattletrap comes to fetch him, him and
his vast load of luggage. He leaves the house alone. In the
crowd which has assembled to see him off is the figure of the
maid with her lamp, watching him like a statue, her thoughts
far away, like a figure of destiny.

Time goes by . . .
One day the girl is seen crossing the square with her mother
and her brother, walking very quickly. Then the musician and
the pastor stop for an instant before the fa<;ade of the bolted
house, in the distance.
'Nobody . . . '
Nobody has heard anything more about the young man.
The war continues.
No more gas. Means of lighting are being searched for.
The dark square, with the house darker than ever. And only
the light of the moon. Within the inn, a single candle.
All the customers of the inn have gathered there. A fragile,
inconsistent group. The musician, the pastor, the drinkers of
the beginning, etc.
The clock in the inn, its pendulum swinging to and fro in
the silence loaded with darkness.
Later the door is half opened. The mother appears with her
daughter-then the brother-;-
and much later the maid, with an extinguished lamp in her
The dark sky.
The dark town.
Bird's eye view of the town plunged in darkness.
A succession of dark streets. The house fa<;ades like the black
sides of a ship. An occasional lamp, lit here and there, forming
large haloes in the dark.
No more fuel for the lamps, no more paraffin.
A rumour spreads through the shops. The rumour that there
is a large store of paraffin somewhere.
The maid with her lamp under her arm goes to the dairy.
Heartbreaking appearance of the shop, empty but very bright.
Heartbreaking whiteness.
'Didn't you say your master had a huge store of paraffin? '
The woman, without answering, takes her milk-can three
quarters empty, pays for it, and leaves.

One day . ..
A great commotion in the square. The Mayor, who has seen
the firemen, the Police Superintendent.
A meeting in the inn opposite. It is midday.
Through the window the mother and the girl are seen going
Among the people in the square the woman with her lamp
can be distinguished. People are talking. Again the musician,
the pastor ...
'We'll see if it's paraffin. At least he'll have been of some use
to us.'
Several locksmiths are trying vainly to force the lock of the
door. They decide to break it in. No beams which are solid or
heavy enough can be found.
The beams rot on the spot or break.
Several levers used to raise it also break.
The Mayor's anxious face as he draws his coat around him.
Concerned and worried expression of the spectators. The
breath of the supernatural seems to have passed.
The woman with the lamp has a curiously enigmatic smile.
People turn to her, ask her: 'What does she know? ' She knows
The day passes. Night falls.People look at their watches and
shake their heads.
The rumour spreads that the house has resisted every assault.
All round the square windows open fearfully, on every floor. In
the inn people look at each other uncomprehendingly. Every
one is seized with anxiety before the approaching darkness.
People look at each other and see the night invading their
The door is to be blown up.
The Mayor gives an order. The firemen advance carrying ex
plosives. A frightened movement. The firemen dig out their
hole. The people move off, form a ring.
A huge flame in the night. Smoke, a gaping hole.
The Mayor and the Superintendent go in with a few police
men. A policeman goes first with a lantern. They tum to the
woman : ' Lead the way ! '
She seems not to understand. Then advances, trembling. As
she advances, she gains confidence. They go down the stairs
leading to the cellar, arrive at the door. It breaks down with
the blow of a pick-axe. They go in. The lantern projects feeble
rays onto the walls. They are in a round room. In the middle,
chests, They go nearer. The lantern reveals iron chests. They
bring one down :
' We'll soon see. '
They shield the lamp, move away slightly. The point of the
pick-axe is inserted under the lid which breaks open. They re
move it :
'Appalling. '
A human head. A woman's head with a black noose round
her neck, severed. U ndemeath, a pile of limbs, arranged in a
circle, the complete body.
The Mayor, who was the first to look, recoils. Then he
plunges the lantern rapidly into the chest. The spectators crane
forward : stretching out their necks they lean over.
Ring of horrified faces.

In Turkey.
The traces of the vampire have been found. The Superin
tendent, the Mayor, the girl, the musician are seen going into
a hospital on the front, where they heard the criminal wa.5 ly
ing wounded. They stand before a receptionist. They show their
papers. The receptionist looks for a name in a register. He has
found it. He gets up, looks for some papers, compares them with
those of the visitors.
Those are they. The head doctor enters. The Mayor, the
Superintendent, the musicians go up to him.
They are looking for a certain Monsieur D . . . The doctor
He draws back, shows them into a room.
'The person you are looking for is in there. ' They go up to
a bed.
The invalid is dying. He breaths in gasps. The anxious faces
of the visitors.
The girl in a corner, dreaming, far away.
The doctor comes up, draws back the blankets. They lean
A large dark man with thick lips, his face covered in marks,
is revealed, bearing no resemblance to the original young man.
He is evidently another man.
The visitors explain that the doctor is mistaken.
The doctor shakes his head.
He affirms that this is indeed Monsieur D . . . He shows them
the other beds.
The ring of beds appears on the screen with the invalid's
name written at the head of each bed. It is obvious that the in
valid is D . . .
The hand of the doctor, who taps the papers of the registry
office. He nods again.
The girl's face, amazed and happy.



The Shell and the Clergyman is the first non-humorous film of

subjective images to have been made. Before that other films
had introduced a similar logical rupture into thought, but their
emancipation, their release, was primarily caused by humour.
The mechanics of this type of film, even when applied to
serious subjects, are based on something similar to the mech
anics of laughter. Humour is the common element which
affects everybody, by which the mind communicates its secrets
to us.
The Shell and the Clergyman is the first film of a subjective
type where an attempt was made to work with something other
than laughter, and which, even in its comical parts is based on
more than humour.
The Butcher's Revolt emerges from a similar intellectual pro
cess, but all the elements which were only undertones in the
first film---eroticism, cruelty, thirst for blood, violence, obses
sion with horror, dissolution of moral values, social hypocrisy,
lies, false witnesses, sadism, perversity, etc., etc. , are used here
as clearly as possible.
But it would be wrong to consider this display of repressed or
infamous feelings as the only reason for this scenario. Sexuality,
repression, the unconscious, have never seemed to me to be an
adequate explanation of inspiration-I simply wanted to point
them out.
As for the talking picture, this film will be talking in so far
as the words spoken are only inserted to emphasise the images.
The voices are in space, like objects. And it is on the visual level
that they should be accepted.
In this film there is a system of voices and sounds taken for
themselves and not as the physical result of a movement or an
action, that is to say independently of the facts. Sounds, voices,
images, interrupted shots are all part of the same objective
world in which movement is the most important element.
And it is the eye which finally gathers and emphasises the
residue of every movement.

Place de I' Alma. An anxiety-ridden man thinks he is going to

snap. He walks up and down, waiting for a woman who does
not a rrive.
It is two o'clock in the morning. The square is completely
empty. A butcher's cart drives up at full speed, makes a sharp
turn, and loses a side of beef. The butchers curse the man, get
out, start loading the beef on their shoulders. The lunatic
comes nearer, looking interested, but his look of interest is so
ghastly that the butchers get back into their cart and flee.
Growing more and more obsessed the lunatic goes into Chez
Francis. One feels that he just has to focus his obsession to have
an attack of madness.
He sits down. General curiosity. Discussion at the bar. Is the
lunatic going to be served?
A woman sweeps in, closely followed by a gigolo. The ap
pearance of the woman irritates the lunatic. He wavers between
hatred and lust. The woman takes an interest in him. The
gigolo fidgets. She smiles at the lunatic who, with a vague ex
pression, finally decides to stick out his tongue at her.
The gigolo gets up to challenge the lunatic. The lunatic gazes
at him with a ghastly look and, as the gigolo comes nearer, he
punches him in the face, saying, without raising his voice:

Watch out, off with your head to the butcher.

At that moment the waiter drops his tray. The tray thunders,
and this makes a terrible impression on the lunatic. The gigolo
cringes under his hands ; and, as the clients in the cafe come
nearer, the lunatic's mind suddenly goes blank, and one hears
the sound of the butcher's cart driving down the street in the
morning to the beat of horses' hoofs.
The sound of the cafe continues, the lunatic has come to
his senses, but he still sees the cart jolting along in a corner of
the screen, like those minute images which move on the ceiling
in a dark room in the ring of light from the split of the curtains.
He shouts, looking at the people in the cafe who are staring
ing at him like animals :
To the slaughter-house.

It is suddenly very late.

All the clients in the bar are there, in a row, unrecognisable,
goitrous, lame. The lunatic inspects them. They are motionless ;
he raises an arm, lifts an eyelid, looks into a mouth. The whole
group moves off, scatters in the deserted square, like a series of
avenues against the sky, and only one remains.
They reappear in the country, running along, each one des
cending a very steep slope towards a particular object.
And suddenly we see the lunatic on the footboard of a taxi
driving at full speed. Inside the gigolo and the woman are play
ing at forfeits obliviously. And on the hood is an enormous
But the lunatic looks at the woman and isolates her breasts,
which go into a corner of the screen, surrounded by the point
of a large triangular knife, which encircles them without
touching them (like the needle of a sun-dial).
Then the butcher holding the knife in his hand.

A little woman goes into the Chez Francis. When all is over
and everybody has left. A policeman appears, and since she ad
mits that she has come to meet the lunatic but is too late, he
takes her to the police station.
She weeps and stamps her feet.
A second later she is seen running out of the police station
with all the policemen after her, in their shirt sleeves, pulling
on their jackets.
They scatter, unable to catch up with her, and we see them
again, all together, marching in slow motion and playing the
bagpipes with an exalted look.
Elsewhere some seminarists, who were marching along in
line, scatter and 'run in slow motion.
Somewhere else some soldiers coming out of a barracks do
the same thing.
In a street the little woman runs past the butcher's cart, driv
in at full speed.
The taxi with the butcher, the gigolo, the woman and the
lunatic draws up by the slaughter-house.
Then the butcher's cart arrives, making a tremendous din,
and the butcher in the taxi gets out with the help of the other
butcher. Then, with great care, (supporting it on a chair or a
pulley, if necessary), they take out the body of the little woman,
alive and blinking her eyes, but as stiff as a chunk of meat.
The lunatic rushes up, but now the butchers only have a
quarter of real beef which they carry along.And as he goes in
to the slaughter-house all he sees are the butchers and their as
sistants at work, cutting up quarters of meat which fall round
him like the branches of a tree.
The slaughter-house is empty.He looks everywhere, and all
over the town the policemen, the soldiers, the seminarists are
ferreting about.
He finally finds the little woman, the size of a doll and com
pletely hard, under a pile of wood-shavings. But the butcher
has seen her.
He grows furious.
He is sad. He sits down and mops his brow. The woman is
there, between them, laughing, charming, in the middle of this
The butcher and the lunatic are sad. They look at each
other like augurs. They seem to be thinking.
Now the lunatic trembles, is afraid.
This gathering is a veritable cross-examination.The woman
is there, in a basket, bleeding, her arms flung back, dead. And
the gigolo and the tart are giving false testimony.
A ring of policemen surround them.One of them laughs and
nudges the butcher, as though he were saying:
In a whisper.
There you are again.

The master butcher nods gloomily, has the woman spread

out as though he were going to carve her up, and suddenly, at
the end of his tether, he rolls up his sleeves and opens his mouth,
and a voice amplified by a loud speaker says:
Between shots

I'm sick of carving up meat and not eating it.

He is now alone. In the comer a swarm of rats scurry away.

Then the table is laid. The woman returns to life and lays
out the knives and forks. Glasses gleam. Flowers everywhere. It
is a wedding day. Wearing a rather short dinner jacket the but
cher celebrates his marriage. Two very tall priests hold him by
either arm as the camera turns slowly, in a dream-like motion.
The woman, sitting at the table in a wedding dress, her shoul
ders bare, shivers.
The lunatic sets off again with the gigolo and the tart, and
at the gate of the slaughter-house they squeeze his hand com
passionately, because he is cuckold.
Then he closes the iron gate and leaves, driving a huge herd
of oxen in front of him.
In the town the people have been informed and return home.
The regiment goes into the barracks. The gates of the seminary
close once more.


In order to complete his professional education a young lawyer

joins the practice of one of the greatest barristers in the country.
His office.A calender on the wall: a date.
His first cases.
A girl looking very unhappy, tells him about her case.
From her father, long since dead, she inherited a vast
amount of land in the East which has recently become ex
tremely valuable through the discovery of oil fields.Her mother
has died recently and her step-father unjustly claims this pro
perty. Proceedings have started and her fortune depends on
them. Her case will be heard the following week.
The young lawyer is very interested ; they have clearly taken
a great liking to each other during this conversation.
The girl has brought a document which she found by chance
and which establishes her rights incontestably.
'With this we are sure to win ', says the lawyer.
He puts the document in the file which remains on his desk ;
it is a sort of thick notebook.
Other clients--other cases---quick shots of other clients in the
young lawyer 's office: an old lady weeping, a man talking ex
citedly-the file on his papers.-Everything grows blurred
the girl rides past on a horse in a large oil field-she stops, dis
mounts, comes forward, smiles-her eyes come closer, grow
larger-then dissolve into a shot of the sea with a flight of sea.,.
gulls-then the same set shot from a motor launch travelling at
full speed, pitching up and down.
Then again the client talking excitedly-the shot suddenly
The young lawyer shows this man out, another man enters,
elderly and sly-looking.
He seems to be asking a complicated question, requesting
some information. The young lawyer takes a book, leafs
through it, but does not find what he is looking for. He goes
out for a moment to fetch something ; the man dashes over to
the files, finds the girl's file, opens it feverishly, removes the im
portant document and puts it in his pocket, then sits motion
The young lawyer returns, holding a large book. He reads
out some information which the man pretends to make a note
of. The man leaves, apparently satisfied.
The young lawyer sits alone at his desk. The girl's file is there,
in sight. He takes his head in his hands : he sees the sea again,
but from above, from an aeroplane flying over a vast bay. The
bay becomes a court-room seen from above : attentive magis
trates-the document-the girl smiling-a jet of oil springing
from a well-tank waggons stretching into the distance.-A
desert plain-a palm-tree on the horizon-an oasis-a foun
tain-palms-the calender.
The young lawyer's office again. He comes in, sits down ;
the girl is obviously expected. He talks to her eagerly and con
tentedly-then opens the file, searches, becomes uneasy, grows
panic-stricken-the important document is missing-the girl
understands his anxiety and seems appalled.
He rushes out of the office-the figure of the sly man reap
pears for a second-he talks to the great barrister who seems
horrified-the document has been stolen-the clients of that
morning reappear in various positions-but above all the sly
man leaving obsequiously.
The young lawyer and the barrister come in. They leaf
through the file again while the girl stares straight ahead. The
barrister begins to reproach the young man.
Another shot of the sly man, as he was when the lawyer re
turned. In the office the young lawyer turns to the girl. He des
cribes" the sly man. His characteristic nose.
' He is my step-father, ' she says.
' I shall find him, I swear.'
The girl weeps.
Great cqmmotion in the office.
The young lawyer dashes into the street, jumps into a taxi
through the door the passers-by are seen running across the


The sly man running along like the passers-by in a desert

area, then on the slope of a hill, then in a valley-impression
of flying over him, or of seeing him go down into the valley
from a great height.-Again through the window of the taxi :
the street, a notice :

passes rapidly in the street-more streets-passers-by rushing

past and becoming trees and telegraph poles--shot of a speed
ing train-the young lawyer jumps out-goes into a building
-talks to the concierge-asks-describes the man he is looking
for : ' Monsieur X . . . left yesterday.'-Another question from
the lawyer-the concierge shrugs his shoulders : ' He took a
train at 7 o'clock, at the Gare de . I think. '
. .



The clock becomes a disc-then a large train drawing out

it is the Orient Express-the Gare de Lyon-the crowd milling
-then the shot of the sea after he had remembered the girl's
eyes, but dark, at dusk.
The same shot taken from an aeroplane, this time one can
see the wings of the aeroplane-then the notice : ' Air Mail ' .
Again the young lawyer facing the concierge with a drawn
face-he suddenly leaves, running.
An aeroplane departure-the young lawyer gets in-takes
his seat just before the take-off-the aeroplane leaves-shot of
the landscape seen from the air-flying over fields, towns-a
train travelling in the same direction as the aeroplane, gradually
being overtaken.
A rapid succession of shots of the main areas over which the
airline flies.-Landing in Constantinople.-Different shots in
very rapid succession giving the impression of tremoring and
drunkenness. A train enters the station of Constantinople : the
Orient Express. The young lawyer is in the crowd, his face hid
den by a scarf-the passengers get out-the sly man (the girl's
step-father)-the camera follows him in the crowd-the cus
toms-the step-father 's suitcases-they are opened-in the
open bag is the document (notebook).-For an instant the step
father turns his head away, the lawyer makes for the docu
ment. Eyes look at him from one side, then from another. He
stops, the inspection is over. The step-father closes his case and
walks away, followed by the lawyer, along the pavement
porters-the step-father's gait is reminiscent of the shot of him
running in the desert.
He keeps his bag in his hand-he gets into a car-the car
drives off-the camera follows it like another car behind.
A big hotel.-The sly man and the lawyer, still hidden by
his scarf, check in-rooms--corridors-the lawyer follows
rooms in the same corridor-the step-father goes in with his
luggage-the bag in various places-surveillance-the man
goes down the corridor once-again, etc.,-shot of a calendar:
a date. The date of the next day-more corridors.
In the office in Paris the barrister sees the girl in his room
'The case will be heard in three days. We have just received
a letter from our young colleague. '
The letter is seen, labelled 'Airmail '.
Below, a line of the letter: 'I will do anything. ' The girl
reads it, through the window she sees a sparrow flying-then
there is a shot of a whole flight of seagulls in Oriental land
scapes-shot of the earth-a minaret-a cupola which be
comes the silhouette of the young lawyer pleading.
Again the corridors of the hotel in Constantinople. This time
the lawyer dashes into the man's room-the man is there.-He
rushes at him-throws him to the ground-pounces on the bag
near the bed--seizes the document-flees pursued by the man.
-Race outside the hotel-pursuit-the lawyer gets into a taxi
-the pursuers some distance behind try to do the same thing-
in the taxi the lawyer puts the precious document into a large
envelope specially prepared-the taxi nears the post-office
he rushes in-the pursuers are seen in the distance-the post
office is almost empty-he goes up to the window-hands over
the letter-pays--leaves-gets into his taxi just as the others
are catching up-the pursuit continues beyond the post office.
-At a turning in the street he jumps out of the taxi and hides
behind something (a tree, a door) while the pursuers drive after
the empty taxi.
Shot of an aeroplane flying majestically in the sky-the
Palais de Justice-the Court-the great barrister ends his
speech-he waves the document-sentence-the case is won
the girl surrounded, congratulated by the lawyers-she looks
into the distance, dreamily.
An aeroplane flying in a clear sky.


Adapted by Antonin Artaud7

In a magnificent but dilapidated Scottish castle, by the edge of

a sea crossed at every hour of the day by smugglers' luggers, a
castle exuding destitution from every brick, but intact in the
immensity of the domains surrounding it, lives the old Lord
X. . with his two sons and a rich heiress, an orphan engaged

to the elder of the two sons.

The elder son, because he is the elder, is the father's favour
ite, and it is he who seems to have been gifted with intelligence,
audacity and a saturnine sort of genius ; even his passions and
his vices seem to be equal to his mind.
From the beginning of the film the relationships between the
characters must be established.
The elder son, wicked, proud, cunning, creates an all per
vading atmosphere of right of birth.
The second son, good-natured, reserved, suffering in silence,
more level-headed and really more lucid, full of the overpower
ing feeling of equity.
The orphan, beautiful, astonishingly shrewd, with no great
tenderness, as implacable, it will be felt, in her love as in her
hatred, high-minded, putting nobility of heart before anything.
She too has yielded entirely to the elder son who is in her eyes
the incarnation of beauty, courage, honour, audacity, en
From the beginning the problem of birth-right will be pre
sented in all its painful agony through the reactions of all
parties concerned : the elder son who benefits from it, the
younger son who suffers from it ; and above all through the
justice and injustice of fate which chooses some instead of
others. This becomes particularly apparent with the question of
conscience which suddenly arises in the family when Prince
Charles disembarks in Scotland and, supported by his Jacobite
allies, tries to reconquer the throne of England.
We are in Scotland. Scotland deserves and desires a Scottish
king. Which of the two sons will take the side of his country's
desires and which will take security and a stable government?
Both claim this honour, or this misfortune, each probably
hoping not to be chosen.
As always, they toss a coin for it, and, as always, thinks the
elder son, they slap human reason in the face.
Fate chooses the elder. He leaves. Nothing is heard of him .
The war ends. He is dead. He has lost everything. It is the
younger who will inherit the fortune, the heiress, the title, the
After lengthy disputes the orphan, in acknowledgement of
the hospitality bestowed upon her by the old lord, marries his
second son Henry and has a daughter by him. But she and the
father keep to themselves, they get together at night before the
fire, and form a sort of mental bond from which the husband
is excluded.
He makes up for it by befriending his bailiff, Mackellar, who
assumes an increasingly important part in the story.
One day news is received that the elder brother is alive.
Fatal news, a bolt from the blue announced by an augural ship
in the distance.
He is alive and wants money.
To satisfy his demands, the domain is gradually dismantled,
whole areas disappear.
The husband's position with his wife becomes unbearable.
In the meantime, in distant lands, the elder brother has dis
covered a treasure, which he has won by cunning and intelli
gent, calculated patience, ingeniously demonstrating his influ
ence over everybody at every opportunity.
One day, lost in a chaotic desert, having to choose between
two paths, he chooses the right one by tossing up a coin.
And one day he is seen in person disembarking at the castle.
Will he resume his position?
His appalling resentment is understandable. And the heart,
above all the heart of the woman whom he has lost and who
belongs to another : and to whom? To his brother who had no
right to it !
So, he is there. But nothing which should belong to him,
hereditarily, ancestrally, is his.
It is not enough to take back that fortune over which he
should have had free and complete control. He will no longer
have the title. He must take revenge. His brother is his enemy,
as a usurper, and above all as a brother.
He must take revenge. He will do so, but in the most insidi
ous way, the only way which will satisfy him, by winning back
souls. He will take his revenge in that ultimate domain-the
domain which commands all others.
He will win the heart of his brother's daughter.
He will above all win the heart of his brother's wife, his
fiancee for all eternity (he believes, or thinks).
At table, everywhere, under a hypocritically affable exterior,
he manages to show that [ ] 8 his brother, who defends
the family fortunes, is heartless .
Henry sees him walking arm in arm with his wife in the gar
den, but it is when they are alone together that he humiliates
Henry, for whom he shows the greatest respect and a strange
sort of affection in public.
One evening, as they are playing cards, he jeers at what he
calls his awkwardness, his boorishness ; at the peak of his fury
he boasts (falsely) that he has become the lover of his wife.
At which Henry says nothing, but a second later he hits him
in the face.
They are to fight. They fight at night. By the light of a
candle with its flame pointing straight up in the calm air. Henry
wounds his brother and leaves him for dead. He goes indoors
to inform his bailiff, then his father. They all come out to
fetch the body. The body has disappeared. All that can be seen
in the distance, in the opaque night, is the chalky sail of a
smuggling vessel.
After this Henry falls seriously ill. Remains for days in a
delirium during which he talks ceaselessly.
And the bailiff notices with amazement that he only seems
to regret one thing : that his brother may not really be dead.
During this illness Henry rises somewhat in his wife's esteem
as she finally realises his particular nobility of heart. Then
Henry recovers. But does he really recover? A spell seems to
have been cast on the family. He is like a lunatic who has ac
quired lucidity, but who has lost some vital force.
Here the problem of madness is set in the most human way.
In the way in which everyone asks : 'Why not I? What have I
done that fate should spare me and what is my life really
worth? '
But as Henry recovers, the old lord falls ill in his tum. His
malady closely resembles that of his son. His thoughts seem far
away and then suddenly he wakes up, astonishingly lucid. He
Then a letter arrives with an urgent demand for money from
the elder brother. So he is still alive !
But before the money is sent off the Master of Ballantrae
once again disembarks, like a plague about to strike the family
once more.
His brother receives him in the great dining hall of the castle
and proposes the following conditions :
He will have a right to board and lodging, but that is all.
Thus he will no longer endanger anybody.
In the meantime Henry organises his escape, with the bailiff.
He will leave the management of the domain to his elder
brother, but will flee with his wife and two children.
The next day, when he wakes up, the Master discovers his
brother's escape. And now he has only the forthright Mackel
lar whom he despises, for a table companion.
With him too is a Hindu servant whom he has brought back
from his travels. This servant is English, which Mackellar does
not know. Through him the Master discovers where his brother
has fled and will again be able to torment him.
They leave for New York. On the ship the terrified bailiff
watches the rapid cavalcade of waves, each of which brings
the Master nearer to his brother in a sort of fatal advance
against which he, Mackellar, can do nothing.
One can add to the film the sound of the waves and the sea
hammering the ship.
But what if he could do something? He too is at the mercy of
the stars. Of all that winds and unwinds above the will of men.
And can man really do nothing? Everyday he, the Indian and
the Master sit in the stern of the ship, their legs dangling over
the waves, and they talk. It would just need a well-aimed kick
to plunge the calculations of fate irrevocably into the sea. Will
he give it? At one moment, as they talk, in this heaving ship,
the Master is over him, dominating him, crushing him, at
another it is he who dominates the Master, and he sees the
Master's shadow stretching far over the waves like the shadow
of fate. He talks to him and suddenly his foot swings loose. He
flings it towards the Master. But the Master, still quicker than
he, and fully aware of his intentions, has stood up. He is safe.
In desperate remorse Mackellar rushes off to his cabin. The
Master finds him there and gives him his hand :
' I see you are a man. '
They talk and Mackellar takes a curious liking to the Mas
ter. Why is he wicked? Fate willed it when she snatched away
all that was due to him. It all comes back to that wretched
coin. That Henry is not really guilty is of little importance.
When they arrive in New York they are almost friends.
Henry lives with his family in a house in the outskirts of the
town. He enjoys a good position. He is a friend of the Mayor
and the authorities.
He turns his back on his brother who holds out his hand to
him. He has chased him away from the house.
And to get his revenge the elder brother, intending to dis
grace Henry, opens a tailor's shop in the neighbourhood.
Now, the treasure that he discovered is there, buried some
where in America, but only he can find it. He has no map, only
some very vague directions written in his blood on the cuff of
a faded shirt.
So a whole expedition has to be organised.
For that he needs money.
Will his brother, who comes every day to savour the humili
ation of the Master in his wretched shop, give him the necessary
support? He will, in order to get rid of him, and on condition
that he never returns.Because a mail boat has brought pamph
lets with alarming news from England:
The elder sons of all families, even those who joined the
forces of the vanquished pretender, will have their rights re
stored to them.
Now Henry, to whom his wife has given a son, the future
heir to the name, wants at least to protect the patrimony of his
Because of this, and to vent himself at last,
to break the spell of a terrifying and eternal threat
(the threat constituted by the mere existence of his brother),
he does not hesitate to resort to crime.
He reaches an agreement with a pirate captain, Captain
Willis, who is to lead his brother's expedition into the desert.
They leave and Henry follows them at a distance.
After a short time the Master senses that each of his com
panions is a potential murderer. And we see the truly ingenious
struggle of this man with only one friend, his Indian servant,
against fifteen bandits, there to prevent him from returning.
He knows that those people are muzzled, imprisoned by their
own rapaciousness. Without him they will never find the trea
sure. So they will spare him until the day when it is discovered.
He knows he will not be able to escape. One day he pretends to
go for a walk ; several armed men are at his heels. How will he
escape? He tries to talk to the men. He has a ready tongue and
a quick wit. Maybe they are not all so bad. What do they want?
The treasure ! But are they sure that the leader will give it to
them? They must get rid of the criminal captain and remain
alone with him. He will make them rich.
If necessary a sound-track of the Master's speech in the
desert can be added, with his voice echoing in the solitude.
Here another chief reveals himself and, in a few words, des
troys the effect of the Master's speech. Unless he leads them to
the treasure, he will be killed like a dog. That is all. The rest
is nothing to do with him .

Alone at the foot of a tree with his faithful Indian servant

next to him the Master loses hope. All was his. He was the elder
son, he had wealth, wit, intelligence, name. And now he is to
die like a dog having gained nothing. And before having
accomplished anything. And he is going to die because of his
brother ! Why was he born?
A sound-track of Master's laments and curses in the desert
can be added to the film.
Thereupon he falls ill. He gets worse every day. He dies, his
servant buries him.
Without him the bandits are lost. They wander hopelessly,
panic-stricken, in the vast de..,ert and the ghastly forests. They
have no treasure, no more provisions, only that crime inside
them which did them no good.
A sound-track of steps and calls of the lost bandits and the
sound of the wind which rises at dusk and the barking of the
wild dogs and the howling of the wolves can be added to the
It seems that, by a strange reverse of fortune, the fate that
until that day had hounded the Master, has fallen on his perse
And every morning one of them is found dead and scalped .
Until finally the Indian servant remain., alone.
Henry and Mackellar are alarmed by the silence of the ex
pedition. They inform the local attorney who, amazed by
Henry's curious behaviour, wonders if he is mad and whether
it is worth sending out a search party.
' You must, ' answers Mackellar, ' you do not know all. In all
this there is something which surpasses a human understand
ing. '
In their turn they go into the desert.
Snow has falien. Their traces have vanished. The silence is
Make a sound-track of the wind, the broken trees, and, if
you can, the resounding silence of the desert.
The whistling of the wind in the solitude is like the expres
sion of perfect silence.
They advance. Suddenly they hear laments, the sound of a
spade digging the earth, breaking the frozen snow.
The Indian is there, digging away at a sort of tomb. Seeing
them arrive he rushes up to them. Falls to his knees at their
' Save my master, he is not dead. I put him to sleep, buried
him to find him later and restore him to life. It was the only
way to save his life, threatened as we were by this band of
brigands. '
They hurry to his tomb. The Master's body is there. He
emerges. His brother Henry, standing there, hardly able to
breathe, stares at him.
The Indian, lying over him, tries to bring him back to life.
Hours go by. The sun rises and seems to roll in the sky.
The snow, the desert exude death and absolute, definite cold.
Suddenly the Master opens his eyes. Seeing this, and think
ing the man whom he had hoped to get rid of once and for all
has returned to life, Henry dies of despair, and, in his tum, the
Master closes his eyes for ever.
And side by side, their two names are seen in the same epi
taph, on the same tombstone.


I . What sort of films do you like?

2 . What sort of films would you like to make?

1. I like the cinema.

I like every sort of film.
But every sort of film still has to be made.
I believe that the cinema should keep to a certain type of
film: the film which utilises every sensual effect.
The cinema implies a total reversal of values, a complete
disruption of optics, perspective and logic. It is more stimulat
ing than phosphorous, more enchanting than love. It is im
possible to destroy its galvanating force indefinitely by using
subjects which neutralise its effects and belong to the theatre.

2. So I demand phantasmagorical films, poetic films in the in

tense, philosophical sense of the word, psychic films.
And this does not exclude psychology, or love, or the display
of human feelings.
But I demand films in which feelings and thoughts undergo
a process of trituration, in order to adopt that cinematographic
quality which still has to be found.
The cinema demands extravagant subjects and detailed psy
chology. It requires speed, but above all repetition, insistence.
Every aspect of the human soul. At the cinema we are all
[ ] 10-and cruel. The superiority and the power of this
art are due to the fact that its rhythm, its speed, its withdrawal
from life, its illusory aspect require close sifting and the distilla
tion of the essential nature of all its elements. That is why we
need extraordinary subjects, culminating states of mind, a
visionary atmosphere. The cinema is an amazing stimulant. It
acts directly on the grey matter of the brain. When the savour
of art has been sufficiently combined with the psychic ingredi
ent which it contains it will go way beyond the theatre which
we will relegate to a shelf of memories. Because the theatre is a
betrayal. We see more of the actors than of the work-at any
rate, it is they who affect us. In the cinema the actor is merely
a live symbol. He alone is the stage, the author's idea, and the
sequence of events. That is why we do not think about him.
Chaplin acts Chaplin, Pickford acts Pickford. Fairbanks acts
Fairbanks. They are the film. It would be inconceivable with
out them. They are in the foreground where they do not get in
anybody's way. That is why they do not exist. So nothing in
terposes itself any longer between the work and the spectator.
Above all the cinema is like an innocuous and direct poison, a
subcutaneous injection of morphine. That is why the object of
a film cannot be inferior to its power of action-and why it
must have an element of magic.


Pure cinema is wrong, as are all efforts to reach the principle of

any art at the expense of one's means of objective representa
tion. The principle that things can orily act on the mind through
a certain state of matter, a minimum of sufficiently substantial
shapes, is essentially terrestial. There may be an abstract paint
ing which can dispense with objects, but the pleasure to be ob
tained from it retains an element of hypothesis with which the
mind may, admittedly, be satisfied. The first step in cinemato
graphic thought seems to me to be the utilisation of existing ob
jects and forms which can be made to mean everything, be
cause nature is profoundly, infinitely versatile.
The Shell and the Clergyman plays with created nature and
tries to make it yield an element of the mystery of its most
secret combinations. So we must not seek a logic or a sequence
which things do not contain, we must interpret the intimate
meaning of the images, the inner meaning which moves in
wards from without. The Shell and the Clergyman does not
tell a story, it develops a sequence of states of mind deduced
the one from the other, as thought is deduced from thought
without this thought reproducing the reasonable sequence of
facts. The clash of objects and movement produces psychic
situations which wedge the mind in and force it to find
some subtle means of escape. Nothing exists except in terms of
shape, volume, light, air-but above all in terms of a detached
and naked sentiment which slips between the paths paved
with images and reaches a sort of heaven where it bursts into
The characters are only brains or hearts. The woman dis-
plays her bestial desire, assumes the shape of her desire, the
ghostly glitter of instinct which makes her the same and con
stantly different in her continual metamorphoses.
Mademoiselle Athanasiou fully succeeded in identifying her
self with an entirely instinctive part in which a curious sexual
ity takes on a fatal aspect, goes beyond the character as a
human being, and becomes universal. I have nothing but
admiration for Monsieur Alex Alin and Monsieur Bataille.
And finally I would particularly like to thank Madame Ger
maine Dulac who acknowledged the interest of a scenario
which enters the very essence of the cinema and makes no
allusion to the art of life.

The Shell and the Clergyman, before being a film, is an at

tempt or an idea.
When writing the scenario of The Shell and the Clergyman,
I considered that the cinema possessed an element of its own,
a truly magic and truly cinematographic element, which no
body had ever thought of isolating. This element, which differs
from every sort of representation attached to images, has the
characteristics of the very vibration, the profound, unconscious
source of thought.
It surreptitiously breaks away from the images and emerges
from their association, their vibration and their impact, not
from their logical, connected meaning. I thought it was possible
to write a scenario which ignored knowledge and the logical
connection of facts, and would search beyond, in the occult and
in the tracks of feeling and thought for the profound motives,
the active and obscure impulses of our so-called lucid acts,
which always maintaining their evolutions in the domain of
sources and apparitions. It is to show how far the scenario can
resemble and ally itself with the mechanics of a dream without
really being a dream itself, for example. It is to show how far
it restores the pure work of thought. So the mind, left to itself
and the images, infinitely sensitised, determined to lose nothing
of the inspirations of subtle thought, is all prepared to return
to its original functions, its antennae pointed towards the in
visible, to begin another resurrection from death.
This, at least, is the ambitious idea behind this scenario
which, at any rate, goes beyond the structure of straightfor
ward narrative, or problems of music, rhythm or aesthetics cur-
rent in the cinema, to present the problem of expression in
every domain and to its full extent.

It is said that the cinema is in its infancy and that we are only
hearing its first cries. I admit that I do not understand why.
The cinema has arrived at an advanced stage in human
thought and benefits from it. There is no doubt that it is a
means of expression that has not yet been materially perfected.
There are several ways, for example, in which it could be given
a stability and a nobility which it does not possess. One day we
shall probably have a cinema in three dimensions and even in
colour. But these are accessory devices which cannot contribute
greatly to the substratum of the cinema which is a language,
as much as music, painting and poetry. In the cinema I have
always distinguished a quality peculiar to the secret movement
and matter of images. The cinema has an unexpected and mys
terious side which we find in no other form of art. Even the
most arid and banal image is transformed when it is projecterl
on the screen. The smallest detail, the most insignificant object
assume a meaning and a life which pertain to them alone, inde
pendently of the value of the meaning of the images themselves,
the idea which they interpret and the symbol which they con
stitute. By being isolated, the objects obtain a life of their own
which becomes increasingly independent and detaches them
from their usual meaning. A leaf, a bottle, a hand, etc., live
with an almost animal life which is crying out to be used. Then
there are the distortions of the camera, the unexpected use it
makes of the things which it records. Just as the image dissolves,
a particular detail which had escaped our attention comes to
life with singular force, moves out to meet the expression re
quired. There is also a sort of physical excitement which the
rotation of the images communicates directly to the brain. The
mind moves beyond the power of representation. This sort of
virtual power of the images probes for hitherto unused possibili
ties in the depths of the mind. Essentially the cinema reveals a
whole occult life with which it puts us directly into contact.
But we must know how to divine this occult life. There are bet
ter means than a succession of super impressions for divining
these secrets of the depths of consciousness. Raw cinema, taken
as it is, in the abstract, exudes a little of this trance-like atmos
phere, eminently favourable for certain revelations. To use it to
tell a story is to neglect one of its best resources, to fail to ful
fill its most profound purpose. That is why I think the cinema
is made primarily to express matters of the mind, the inner con
sciousness, not by a succession of images so much as by some
thing more imponderable which restores them to us with their
direct matter, with no interpositions or representations. The
cinema has arrived at a turning-point in human thought, when
language loses its symbolic power and the mind tires of a suc
cession of representations. Clear thought is not enough. It allo
cates a world which has been utterly consumed. What is clear
is what is immediately accessible, but what is immediately ac
cessible is the mere skin of life. We soon realise that this over
familiar life which has lost all its symbols is not the whole of
life. And today is a time for sorcerers and saints, a better time
than ever before. An imperceptible substance is taking shape,
yearning for light. The cinema is bringing us nearer to this sub
stance. If the cinema is not made to interpret dreams or what
pertains to the realm of dreams in conscious life, it does not
exist. There is no difference between the cinema and the theatre.
But the cinema is a direct and rapid language which has no
need for a slow and ponderous logic to live and flourish. It must
come closer and closer to fantasy, to a fantasy which appears
ever more real, or else it does not exist. Or else it will come to
the same end as painting and poetry. What is certain is that
most forms of representation have had their day. For some time
good painting has only served to reproduce the abstract. It is
therefore not only a question of choice. There will not be one
cinema which represents life and another which represents the
function of the mind. Because life, what we call life, becomes
ever more inseparable from the mind. A certain profound do
main tends to appear on the surface. The cinema is capable of
interpreting this domain more than any other art, because
idiotic order and customary clarity are its enemies.
The Shell and the Clergyman is part of this subtle search for
a hidden life whichI have tried to make plausible, as plausible
and real as the other.
To understand this film we must simply look deeply into our
selves. Give in to a form of plastic, obj ective and attentive ex
amination of the inner self which has hitherto been the exclu
sive domain of the ' Illuminati ' .

Those interested in true cinema, who are awaiting the work

that will break with the routine of commercial cinema and
launch cinematography in a new direction, are aware of the
existence of the first film to have been based on a really new,
really profound idea :

The Shell and the Clergyman

Various parochial or personal interests have hitherto pre
vented the public from seeing this film. The directors of two or
three cinemas in Paris known as ' Studios ', which seem to have
been created to launch new, powerful and truly original
works,15 have given way to highly obscure, or maybe over-pre
cise, threats and, after some timid attempts and vaguely shady
deals, have refused to show it .16
But for the first time, the coalition of all interests and evil
forces must have yielded, and the public will be able to see,
from . . . to . . . , in the Salle Adhyar, a really significant work,
the originality of which does not reside in numerous technical
devices or external and superficial sequences of shape, but in a
profound renewal of the plastic matter of images, a veritable
liberation, by no means hazardous, but intricate and precise, of
all the dark forces of the mind.


One of the main obstacles in making a film, whether it be

good or bad, is the cost. Furthermore, the necessity of having a
film pay off as quickly as possible when it has often cost several
millions obliges the producer to make films for wide distribu
tion, which can be shown everywhere and appeal to all audi
ences. This stifles all initiative, however original, and
explains why we so rarely see a film which is an interesting
or durable work and which we would be prepared to see a
second time.
One of the main mistakes of producers, and especially French
producers, is to think that a film must have been made at a
high price to be able to sell it at a high price.
Without trying to make great films cheaply, for which France
now lacks the directors, the scenario-writers, and the appropri
ate services and organisations, we can suggest a new formula
for making short films of :
5 00 to 1 ooo metres,
costing :
50,000 to 1 5 0,000 francs,
which can be shown as thct first of a programme and, because
of their cost, will soon pay off.
One of the original elements of this formula, and of any film
based on it, is that it allows a special type of film, known as
avant-garde, to be made. These films have so far been con
sidered unsaleable and incapable of paying their way, and
cannot obtain the meagre funds necessary for making them.
Experience has proved that when these films are good, and
successful in their field, they can also be financially profitable
and can, at any rate, pay off rapidly. In any case they have a
public which gets larger day by day. The public responsible for
the financial success of un Chien A ndalou can certainly be
found for a similar film.
There are several specialised cinemas in Paris. There are
some in other French towns. There are also some abroad. An
association of avant-garde cinemas is being formed. When it
has been formed every film, avant-garde or revolutionary, will
be sure of an audience and will be able to pay its expenses.
The only problem is to work out these expenses and the
means of meeting them.
In the present state of affairs I consider that an avant-garde
film not costing more than 100,000 francs is a deal, and I have
already worked out a scheme for financing these fihns.
Of course, this company would not only deal with avante
garde fihns, it would specialise in short fihns, whatever their
These films would only have two or three sets and employ a
small number of actors. Most of the scenes would be shot out of
doors. And, in view of the few elements involved, the films
would cost little and be made rapidly :
Two or three weeks work, for most of them, hence a further
decrease of costs.
This formula could be applied primarily to comic films, and
would give rise to interesting experiments in this field. The
French cinema, which lacks every sort of film, lacks comic films
above all. There is a type of humour which has never really
been utilised here and which could provide French scenario
writers with numerous opportunities. The public would defi
nitely enjoy this type of film and would like to have a French
equivalent of the American comedies of Mac Senett, for in
stance. There is a specifically French kind of humour which
exists in literature and the theatre but which is completely miss
ing in the cinema.
Any experiment now made in this field could have a great
commercial success.
I think I can say that there would be no shortage either of
scenario-writers or directors. It would simply be necessary to
avoid eliminating them systematically, as all French companies
do. One of the objects of our company would be to give young
scenario-writers and directors a chance to produce their work.
And its new angle would be to employ young men who need
to prove themselves. They do exist, and several of them are
known to us personally.
It would be highly advantageous to employ them for many
1 . Primarily because of their financial demands, which would
be very moderate and would reduce the cost of each film ac
2 . Because few, even of the well-known directors and scena
rio-writers who demand high prices, are worthy of their repu
tation and their price . . . . In each case they are members of the
old school of the expensive, spectacular film, which is almost
always a tremendous financial failure. They are all old
fashioned scenario-writers who neglect the quality of their work
and rely on a well-known title for their film, the actors' reputa
tion, sumptuous sets and a large cast.
They are obsessed by the idea of the American film made
with dollar bills.
With considerably reduced means they only manage to give
us a parody of these films, and their works, which lack any per
sonal genius, are all second-hand, and usually failures.
And yet these directors and scenario-writers are the only
people to whom the producers lend their ears and they have
therefore monopolised the trade for fifteen years to the ex
clusion and detriment of all new talent.
It is they who remove all real means of existence from speci
fically French films. These films, in accordance with the talent
of the French, would not be spectacular and would require a
small cast, the expression of moving and human feelings, few
sets, penetrating psychology and little money.
Without necessarily aiming so high just at the moment, I
think that a company established along the lines I have just
suggested would clear the field and permit the realisation of
true French cinema.


I have now assembled most of the material means for a first
It is a scenario by me entitled The Butcher's Revolt for
which a specialised cinema has the sole rights and guarantees
to finance it to the amount of 30,000 francs.
The estimated costs show that this film would require
1 00,000 francs to be produced.
In the making of it, I am sure of the co-operation of the
Societe des Studios de Billancourt (Sequana Film) which has
also produced, amongst other films, Jacques Feyder's Les
Nouveaux Messieurs and Marcel L'Herbier's Nuits de Prince.
This company is prepared to pay production costs to the
amount of 60,000 francs of which 30,000 are guaranteed by
the specialised cinema mentioned above on the strength of its
being shown in this cinema and its sale in Holland where it
will be distributed in agreement with a specialised Dutch com
pany : Films Liga.
So finally, to make the film pay off, we are left with :
the sale in France, outside Paris,
the sale abroad.
The Studios de Billancourt immediately supply the equiva
lent of 60,000 francs in studios and money.
So to make the film, about 40,000 francs still have to be
These 40,000 francs contribute to the final costs together
with the 60,000 francs of the Studios de Billancourt, of which
30,000 are already guaranteed by a specialised cinema.
I must add that, however coarse the form and the mood of
this scenario, it can be filmed in such a way (particularly if the
images are clarified ) as to draw a far larger audience than is
usual for this sort of film.
It will be up to the company that produces it to make ar-
rangements for publicity, performance and sale in France and
all other countries, including Japan and America. At the
moment there are an increasing number of possibilities in
Japan (and we know that the mind of the Japanese, even of
the masses, is far closer to the unconscious than our own).
We must know how to make the most of it.
This film is basically silent, but occasionally uses words or
sounds in order to obtain certain effects.
These effects, which are of a new order, could also be used
in other films, and if this company ever comes into existence
the originality of these effects would add to its prestige.


Harry Baur's success in The Polish Jew, and above all the
quality of the success which even reached the noble orders ( !)
of a feeble-witted and sheep-like audience-is a good indica
tion of the exhaustion of our epoch which, from the artistic
point of view, as from all other points of view of any impor
tance, has said its last words a long time ago.
I maintain that Harry Baur's performance in The Polish Jew
is a masterpiece of imbecility.
You must have seen Harry Baur, his stomach out, his hands
dangling at the end of his arms, his shoulders back, his head
turned to one side, and in that head turned to one side an eye
with a hilarious, fixed stare, to realise to what heights of
comedy the clumsy use of stereotyped, conventional expressions
can lead. In the middle of this unlikely imbroglio of contracted
and unnatural expressions I was unable to make out the sort of
madness with which Harry Baur was afflicted, or whether he
was not really a criminal. But I know that if I were the
police officer in charge of the investigation, I would find his
attitude so obviously guilty that I would not hesitate to arrest
You must see him rolling his eyes, opening his mouth like a
figure crucified, trembling as he pours out the wine, the close
shots of his hands trembling, not imperceptibly, but like an
earthquake, at every turn, everywhere. You must see how a
gesture, a harmless word said next to him sends his head into
muscular contortions, appalling tics ravage his face with such
violence and exaggeration that Harry Baur's expressions of ter
ror take on the transitory and inept value of a harmless tooth
ache !
You must see Harry Baur shrink and suffer to have an idea
of essential buffoonery, the buffoonery which has missed its
mark. You must see that face suddenly shooting off, as though
by chance, into monstrous muscular contortions as though it
were only a question of a simple play of muscles galloping like
horses in the midst of a moral expression of suffering, remorse,
obsession and fear. Throughout the film Harry Baur serves us
up a certain number of expressions which are priceless in their
torrential-and misplaced-tragedy.
There is such a discrepancy between the atmosphere of
purely moral terror which should be the drama and the rude
means by which this terror expresses itself that it seems that the
whole film was made simply to enable Harry Baur to display
his imposture, his puffery and his insincerity.
When life reaches a certain degree of tragic expression it
makes a sound, the sound of a frenzy which is totally savage
rather than complacently and systematically turned towards
the exterior. The true dramatic performance is not a kaleido
scope of crudely defined expressions, dismantled muscle by
muscle and cry by cry. In The Polish Jew, Harry Baur aroused
a sort of integral hilarity in me, without the slightest tempta
tion to remorse.


People have tried to establish a basic distinction, a sort of divi

sion of essences, between two or three types of film.
On one side there is the dramatic cinema where chance,
that is to say the unforeseen, that is to say poetry, is suppressed.
Not a detail that does not result from an absolutely conscious
choice of the mind, that is not established with a view to a
localised and sure result. The poetry, if there is any poetry, is
of an intellectual order ; it only uses the particular resonance of
tangible objects subsequently, at the moment when they come
into contact with the cinema.
On the other hand-and this is the last resort for those who
believe in the cinema at all costs-there is the documentary.
Here a preponderant part is left to the camera and the spon
taneous and direct development of aspects of reality. The poetry
of objects taken in their most innocent aspect, from that side
which adheres to the outside world, comes into its own.
For once I would like to talk about the cinema itself, study
it within its organic function and see how it behaves when it
comes into contact with reality.

The lens that goes to the heart of objects, creates its own world
and the cinema may put itself in the position of the human eye,
think for it, sift the world for it, and, by this concerted and
mechanical task of elimination, let nothing but the best subsist.
The best, that is to say what is worth retaining, those shreds of
things which float on the surface of the memory while the lens
seems to filter their residue automatically. The lens classifies
life, digests it, it offers ready food to the sensibility, to the soul,
and leaves us before a dry and finished world. Besides, it is not
sure whether it only releases the most significant, the best ele
ments of what is worth recording. Because its view of the world
is fragmentary, however valid the melody which it manages to
create between the objects, this melody has two edges.
On one side it obeys the arbitrary, the inner laws of the gaze
of the camera,--0n the other side it is the result of a particular
human will, a precise will which has its arbitrary side.
So in as far as the cinema is left alone with objects, it imposes
an order on them which the eye accepts as valid and which
responds to certain external habits of the memory and the
mind. And the question that now presents itself is to know if
this order would continue to remain valid if the cinema were
to delve deeper into the experience and offer us not only certain
rhythms of everyday life as they are recognised by the eye
and the ear, but the obscure, slow-motion encounters with that
which is hidden beneath things, or the crushed, trampled, slack,
or tense images of that which crawls in the depths of the mind.
But the cinema, which needs no language or convention to
put us in touch with these things, does not replace life ; what it
unites are the pieces of objects, unfinished puzzles of things.
And, whatever we may think, this is very important because
we must realise that the cinema presents us with an incomplete
world, shown only on one side ;-and it is just as well that the
world should be set in its unfinished state because if, by some
miracle, the objects thus photographed, thus stratified on the
screen, could move, we dare not think of the void, of the hole
in appearances which they would create. I mean that the
image in a film is definite and irrevocable, and even if it allows
a selection, a choice before the presentation of the images, it
prevents the effect of the images from changing or surmounting
itself. It is incontestable. And no one can say that a human
gesture is ever perfect, that there is not some way in which its
action, its waves, its communication can be improved. The
world of the cinema is dead, illusory and split up. Not only
does it not surround things, not only does it fail to enter into
the heart of life and only retains the skin of forms, a restricted
view, but it prevents all resifting and repetition, which is one
of the essential conditions of magic, of the rending of sensibility.
Life cannot be reproduced. Live waves, inscribed in a number
of vibrations frozen for ever, become dead waves. The world of
the cinema is a closed world with no relationship with exis
tence. Its poetry is not on the other side, it is on this side of the
images. When it crashes into the mind, its dissociating force
breaks. Poetry did exist around the lens, but before being sifted,
being inscribed on the film.
Besides, with the talking picture the elucidations of the
spoken word have put a stop to the unconscious and spontan
eous poetry of images ; the illustration and the completion of the
meaning of an image by the word show the limitations of the
cinema. The co-called mechanical magic of a constant visual
buzz could not parry the stop-hit of the spoken word which has
made this mechanical magic seem the result of a purely physio
logical shock of the senses. People soon tired of the hazardous
beauties of the cinema. Having their nerves more or less suc
cessfully tickled by abrupt and unexpected cavalcades of
images, a succession of mechanical apparitions which escaped
from the very laws and structures of thought, could appeal to
some aesthetes who admired obscurity and the unexpressed, and
searched for these emotions systematically, but without ever be
ing sure that they would appear. This hazardous and unex
pected element was part of the delicate and sombre spell which
the cinema cast on the mind. All this, together with a few more
precise qualities which we all hoped to find.
We knew that the most characteristic and striking quality
of the cinema was always, or nearly always, the effect of
hazard, that is to say of a sort of mystery, whose fatality we
could not explain.
There was a sort of organic emotion in this fatality where
the objective and secure creak of the projector mingled with,
opposed itself to, the comical apparition of images, as precise
as they were unexpected. I do not mean the displacement of
rhythms imposed on the appearance of the objects of reality ;
but, as life passes in its own rhythm, I think that the humour of
the cinema springs partly from this security of a background
rhythm embroidered with all the fantasies of a more or less ir
regular and vehement motion (in comic films). Otherwise,
apart from this sort of rationalisation of life with its waves and
prattle partially emptied of their plenitude, density and extent,
of their internal frequency, by the arbitrariness of the camera,
the cinema remains a fragmentary and, as I said, a stratified
and frozen reproduction of reality. All fantasies based on a slow
or accelerated motion apply only to a closed world of vibra
tions which does not have the talent of enriching and nourish
ing itself on its own ; the idiotic world of images, enveigled in
myriads of retinas, will never perfect the image which we may
have of it.
So the poetry that cannot break away from all that is only a
tentative sort of poetry, the poetry of what might have been,
and we cannot expect the cinema to restore to us the myths of
the man and the life of today.


The talking picture has witnessed the birth of strange activities.

Dubbing is [one] 2 1 of these hybrid activities which good taste
abhors, which satisfies neither the eye nor the ear, but which
the Americans impose on their films and the majority of French
spectators accept.
Chronologically, dubbing succeeds plain synchronisation.
The talking picture, which thinks it has perfected the synchron
isation of sound and image, but frequently sees them spring
away from each other just as they are going to be presented
and states that it has failed, resorts to ordinary dubbing far
more often than one thinks. It applies sounds to the images
after the event and asks actors to repeat scenes, which require
absolute simultaneousness, off the sets, before the microphone.
Ordinary synchronisation, has been used and abused. In talk
ing pictures in every language, even in languages with a stress
which forces the actor to indulge in amazing facial gymnastics,
an effort has been made to apply diction, uniform French
diction, monodic diction, and this gradually gave the impres
sion of a colossal organ giving out a mere buzz.
It was a time when ephemeral French firms, old charlatan
film peddlars still filming in some cattle fair, bought up thou
sands of yards of film and had them synchronised by [some] 22
suburban star who never even left the suburbs.
When the German or American star exclaimed as she
corked a bottle, an oath would burst out of the amplifier ; when
she pursed her lips and let out a slight whistle, we would hear a
hollow bass roar, a murmur, or anything. If one of these films
was shown on the Boulevards, the audience booed, and they
were right. There were plenty of riots at the beginning of the
talking picture.
But the cinema learned from its mistakes, became astute.
Hardly anybody had ever thought of making good French films
in France : there was no tradition. But America had the tradi
tion and the technique. American talking pictures could not be
refused on the pretext that they were in a language which the
French could not understand. On the other hand the audience
could no longer be presented with approximate synchronisa
tions in which the text of one language is simply passed into
another. It was then that the Americans had a cunning idea, a
new idea : they invented dubbing. Dubbing by equivalence of
sound, equivalence of diction. It was simple ! We had all
thought of it. But it had to be done and the Americans did it.
From then on the facial muscles of the actors were carefully
regulated at the shooting sessions. The facial movement in the
language of the synchroniser had to correspond to the mouth
movements in the original language. And this was the begin
ning of comedy. Comedy, not of the screen but of life: the
rush of every sort of actor who wanted to dub because
[ J , 23 and the importance, misfortunes and absurdity of
To start with there is the tragi-comedy of Metro-Goldwyn,
Universal or Fox which take on actors at a miserable salary of
1 2 5 to 1 50 dollars a week and sack them after three months.
Who are these actors? Are they failures? Not at all. Are they
just unlucky? Maybe ! Are they adventurers? Some of them.
Well-known actresses who are ill favoured by the times or the
plays, whose violent temperament no longer suits our theatre
which is aimed at the voyeur from the provinces or the unima
ginative retired sadist, and who travel to America on a second
class ticket with a wardrobe of dresses they were never to wear.
They put their French voices into Marlene Dietrich's heavy
mouth, Joan Crawford's pulpy mouth, Greta Garbo's equine
mouth. For a woman used to acting with her body, for an act
ress who thinks and feels with her whole body as well as with
her head or her voice, for whom physique, charm and sex-
appeal are everything, it is a considerable sacrifice. But there is
something more terrible, to my mind positively diabolical : the
effect of dubbing on the real actors. The directors of American
film companies, and particularly Mr. Alan Beer of Metro-Gold
wyn-Mayer in Paris, whom I interviewed on this matter, are
far from admitting this. But this is a point of view of the per
sonality, one might almost say of the soul, which the highly de
veloped civilisation of the 'Americas ' prefers to deny. Or
rather, it denies it when it is not in its own interest : when it is
dealing with more or less artificial personality, the darling of
the crowds, all other considerations are burnt on this person
ality's altar. The Americans think it perfectly justifiable that
this new Moloch should absorb everything.

I set off in search of Antonin Artaud to interview him for

Cinemonde. It was not easy, Antonin Artaud was nowhere to
be found. Wherever I asked I was told that he had not been
seen for a long time. And yet I was certain that, after acting in
Tarakanova, Antonin Artaud was back in Paris. I had given up
all hope of finding him when, one day, in a bar near the Place
Clichy, I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned round:
it was Antonin Artaud. I was delighted.
' You! It can't be true! ' I exclaimed in surprise. ' Now I' ve
got you, my dear fellow, I won't let you go until you let me
interview you. '
Antonin Artaud smiled.
'Ah ! these journalists are as insistent as ever. Besides, do you
really think that what I say will interest your readers? '
' But of course, otherwise I wouldn't have chased after you.'
Finally, Antonin Artaud let himself be interviewed.
' My record of service, ' he began. ' First of all I played the
lead in Fait Divers, an avant-garde film shown at the Ursulines
which contained a slow motion sequence of someone being
strangled-this seemed a novelty at the time. Then I had small
parts in various films, Surcouf Le ]uif Errant, Graziella. And
finally Abel Gance's Napolh;,, in which I played Marat. It was
the first part in which I felt myself as I really am, in which I
not only had to try to be a genuine, but also to express my idea
of a character who seemed to incarnate a force of nature, who
was both disinterested in and indifferent to all that was not the
force of his passions.
' After Marat I played Brother Krassien2 in Carl T. Drey-
er's St. Joan. This time I was a saint, no longer effervescent,
passionate and anguished, but calm, tranquil.
' I don't want to bother about what happened to the film, to
my part in the film, in the so-called commercial version. I have
unforgettable recollections of my work with Dreyer. I was deal
ing with a man who succeeded in making me believe in the
justice, beauty and human interest of his idea. And whatever
my ideas on the cinema, poetry and life may have been, I rea
lised for once that I was no longer dealing with aesthetics, with
a preconceived idea, but with a work, with a man determined
to elucidate one of the most agonising problems that exist :
Dreyer was determined to show St. Joan as the victim of one
of the most painful distortions : the distortion of a divine prin
ciple which has passed into the brains of men, whether they
call themselves the Government, the Church, or anything you
' The means, the pure technique of this film were also thrill
ing, because even if I considered Dreyer demanding, I did not
regard him as a director, but as a man in the most tangible,
human and complete sense of the word. Dreyer was determined
to insinuate the spirit of a scene into the actor and then leave
him room to realise it, to give his own personal touch, provided
he remained faithful to the spirit required. In the final scene
of the moral martyrdom of St. Joan, before the execution, be
fore the communion, when Brother Krassien asked her if she
still thought she was sent by heaven, Dreyer was sure that,
even if the exaltation communicated to Krassien by Joan, by
the situation and the scene, was not indispensable, it was dic
tated by the very emotion of the facts, and he, Dreyer, would
certainly not hinder it.
' I would have much more to say about Carl Dreyer's film.
But I am simply pleased that the release of his complete ver
sion should have changed the general opinion of such a re
markable film.
' Since St. Joan I have played the intellectual in Verdun,
Visions d'Histoire by Leon Poirier ; Mahaud in Marcel
L'Herbier'sL'Argent ; and a Bohemian in love in T arakanova,
which I have just done under the direction of Raymond Bern
'Although I have not recently been able to play the decisive
parts which I played in Napoleon and St. Joan I am now in
contact with various directors and I am sure that one day I
will be able to act a complete part.
' The cinema is a ghastly profession. Too many obstacles pre
vent expression or realisation. Too many commercial and
financial contingencies get in the way of the directors I know.
Too many people, too many things, too many blind necessities
are defended. That is why I would certainly leave the cinema
if I saw myself repressed in a part, invalidated, or cut off from
myself, from what I think and feel.
' On no account compare me to Conradt Veidt, as many
people do. He tends to specialise in paroxysm, in excess, which
I try to avoid more and more.
' A last point about the acting profession. Every day I hear
directors, who lack a true dramatic feeling, praise, at the ex
pense of the professional, the part-time actor who, in a film
like Finis Terrae, is made to act scenes from life better than a
' This idea is simply based on a misunderstanding.
' On the screen the part-time actor does what he does in real
life, something which he can be made to act with a little
patience. But the cinema actor, I mean the good one, the real
one who feels and thinks directly, spontaneously, without act
ing, in an artificial sphere, a sphere of art or poetry, does what
nobody else can do, what he himself cannot do in a normal
' That is the whole problem. I would be most grateful to you
if you could devote more of your article to my ideas than to my
parts. The first are more likely to interest your readers than the
second. '
' But w hy, A rtaud? Not necessarily.'
And thereupon I left him. It was late, but that did not mat
ter. I had my interview.
G. F.

He made his debut in the theatre and was then drawn by the
cinema. Now, when it reopens, he is going to direct that
theatre patronised by the Nouvelle Revue Frarn;ais which
everyone is talking about. So it was interesting to know
whether Monsieur A ntonin Artaud was going to abandon the
cinema so soon. Evidently, he is not. In reply he showed me
about thirty photographs from his last film, Coup de fer a
l'aube, which he has just made in Berlin for Ufa. It is based on
a detective play which had a great success in Berlin. And Mon
sieur Antonin Artaud is going to play an extremely important
part: that of a sham murderer who makes his hands tremble
so much that the police do not suspect him. In the German ver
sion the part is played by the great actor Theodor Loos.
As he told me about the film, Monsieur A ntonin A rtaud ex
pressed his admiration for the German cinema, the sort of
cinema school formed round Ufa, which is based on Hegelian
' The Germans, ' he assured me, ' make commercial films in
the best sense of the word, that is to say that their films are of
a high technical and artistic quality, are very human, and ex
tremely saleable.
' But how could German films fail? Do you realise that be
fore writing a scenario, a writer-because the writers work for
the cinema there-does systematic research on those feelings
which move an audience, on what they consist of, and on the
psychological springs which have to be unleashed.
' On the whole the German film actors come from the
theatre and bring all their dramatic talent to the cinema. At the
moment there is a sort of school, or rather a group of tragic
actors in Germany, which has no equivalent in France : Albert
Bassermann, Fritz Kortner, Theodor Loos, Fritz Rasp, Peter
Lorre. All these actors are trained, and this is obvious from
the way they act, from that subtlety which our actors lack.
Besides, our actors are incapable of making a lyrical speech, of
talking in a subtle way. So we have no great actors in France.'
' So you think cinema actors should come from the stage? '
' Yes, if you want to make a very good film. And French
camera-men should take short courses in Berlin. And then,
instead of simply using current successful methods, they might
start looking for something more individual. In Germany there
is a whole group of camera-men who have unparalleled light
ing devices. They are trying to discover the logical effect of
light and to create a sort of luminous psychological environment
connected with the atmosphere of the stage. I noticed that
they are now trying to unify the production. You have no idea
how much they care about significant pictorial and psycholog
ical details.'
Henri Philippon


Dear Max Jacob,

Your influence has been a great help and you are largely
responsible for the fortunate change taking place in my life. I
recently managed to get an audition with Gemier who, after
having heard me, thought that what I was doing might interest
your friend Dullin. I had written to Dullin, mentioning you,
but before I received a reply I went to see him and said that
Gemier had sent me. So Dullin heard me and took me on im
mediately. I told him I had written the letter and, when your
name was brought in, we became friends, or rather we had
yet another bond in common.
I am thrilled with what he is doing. It seems to me to be by
far the most interesting experiment now being made in the
theatre. It is all based on such a desire for moral purity, both
in behaviour and in the acting profession, and on such highly
developed artistic principles that it can really be considered an
innovation of our time. Hearing Dullin teach, I feel that I am
rediscovering ancient secrets and a whole forgotten mystique
of production. It is both a theatre and a school. A few plays
will be performed this season by a company trained by Dullin,
with every actor his pupil. I need hardly say that some of these
pupils have reached a point of development which would
arouse the envy of thousands of well-known actors. We act
with our heart of hearts, our hands, our feet, every muscle,
every limb. We feel the object, we smell it, we touch it, we see
it, we hear it-and there is nothing, there are no props. The
Japanese are our masters, together with Edgar Poe. It is
Furthermore, Gabory has behaved fabulously. He has just
taken two of my poems for A ction and has been extremely
kind. There is only one snag. I still have to sponge on my
family, and I do not know how long that will last ; but why
did you think that I was asking you for money? No, Max
Jacob, I know only too well what straits you yourself are in.
But I would like to have some way of making ends meet in my
spare time. Painting is not too easy-I have a dark room where
it is difficult to work. And then I am too engrossed-I could
only do a few watercolours or sketches.
Thank you for writing to A ction for me. Your letter was a
great success, as you see. And I am pleased to be able to be
working with a friend of yours. As a man, I find him enchant
ing. Needless to say I have always admired him immensely as
an actor.
My very best wishes, and thank you.
I hope to see you soon. Where?
Antonin Artaud


All this week I have been very busy and worried. Gemier
had given me an appointment for Monday afternoon to hear
me in a scene and then put me off to Wednesday. The audi
tion took place under ideal conditions, and he sent me to
Charles Dullin, the actor who was with him last year at the
Comedie Montaigne and whom you must have seen in
Le Simoun,29 in which he played the lead brilliantly. This actor
has founded a small theatrical company in the tradition of the
Oeuvre and the Vieux-Colombier, but still more specialised, if
that is possible. It is both a theatre and a school where he ap
plies his own principles of instruction which aim at interiorising
the actor's performance. Because apart from purifying the
stage, he wants to renew it, he is looking for its novelty. In
other words he wants his performances to make a permanent
impression of jamais vu. Everything takes place in the soul.
The sets are still more stylised and simplified than those of the
Vieux-Colombier. His ideal is the Japanese actor who acts
without props. Brightly painted masks with black manes are
hung on the walls, some in black leather or imitation wood.
The gods of the school are not Tolstoy, Ibsen or Shakespeare,
but Hoffman and Edgar Poe. The first play will be bitterly
frantic, sharp and wild. Dullin himself will play the lead with
his usual intensity.
It is strange, to say the least, that with my tastes I should
have ended up in something so close to my mentality.
It is just beginning and is still very small. Hardly a third of
the size of the Vieux-Colombier. It is almost a chamber theatre.
The auditorium can seat a hundred people at a squeeze.
After hearing me Gemier told me that what I was doing
might interest Dullin and sent me to him. Dullin heard me on
Thursday and I joined the company immediately after the
audition. But it is hard work. Apart from the rehearsals. There
are several hours work a day : improvisation, rhythmical gym
nastics, diction, etc. I will very probably be in the second play
since the first has been under rehearsal for a long time.
I will not be able to come for lunch since I am taken up. I
do not yet know when I shall be free, but I could come one
afternoon. I shall write again.
Antonin Artaud


[February 1 9 22]

I apologise profusely for having caused you so much
trouble.30 This 'flu has lasted a relatively short time and I have
almost recovered. I am leaving tomorrow evening to perform
in The Miser31 in Lyon with Dullin and his company. The date
of our performance at the Vieux-Colombier has been settled
for February 1 8. The addres you gave me are rather ex
pensive on the whole. I shall try to go on living as I have been
until I find something cheaper.
Cordially yours. Thank you.
Antonin Artaud


[March 1 922]

I received your note too late to let you know that I could
not join you last Sunday. I do not have a free minute. I work
day and night. On March 4 I am playing two important parts :
G alvan and another part in Le Divorce.32 And I am also work
ing on the sets. If you bought a programme you will have seen
that the Harlequin was designed by me. I only have one ticket
for each performance, so you see that I cannot send you any.
And I also have numerous private editorial jobs. Forgive me
and believe me yours,
Antonin Artaud

I could see you after the performance on March 4 . Be sitting

in the orange sofa.


[June 1 92 2]

I am overloaded with work. We are staging a marvellous
play : Life is a Dream by Calderon.33 And I have a colossal
part, rather like King Lear if I were to play King Lear myself.
Dullin is playing another fabulous part. I have just designed
the costumes and the sets. So you see how busy I am On June

2 2 we are going to the Vieux-Colombier where we shall give a

series of performances, then we will play in the Roman theatre
in Orange and in Carcassonne.
Yours ever,
Antonin Artaud


[Around November-December 1 92 2 ] 84

I met Andre Fraye at his exhibition at Marcel Bernheim's, rue

Caumartin. He told me that he is not going to be on the jury
of the Salon d' Automne this year. That is why nothing has
been done about your pictures which deserve better. I found
the pictures of Dunoyer de Segonzac surprisingly powerful, full
of very interesting effects. Of the works displaying some origi
nality, it is worth mentioning Jean Merchand's portrait, Helene
Ferdriat's pictures, Fraye's landscapes and Theophile Robert's
portrait of a girl. Zadkine's woodcuts are peerless, but the rest
is more worthless than usual.
At the moment we are rehearsing an Antigone by Jean Coc
teau, freely adapted from Sophocles,8 5 which brings out its
perennial modernity. I am playing the sooth-sayer Tiresias. The
sets and masks will be by Picasso. It will certainly be original.
Cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud


[April I g24]

I am now in every play : R. U.R. ,36 the Six Characters, 37

Amedee.118 I do not have one free evening and every after
noon and some mornings I film with Lara and her son39-and
this will last until next July. So you see that I have not got a
free moment. Now painting bores me, and so does literature,
and even the theatre. I am playing the lead in this film with a
view of heading the bill and soon earning some money. For two
months I have not even had a room.40 I finally found one for
the end of this month. The expense of the hotels narrows the
field for me. Apart from my colleagues in the theatre, I hardly
see anybody. Every Sunday I am invited to Boulogne by the
editor of my brochure41 to whom I am deeply indebted and
who may let me edit something else-and I cannot even go
there. I have no idea when I shall be able to see you .
Best wishes,


Paris, 2 1 February, 1 92 5 42

You have infested the news long enough. Your brothel is too
greedy. It is time the representatives of a dead art stopped
deafening us. Tragedy does not need a Rolls Royce nor whore
dom jewellery.
Enough comings and goings in your official calling house.
We look above tragedy, the cornerstone of your poisonous
old shed, and your Moliere is a twat.
But it is not only tragedy. We deny your alimentary organ
ism the right to perform any play, past, future or present.
With Pierat, Sorel, Segond-Weber, Alexandre and others,
the Comedie-Frarn;ais has been nothing but the sex house, and
what sex ! It has never had an inkling of an idea about the
Chuck out Sylvain, chuck out Fenoux, chuck out Duflos,
chuck out everybody,-the same buffoons, the same Alexan
dres, the same old wrecks, the same pantaloon tragedians al
ways return to the top.
Do not renew yourself, Comedie- Frarn;aise ! Neither your
' Simouns ' Porche, nor your ' railway ' Poizat, those little strips
of feeble tragedy, nor your latest Jean Coco can do anything
to stop you creeping into the past.
All your hellish boiled beef, your sauce-spoiling share
holders now need is some police seasoning to show you where
your Moliere can lead you.
We refuse to go on supporting the cult of your blood-thirsty
1 02
Corneille who sacrifices sons to their fathers and sets the tone
for some patriotic myths about the supreme demands of the
And as for Racine, cook him in Granval sauce, Sylvain
sauce, Lambert sauce or caper sauce. He has never been acted
by you.
You are twats. Your very existence is an insult. No base need,
no manifestation, no mass rising of national idiocy have you
failed to support. The power of feelings is strong enough not to
allow it to be prostituted.
The theatre can do without you . It is made of a different
matter to your wretched tissues. French Theatre, you say? You
belong no more to France than to the land of the Kafirs. At
best you belong to the Fourteenth of July.
The theatre is the land of Fire, the lagoons of Heaven, the
battle of Dreams. The theatre is Solemnity.
You leave your droppings at the foot of Solemnity like the
Arab at the foot of the Pyramids. Make way for the theatre,
gentlemen, make way for the universal theatre which is con
tent with the unlimited field of the mind.

1 03

[Paris] 2 July, 1 92 ?43

Dear friend,
You asked me if I particularly wanted to write an article on
Jean de Bosschere's book.44
I particularly want justice to be done AT LAST in every
sphere. I have the impression that Jean de Bosschere is still
waiting for justice to be done and I doubt whether Albert Thi
baudet will do it.
On the other hand, and without blowing my own trumpet,
which I couldn't really give a damn about, I am surprised that
Monsieur Benjamin Cremieux should be making a table of the
theatrical movement in those blessed years of the theatre 1 926-
1 92 7 and should still cling to those doddering old corpses, those
anti-representative fantoms of Jouvet, Pitoeff, Dullin, even
Gemier, etc. When will people stop stirring up refuse.
Don't worry. I am not suggesting that there is nothing but
the Jarry Theatre. Even the Jarry Theatre is ill, from lack of
funds, and we do not know if we shall be able to keep it going.
I am the first person to be aware of the faults of our first ex
periment. We have excuses : time, money, but there is still Les
Mysteres de L'Amour and whatever Monsieur Benjamin
Cremieux thinks of it, it remains a play made for the stage.
Does the performance of a play such as this not contribute
something to modem theatre, something which is lacked?
Everything in Les Mysteres L'Amour is pure objectivisation.
The lines adopt a weight and sound on the stage which they do
not have on paper. Furthermore, the production must not be
1 04
confused with that purely accessory element which consists of
sets and lighting. The production is the scenic movement, the
trepidation of the lines, the rhythm of the play. The cerebral
subversions in a play like Les Mysteres de l'A mour are only of
value once they are incarnated by living characters. A certain
spiritual relentlessness is what counts and only comes to life
once it is acted. Our aim is to materialise the most secret move
ments of the soul by the simplest and most naked means. To
show an unexpected side of the most hackneyed, most banal
In short, this play and its scenic conception contain a resis
tance, a density given to things of a moral order which were
worth pointing out.
On Monday you will receive A la Grande Nuit.
Ever yours,
Antonin Artaud

1 05

[Paris] 29 August, 1 92 J 4 3

Dear friend,
Thank you for this proof of friendship. I am very touched.
But if you cannot publish my article in full I must beg you to
return it to me.46 And may I ask you something else. Would it
be possible for you to give it to the printer as though it were a
proof and return it to me in that form. If it is no trouble for
you please have it printed for me. Thank you again, my very
dear friend.
Sincerely yours,
Antonin Artaud

P . S . There is also the article on Dullin of which you must

have the proofs and which I would like you to return.
Now something else.
I would like to write a fairly short article on the cinema in
which I would refer to The Shell and the Clergyman. Could
you print it in the October number. It would be very much in
my interest if this article could appear, and above all on this
date. Because afterwards it would be too late, even in Novem
ber. I have something to defend, and an article could help me
defend my film not by attacking anybody, but by defining my
attitude towards this film. Because I have had trouble with it.
And an article would clarify the matter. May I write it and
will you print it on the date I ask?
I n any case, thank you.
I was given to understand that the scenario of The Shell
1 06
would appear in November. And I would like to give a few
words of explanation ! ! ! I have long been meaning to ask you
if you could let me write a column on the cinema in the N.R.F.
At present there is nobody who can defend integral cinema and
Andre Beucler is not in the trade.
Forgive me, dear Jean Paulhan, and thank you from the
bottom of my heart.

Of course you must print this synopsis which is REALLY per

fect ! ! ! 47

1 07

Paris, 2 7 November, 1 92 7

Dear Monsieur Abel Gance,

You will soon be receiving a copy of my correspondence
with Riviere which will show you that I am interested in the
most elevated problems of the mind. The most elevated and
the most remote. I know that under your direction Jean Epstein
is going to film The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Poe.
I do not lay many claims, but I do claim to understand Edgar
Poe and to be very much like the Master of Usher myself. If I
do not identify myself with this character nobody on earth does.
I feel for him physically and psychically. I am not telling you
that I offer myself for this part, I am telling you that I demand
it. J. Barrymore, who would alone be able to embody it, would
embody it divinely, I admit, but he would embody it without
while I would embody it from within. My life is that of Usher
and his sinister hovel. I have the plague in the fibre of my
nerves and I suffer from it. There is a quality of nervous suf
fering that the greatest actor in the world cannot live on the
screen unless he has felt it. And I have felt it. I think as Usher
does. All my writings prove it-and I will not, of course, men
tion my profession. If I have won the game it is because the
game is really lost, but lost for everybody this time.
Yours most sincerely,
Antonin Artaud
58, rue La Bruyere, IX

1 08

[Around March 1 928]

I would simply like you to print my reply concerning the

Jarry Theatre in the next number of the N.R.F.48 The only
reasons for ending our friendship are contained in the two
abominable letters you have just written to me, for no reason,
gratuitously, smothering me with offensive and unmotivated
I explain all this at length in the Revolution Surrealiste.
Antonin Artaud

1 09

My dear friend,
Here is your letter. Please return it to me as soon as possible.
So, what in your opinion is betrayal, is to serve France as
ambassador, to be converted. Artaud, is it you who are suddenly
giving in to these superficialities, to these absences of soul, to
these tricks: anticlericalism and political revolution? I cannot
tell you how sorry I am.
Jean Paulhan

Paris, 3 rue de Grenelle (VI).

Jean Paulhan,
After the explanations I gave in your presence about that
obscene Claudel, in view of both services rendered and much
tried and uneven, but occasionally fruitful friendship, to reduce
my indictment to the two points mentioned in your letter is
purely and simply vile, but it does not disfigure you, on the
This vileness separates us and at the same time passes judge
ment on you and emphasises your superficiality.
Because the man whom I have seen rolling his head on his
chest, totally incapable of replying to a precise question, like a
child trying to slip away (this child is you, Jean Paulhan, and
if you are the child it must be made known), this man, con-
1 10
stantly obliged to renew his grasp on his own nullity, cannot
accuse me of superficiality and absence of soul.
I will add no insult to the qualification of your attitude. It
takes far more, believe me, to shake my faith in myself. I know
my weak points, and it is not a Jean Paulhan who can reach
that small part of my mind.
Antonin Artaud

P.S. With regard to the Jarry performance, it is the very

principal of the theatre which your colleague is questioning in
the February number of the N.R.F. But the Jarry Theatre has
nothing to do with the theatre. So all this is of no interest to us,
and I will not bother to reply to your imbecile colleague. As
for the meaning and the principle of the performance, this is
what I am prepared to say :
I do exactly what I like with a text. But a text on a stage is
always pathetic. So I embellish it with shouts and contortions
which do, of course, have a meaning, but not for pigs. So I am
not surprised that the dwarf who signs those reviews should
have taken such a performance for a piece of modern comedy.
Another reason for not wishing to give you my reply is that
it would be to expose myself to one of those mutilated articles,
strewn with the broken limbs of phrases and words reduced to
the meaning of a hair, to which you have accustomed us.


[Paris, 7 June, 1 928] 0

Dear Madame,
I do not understand your view of my attitude towards
Breton. I did not get angry with him at once because that was
not so easy for me, because I thought he would change his
mind, and because I did not think that emotional matters
should be brought in. But, as for my attitude towards the play
and the future of my activity, you can be sure, and you wrong
me if you doubt it (which was why I was so annoyed on the
telephone), that I have made up my mind once and for all to
break with Breton the minute he comes to sabotage the play.
There is no doubt about this. The performance will take place
in spite of him, and against him, if this is the meaning he
wishes to attribute to it.
As for inviting him, no. I did not in fact realise what I was
letting myself in for by inviting him, and that if I did so I
would no longer have the right to throw him out. Not only will
he not be invited, but if he comes he will not get a seat. As for
knowing whether he can be refused admission, maybe you
could see to this along with Aron. Since it appears that we do
not legally have the right to refuse anybody admission, I can
see no other way but to force him to pay for his seat. The only
other way of keeping him out would be to inform the police,
and that would be vile.
Please forgive me for getting annoyed, but you must under
stand my irritation after the succession of misfortunes which
have befallen me. When I left you the other night something
1 12
terrible happened to me. I will tell you about it and you will see
that you must forgive me and cannot be angry.
I am your friend. But please, neither say nor think that' my
attitude is not clear. I will defend my play by every means, be
lieve me. If you, on your side, were to tell your friends not to
come, it would be appalling and could do us great harm. I shall
of course do all I can to make such a step unnecessary .
Antonin Artaud

Nice, 1 2 February, 1 929

A director is at present making a publicity film in the

Franco-Film studios for the Peugeot company.
It is Monsieur Donatien whom you undoubtedly know ! ! !
Best wishes,
Antonin Artaud

[Nice, 1 6 February, 1 92 9] 51

The papers are advertising flights from Paris to Hanoi.

What is the meaning of this, and what a strange coinci
dence. 52
You could write to me in Nice at
Hotel Massena
rue Gioffredo.
I would be quite happy were it not for the state of my
nerves, the same as before but particularly irritating since it
means that I cannot follow up any advantage.
As far as Franco-Film is concerned do not forget that I will
choose my own director. It will be an essential condition, but
of course I am counting mainly on America, and I fear this
attempt may have ruined my chance there. What do you feel?
I hope your diffi culties with the Jarry business are over, and
if I can be of use to you in any way, let me know.
My best wishes, and my regards to the Doctor, for whom I
am drawing up a long memorandum. I will require all his
patience, and he must forgive me.
Antonin Artaud

l l5

Nice, 1 9 February, 1 9293

For some days all the newspapers have been advertising flights
from Paris to Hanoi and even Paris to Saigon. There is also a
fairly long article on the mail flown by the Brix to Hanoi and
a letter from the Chamber of Commerce of Marseilles to the
Chamber of Commerce of Saigon ! ! ! It was obviously the first
thing to do. But still. Anyhow, I need some explanation.04
Of course, for me it was purely a question of money. But I
HOPE that they won't let us down now.
In any case you must know something. Tell me what has
happened so that I can continue to rely on it and can embark
on something else.
You can write to me here at Hotel Napoleon. I have
changed addresses.
My very best wishes,
Antonin Artaud

1 16

[Nice] 1 0 March, 1 929 55

If the Americans are sufficiently interested in the scenario of

Thirty-two to keep my name, all they have to do is to order
another scenario from me, less demoralising than the first, but
on the same lines. In any case, nothing can be done with Le
Roman de la Mer.56 The production companies (like the pub
lic) are fed up with those expensive spectacles which do not pay
off. And the magic struggle between Moses and the High
Priests would involve stunt photography which would be too
complicated and take too long.
But since I think I have found a definite possibility here,
this is what I am going to do :
I shall rush off a scenario which I will give to someone here
and send you a copy. Do what you like with it.
I have three ideas :
I . A psychological scenario dealing with one of the most
mysterious aspects of life and revealing strange shadows of the
mind in a light of icy purity.
For this I need
Les Diaboliques by Barbey d'Aurevilly for the Rideau
cramoisi (Lemerre, white edition).7
It is amazing that nobody should have thought of it. The
newspapers ought to mention the fact that I am adapting this
tale and others, just to make it known.
2 . After purity comes honesty.
The parallel forces of good and evil in a man who is the vic
tim of an ancestral past. Hence another moral point of view :
frailty of ideas of good and evil shrouded in events and sym
bols which the audience can interpret as they like.
For this I need Stevenson's Master of Ballantrae (La Sirene
or elsewhere).
3 . A political scenario revealing the aspirations and fears of
several nations. The social and national assizes of the world.
The grain of sand changing the course of events. The main
reasons for popular exaltation. The subterranean currents of
For this I need
I. Le Batard de Mauleon by Dumas ( Calman Levy et Nel
son ) , 57 Joseph Balsamo by Dumas or some other book stir-
ring up the greatness of things, if you can think of one.
I shall make up my mind after reading them and shall write
at least two scenarios. The one from the Rideau cramoisi will
be a very short film.
Can you send me all these books urgently, and CASH ON DE
LIVERY, through any bookshop. I cannot find anything here.
I need them to start work.
Best wishes, and my regards to the Doctor,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. Nothing metaphysical in my case. It would be too mar

vellous and I would be constantly detained in my present con
dition. All this is physical. Almost external. It is as though I
were telling you about a nervous endurance, an unexpected
obstacle which detains what is emerging. The proof is that I
am sometimes liberated from it, according to whether I feel
well or ill. The pains are another proof. The poor metaphysical
cretins surrounding me do not suffer.


[Nice, 2 1 March, 1 929] 5 8

Dear friend,
With regard to the estimates of the Peugeot film, I cannot
imagine what they included. I am amazed that it should be so
high. It was mainly the postal film which seemed expensive to
me, because of the journey and the crowds, which can always
be reduced.59 But otherwise I leave it to you to persuade the
director that dreams call forth a series of images evoking feel
ings, impressions and ideas which we all have inside us and
which must appeal to all audiences, providing that the direc
tor can provide an adequate interpretation for a publicity film.
I do not want to go through all the trouble over The Shell
again. And I want to be consulted personally, at least for the
part of the dreams. I gave the scenario of the Shell to Kruger,
the camera-man who suggested making a film with me and
who happens to be filming Tarakanova. He said : ' But it's
quite different from the film. ' I also showed him Thirty-two,
and he finds The Shell far better, which proves that he under
stands the cinema. He might help me succeed, and I have
another chance with Franco - Film. But I hate their mentality.
All film people are tradesmen. An actor, a director, a scenario
are articles IN THE TRUE SENSE OF THE TERM. And one is al
ways coming up against this mentality. You cannot imagine
the humiliations which I have suffered even as an actor,60 even
from people who respect the quality of what I am doing, sim
ply because I am not a star and my name cannot be relied on
I I9
to SELL a film.
Best wishes,
A. Artaud

P.S. When I said that I wanted to be consulted, I meant that

I am the only person who can clarify, that is to say realise, what
may originally appear to some to be too subtle.

1 20

Nice, 26 March, 1 92 9

Dear friend,
1 . To make a talking picture now, or at any time, seems wrong
to me. The Americans who have staked everything on it are
preparing a very sinister future for themselves, as are all com
panies which produce bad films on the pretext that they are
more saleable ; the talking picture is idiotic, absurd. The very
negation of the cinema. I admit that the sound of a landscape.
the noises of a scene chosen for its pure visual quality, may
eventually be synchronised, and I can well see what can be
done in this direction. But there is no difference between this
and the imitative sounds of an orchestra. The sound is produced
by a loudspeaker, a record, instead of an orchestra, but it is not
a different value. Because however well synchronised it may be,
it does not come from the screen, from this virtual, absolute
space which the screen spreads before us. Whatever we do, our
ear will always hear it in the auditorium, instead of our eye
seeing, outside the auditorium, what is happening on the
An all-talking screen should be invented which manages to
create perspectives of sound in three dimensions, in the same
way as the visual screen creates perspectives for the eye. But
that is science and does not interest me.
If I have an idea for a film with sonorous or musical possibili
ties I shall let you know. BUT I SHALL NOT USE ANY WORDS .
2 . There is no tolerable director in Nice or IN FRANCO-FILM
at the moment, whom I would entrust with a scenario. So all
you can do is to suggest to M. in Paris one of the scenarios I
shall send you.
3 . It will be the first thing I shall do. You know that if I
were to write a commercial scenario I would destroy myself.
Worse than that : I would be setting a low standard. The sini
ster thing about these concessions is that they diminish and de
value a man, primarily because this man is doing something
contrary to his nature and consequently contrary to his mind.
The great American successes like Solitude and Chicago Nights
are not what is usually known as commercial.
I cannot do anything until I have recovered.
I no longer thought myself ill, but PERFECTLY LUCID,
the horrible compression in my head and the top of my spine,
the convulsions in my chest, my obsession with blood and mur
der, the torpor, the inexpressible weakness, the general horror
in which I am plunged with a mind which is basically intact,
make this mind useless.
You understand that I would long ago have given myself
satisfaction and would have stopped boring the pants off
people if that had not all constituted an ABSOLUTE obstacle in
its miserable and ridiculous RELATIVITY.
Best wishes,


Nice, I April, 1 92 9 81

Could you immediately take the necessary steps for getting

me the rights for adapting The Master of Ballantrae. This film
gives me a complete, fabulous subject into which I can put
everything. With which I can reach everybody, reach the heart.
Although I had read it five or six years ago, the last time I read
it was enough for me to make up my mind. You could start off
by getting the rights and an option of six months or a year
while we try and sell it. In the meantime I will send you, in a
week or ten days, a brief synopsis of two or three pages, but
one which will serve as a first version of the subject with a
view to the screen. This version will already contain a visual
skeleton of the film with the particular emphasis I hope to give
the scenes and the psychology of the characters. It will be
enough to enable you to tell me whether one of the people you
mentioned is interested in it.
Without betraying Stevenson, it will show my personal con
tribution and the special emphasis I thought I should give to
certain parts and the spirit of certain scenes.
Best wishes,

P.S. Considerable improvement after a few injections. Most

of the pain disappeared within twenty-four hours and life has
become more bearable. It was high time, because I had decided
to put an end to it.
I assure you it was extremely serious.
We shall see.
1 23
Sent from Nice on 6 April, 1 929,

Have sent letter editor Pour Vous on Feyder and talking pic
ture. Forceful letter but amazed you already know. Yours,

1 24

N ice, 1 o April, 1 92 9

I think I shall be able to make a scenario out of Dibbouk,62

synchronising the scenes of possession by spirits and exorcism
with appropriate shouts and voices. It would also be a film to
the credit of the Jews.
I will write the scenario for a visual film of course. The
cinema will always be visual, but in such a way that words can
be added without disturbing the succession of images.
The preliminary project for Ballantrae, a non-visual project
showing the spirit with which I shall adapt the novel, will take
a long time and be hard to produce visually. I shall send it off
in three days.
I am getting better incredibly rapidly. Which shows that my
ailment was physical. I hardly suffer at all and have resumed
normal activity.
Best wishes to you and the Doctor,
A. Artaud

Can you enquire about the rights for adapting Dibbouk?


[Nice, 1 5 April, 1 92 9] 6 8

Dear friend,
Do you know about the article on Victor which appeared in
the Cahiers de Belgique and can you tell me who wrote it. Are
you sure that my letter on Feyder which I sent to Pour Vous
but which WAS NOT PU BLISHED because the ass called A. A . . . ,
the editor, had no reason to be pleased with it, did not appear
in L' lntran. Could you proceed as you so well know how to do
in certain cases and get this letter printed. You must know that
it does not contain anything shocking.
It was perfectly civil, but clear and forceful. I simply said
that in the present circumstances the publication of a letter by
Feyder in favour of the talking picture seemed wrong to me, in
view of that chap's reputation. I then attacked what in my
opinion is the totally unjustified reputation of a Feyder who
failed to convey the poisonous effervescence of Zola and made
a correct and honourable film where Zola created the very
poetry of forbidden love. 6 4 I then gave my view on the talking
picture in approximately the same terms as I expressed it in my
letter to you. You must realise that experience has put me on
my guard and that I was not going to wreck your dealings
with L' lntran by a violent letter. So my letter was mainly aimed
at the grotesque influence of that wretched A . . . on the editor
ial staff of Pour Vous. But I think it would be important for
me that this letter, which expresses so definite an opinion in
sufficiently powerful terms, should appear.
The preliminary work for the adaptation of Ballantrae is
ready. I will have it typed out tomorrow and will post it to you
on Tuesday. It is not a scenario. It is a study indicating the
direction of my scenario, the emphasis I shall give to the scenes,
the psychology of the characters, the moral and human con
flict that I shall describe. Because the final scenario will be long
and diffi cult, and I will only embark on it if I know that it will
be well received and interest a backer.
And then I am not interested in selling it unless I have the
full means of an ordinary director at my disposal. I think that
events have proved convincingly enough that it is impossible to
succeed with insufficient means. Take Victor. That experiment
which I am very glad to have made when I look back on it,
barely missed being a colossal success.
I shall probably be in Paris in three weeks. We will then be
able to discuss all this at greater length, but you will undoubt
edly have some news for me before then.
Best wishes and my regards to the Doctor,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. This letter (Feyder) must appear, if only to put an end

to the false rumours circulated about him, if there are any.


[Nice, 1 9 April, 1 929]6

Dear friend,
I have sent you my preliminary work on the Master of Bal
lantrae. In its present form it is enough to indicate the spiritual
and objective line of the scenario, and is therefore sufficient to
enable a backer to decide on it. He should read the book. The
comparison of the book with my work will show what I have
done, my own contribution. Page four of the manuscript I sent
you seems to have gone astray and I will have to have it re
typed, but since I was late I sent the whole thing, so as not to
try your patience. The missing page will probably go off tomor
row, Friday, evening.
And you will soon receive the scenario of Dibbouk which I
have now finished and only need to have typed out. As you see,
I do not lose any time and as soon as my mind is a little
freer I try to get all I can out of it. This will show you what I
mean by the man who passes next to one. He is myself, as
physically myself as possible. Because I know that if I were not
afflicted I would objectively be another man ; the man I am
thinking of is not virtual, or if he is, is only so by accident. You
cannot imagine what I could really do if my mind were to lose
its abnormal obstacles. But it will never lose them completely.
Fate will not allow this. I think it fears me too much for that.
Do you think these obstacles are the ransom of my character.
I could be what I am without eclipses, without the conditions
of my brain or rather of my psychic being. It will never be pos
sible for me to resume my activity in full. I think it would be
1 28
too wonderful.
If nothing new happens I shall probably return to Paris at
the beginning of May. In the meantime you will have received
the scenario of Dibbouk. I have decided to introduce sound
effects and even talking scenes into my scenarios, because there
is such a drive towards the talking picture that nobody will
want any more silent films for a year or two. It is tragic, but
that is how it is and one must be able to live and not go under
in the meantime. But people like us, who still feel for pure and
true cinema, must show up the absurdity and uselessness of the
non-silent film, leave words as food for the beasts, and main
tain the identity of the other cinema, of which we may be the
sole heirs. By not losing anything we may save something ! ! !
At the moment the situation is compromised, believe me. I, who
live in that world, hear worse news every day. Everybody is
turning to the talking picture. One must follow the crowd in
order to guide it. Give everything to it, to take everything from
A. Artaud

Please keep this letter. I will call for it in Paris. I am sorry,

and thank you.

1 29

[Nice, 2 1 April, 1 929] 8 8

I have just made as accurate an estimate as possible with the

means at my disposal, since the scenario has not yet been com
pletely cut.
The estimate has been made with the assistance of the
camera-man Kruger, who is still prepared to make a film with
The film will take three months of shooting and one month
of cutting.
There are five sets 1 at 35 ,000 francs
I at 1 0,000
I at 5,000
2 at 3 ,000

So 53,000 francs for sets
2 5 days in the studio which must be reckoned at 3 to 5 ,000
francs a day according to the studio, the season, and luck, and
at the most that would work out at
1 25,000 francs
+ 1 ,ooo francs electricity per day
so 1 50,000 francs of studio in all
and 53 ,000 francs of sets
one day shooting on the ship with actors' transport and all
expenses would cost
1 5 to 2 0,000 francs
+ 1 journey to Besanc_;on for American forest
1 30
1 5 days outside for three artists at 1 oo francs a day
or 1 ,500 francs + railway, another 1 ,500 francs
or 3 ,000 francs
+ about 35,000 metres of negative film and 4,000 of positive
for a film of 2 ,ooo metres.
in all 1 55,000 francs worth of film
1 scene needs generating plant at 3 ,500 francs
which makes 53,000 sets
1 50,000 studio
2 0,000 ship
1 55 ,000 film
3 ,500 generating plant
3 ,000 journey
484,500 6 7
Then there is the camera-man who wants 2 0,000 francs a
month and this is reasonable for this particular camera-man,
which makes 60,000
then we must include the price of the scenario with the cuts
and all, for which I think 2 5,000 a very reasonable sum
then the director
I cannot earn less than the camera-man and I must live dur
ing the film.
I won't be making anything, but during that time I shall
have to refuse all other offers to employ me as an actor. Which
represents that sum at least.
To all this we must add 5 actors, the film would have 5
characters to be paid for 3 months.
There are 2 solutions
either the production company will insist on its own stars in
which case the film would cost over a million, with stars earn
ing 60 to 90,000 francs a month (which is what a star earns)
or I will be allowed to choose people I am sure of and whom
I will pay from 1 o to 1 5,000 francs a month, which would give
me an average of 60,000 francs a month for the actors and
1 80,000 francs for the film.
This means that reducing the expenses to a minimum, this
film would need at least 700,000 francs.
The figure will seem enormous to you, but think of the book
and remember that nowadays a film costing a million is con
sidered cheap and The Master of Ballantrae is an important
An ordinary director would ask 2 million for a similar job.
Finally I must add that the estimate
-based on the number of sets
of scenes performed
of exterior shooting
of actors
all factors given by me
this estimate is not mine.
This work cannot be done for less, on principle.
It is the maximum which it can require
and one might be able to get away with 500,000 francs
because, as you know, I work fast and may be able to
reduce the 25 days in the studio to 1 5 .
I have now been advised against Franco-Film, Cine
Romans, etc., and I have been advised to go to Albatros (or
Kamanka ) as the only company with no interest in sabotaging
the film before it is over.
Apparently sabotages are performed everywhere.
A pretty business.
Best wishes.
This is urgent.
Antonin Artaud

[Nice, 2 2 April, 1 9 2 9 ] 0 8

I sent you a hasty express letter yesterday. I could not tell

you some of the very important things, but here they are :
If you have the son of a great English banker as a backer,
this banker will have other contacts in the business world and
it will be in his own interest not to apply to an established
company but to run the whole business on his own and procure
the rest of the capital required. Because the company, which
would not contribute any money but would provide the stu
dios, the lighting, the designers, the stage hands, the film, etc.,
by certain tricks which these people apparently currently prac
tise (the cinema is a regular den of thieves and there is no such
thing as an honest company, D E S PITE APPEARAN C E S ),
this company would gradually absorb the available cash
without finishing the film, and if it is finished it would cost
three or four times the anticipated amount, especially if the
company knows that the backer has other funds behind him,
and finally, I would not be free.
But let this young man start a business, with his father's aid,
destined to create, launch and exploit The Master of Ballan
trae or any other film, but above all to realise it.
I will not exceed the sum I mentioned, you can prove this,
and I will have made my enquiries and done everything con
Anyhow I shall be in Paris in two weeks. I cannot write to
you about everything, it would take too long.
Best wishes,
1 33
sent from Nice, 26 April, 1 929,

Production requires provision seven hundred thousand francs.

Economy one hundred thousand francs possible. Backer should
be his own manager and not collaborate company. Artaud.

1 34

[Paris, IO July, I 929] 69

I cannot understand your annoyance. I simply did not ex

pect you to talk about a commission, which had not previously
been mentioned, when we spoke to each other on the telephone
this evening. But I shall make no diffi culties about giving away
a sum of 5,000 francs, say out of 25 ,000 francs for the scenario.
Since it was agreed that not more than 2 0,000 francs were to
be paid for the scenario. This evening you were unexpectedly
diffi cult about several matters. I do not understand them. No
director of any merit would accept 2 0,000 francs a month
nowadays, nor any actor.
On the other hand a stage manager, and an assistant are
paid the amounts I mentioned. I simply told you the usual
prices for them, and for the designers.
As for the length of the parts, I cannot establish them to
within a week.
I put a month for the girl because it is one of the parts played
outside and indoors.
And I put down very low prices for the cast because I do
not think we shall apply to well-known actors ; but the estimate
must be doubled. I am not responsible for the present state of
affairs .
Best wishes,
A. Artaud

1 35

IO September, 1 92 9 10

In the report on the Surrealist Manifesto w hich appeared in

L'Intran of the 2 4th of last August there is a sentence which
recalls too many things :
' Monsieur Breton did not find it necessary to make any cor
rections-above all of names-in this new edition of his book
-and it is to his credit, but the alterations are done of their
own accord. '
That Monsieur Breton should appeal to honour to judge a
certain number of people to whom these alterations apply is the
concern of a sectarian morality with which only a literary min
ority has hitherto been infected. But those little paper games
must be left to the surrealists.
Besides, nobody connected with the Dream affair a year ago
has the right to mention honour.
Antonin Artaud

I would like you to do all you can this evening to put these
people into the state of mind they were in before the question
of my directing a scenario was raised. That is all. I do not think
there is much danger of our getting a director like Epstein who
would scoop up everything. Because there was just as much
danger when the scenario was submitted, and if we ourselves
had not raised the question of the director it would never have
arisen and the scenario would have been accepted as a scenario
just the same. If they really wanted me as a director and I do
not really believe they do, I think we should leave things as they
were before. In any case, if they order and accept a complete
scenario (of 50 pages), it means that we are saved as far as the
scenario itself is concerned although we are not freed from the
results of its execution. Because you must not forget that it is
primarily a deal for us that I am in DIRE need of money.
That is what I wanted to say and did not have time to say.
A. Artaud

1 3i

9 November, 1 92 9

Jean Paulhan,
I have been meaning to write to you for a long time. I have
behaved worse than disgracefully, basely towards you, and in
a way which many would consider beyond repair.12 However,
I cannot forget this behaviour and it has not ceased to plague
me for nearly two years. I could have apologised far sooner.
But that would have seemed suspect to you. And time alone
could give me the right to be sincere.
It is most important that you should believe in my present
sincerity, Jean Paulhan. I know what I owe you and what a
friend you have been to me. And the memory of your friend
ship only increases my regret and my remorse .
I say remorse and I use that word in its true, powerful
sense. Because, unlike some people, I still believe in evil, in
moral dishonesty, and the facility and virtual unconsciousness,
with which one can suddenly allow oneself to be dishonest,
frighten me.
But if one thing can excuse me, at least partially, in your
eyes, it is the profound and fundamental disorder in which I
have been continuously plunged, but if I have for some time
been able to glory in this castration, in these plunges of my soul,
if I have been able to use them as a banner, it is no less true
that they only really implied a great moral misery and that
this misery was the result of a certain irresponsibility.
I know some men who could have written a letter such as
mine, but the violent disgust with which they now fill me,
1 38
comes from believing them entirely, humanly responsible and
conscious. It is a feeble excuse, of course, but the misfortune
(which, as far as my attitude towards you is concerned, is a
blessing) is that it is real.
Anyhow, this curse, this veritable spell of disorder, im
potence, incoherence of which I have never been able to rid
myself, all this is in the order of destiny.
And if, for example, the sinister business of the Dream,
which happened shortly after that letter, is not an immediate
result of it, it is certainly closely connected with the state of
mind in which I wrote it.
I would like one day to be able to talk to you at greater
length about all this.
In any case, yo u must know that I have never been in such a
state of depression and distre8s. You cannot imagine to what
depths I have sunk, and I believe it is high time to spring out
of this false romanticism.
Antonin Artaud

1 39

[Around November 1 929]

Dear friend,
A very reliable person is enquiring about the theatres of
Montpamasse and Grenelle. But I think that the Montpamasse
is already taken. As soon as I know, I will let you know. It
would of course have taken longer if I had enquired myself.
Now something else : Pierre Batcheff is about to marry a
woman who is at present the assistant to Henri Chomette, who
is secretary of a second-rate cinema company of which Ger
mane Dulac is a director. Since you like associations, I am sure
you can make one out of that.
Furthermore, Henri Chomette has a male assistant, one of
the boys who came to boo my lecture. If that was not an at
tempt at dissociation, I will eat my hat. It is also possible that
G. Dulac had no part in the intrigue. In any case I think I can
say that P. Batcheff has not come to act but to place a scenario
by him or by Bunuel, or produced by Bunuel. And what is
more, Vitrac, who is humouring me (temporarily, no doubt),
still mixes with Prevert, Brunel and other former surrealists
whom you do not know. I feel that these people are particu
larly worried since they all admit (I have been told) the con
nection between The Shell and Un Chien andalou and this
connection weighs heavily on them.
There. You inform me, I inform you.
Best wishes,
A. Artaud
P.S. I am a little better.

[Paris, 23 November, 1 92 9] 73

When you see Vitrac on no account think you are mistaken.

If he is right I do not see why the Jarry Theatre should not
perform Marcel Pagnol. And the Marriage of Figaro would
still have some truly brilliant parts. But all that is too dead and
what makes the Theatre, and his theatre (Vitrac's), is some
thing which he does not admit. I can understand his resent
ment, but not his reasoning. He has no right to be angry with

[Paris, 2 5 November, 1 92 9 ] 74

It is more than strange, it is extraordinary that you should

have been told about the Theatre de Belleville because, to give
some reason for performing a melodrama today, I said to my
self : since so much is being said about people and effectiveness,
what effects people in drama composed of almost ritual situa
tions. Nothing could prevent us from giving Trente ans ou la
vie d'un joueur15 at the Theatre de Belleville.
That is what I have been thinking about in the last few days.
And this is what I suggest to Vitrac. We will not begin with the
Monk,16 which nobody has heard of, which would have to be
rewritten from the beginning to end and made.
We will begin with a play known as Trente ans etc., and we
will advertise it as a popular play presented as a special perform
ance by the Jarry Theatre. If high society wants to see it, it
will go to Belleville . That could create incredible snob value,
and, if we have an agreement with this theatre for several plays,
Vitrac will have the security of a repertory in which he knows
that his play will head the bill after the first night of the special
And in the brochure we will say that this play is only one
of the aspects of our movement and that we want to prove that
the popular and non-intellectual is human and that that is
My regards to Vitrac.
Best wishes,
P.S. Of course you can read him this letter.
1 42

[Paris] 1 6 March, 1 930'7

Dear friend,
We must see each other one of these evenings. I have a great
deal to tell you. I know that the brochure78 made a very bad
impression on all those who do not forgive past insults. And
yet the humerous tone of my letters should have shown with
what little ill-feeling I recall the past. Nevertheless, it is a false
step, and all that means so little to me that I have decided not
to bother any more about anything. The A. Jarry Theatre
brought me bad luck and I do not want it to make me quarrel
with the few friends I have left.
A sentence in your letter struck me : ' You should be sur
prised to have friends and not enemies.' I am surprised and I
admire their constancy, but I feel the full injustice of the hos
tility which rose against me at one point and which has never
ceased since. We should discuss this at greater length, heart to
Will you give me an appointment, preferably for one of
these evenings, as soon as you return.
Ever Yours,
Antonin Artaud

1 78, Quai d' Auteuil. XVI

1 43

23 March, 1 930

Dear friend,
Last time I saw you I mentioned a scenario which I was
about to film. 79 As time goes by the means and possibilities of
filming it grow remote. I have now given up ever filming it. It
would nevertheless be fairly important to me to have it made
known so that the few innovations which it might contain
should not be wasted.
I am sending it to you. If you think it publishable I will be
pleased. But in all events I will be most grateful to you if you
do not show it to anybody before it has been published.
I beg you to keep it absolutely secret until some decision has
been reached. I have serious reasons for asking this and I send
it to you in confidence.
I am your sincere friend,
Antonin Artaud
1 78 Quai d' Auteuil, XVI

P .S. If it seems to you [ J8 I would like to add a few lines.

Ever yours,
A. A.

1 44

Dear friend,
Here is the note. 8 1
I attach great importance to the publication of this scenario,
but to have its full efject it should appear very soon.
It is not possible for me.
It is so short.
Ever yours,
A. Artaud

1 45

6 June, 1 9308 2

Dear friend,
I have been traipsing round in search of work all afternoon.
I was very badly received by the first company, then better by
others. It must be said that I knew the people personally. This
is what I think you could say to Marinetti : 8 3
' Some time ago I mentioned a friend of ours to you : Mon
sieur Antonin Artaud of whom you have read certain vaguely
surrealist pieces, including L' Ombilic des limbes.
' I do not know if I told you that Monsieur Antonin Artaud
is also a cinema and theatre actor. I should imagine you saw
Abel Gance's Napoleon in Italy in which Monsieur Artaud
played Marat, and maybe Carl Dreyer's St. Joan in which
Monsieur Artaud played the young monk defending St. Joan,
Massieu. He also played the Intellectual in Leon Poirier's
Verdun and several other parts in numerous films like M.
L'Herbier's L' Argent, Raymond Bernard's Tarakanova, etc.,
' I know that Italy is making a great effort in the cinema at
the moment ; and that the Societa Pittaluza, amongst others,
has just restored its studios in order to produce talking and
sound-tracked pictures in several languages. In my opinion this
company would be well advised to use actors who have already
been classified by their performances in this country for the
French versions of its films. Monsieur Antonin Artaud is one
of them. And you know that besides his gifts as a writer he has
experimented in theatrical production and has directed four
1 46
plays since 1 92 7 under the name of the Alfred Jarry Theatre.
'I enclose some photographs which will give you an idea of
the clear and forceful style, and the thrilling and highly modem
effects which he has introduced onto the stage. Some of these
photographs illustrated his attempts at making a short experi
mental film taken from the fantastic English novel The Monk
by G. Lewis. There is no point in my emphasising the difficul
ties which Monsieur Artaud has met with in trying to impose
his ideas in Paris. And Doctor Allendy and I would be very
grateful to you if you could allow Monsieur Antonin Artaud
to interpret any eccentric character parts in the French ver
sions of films soon to be made in Rome. Once he is there Mon
sieur Antonin Artaud will be able to tell you about his ideas on
the talking or sound-tracked picture. And it might even be
possible to let him make a few short films of a sharp and com
pact interest .
' Yours etc.

' P.S. The enclosed documents will give you an immediate

idea of the feeling he could introduce into a film and of cer
tain lighting processes of his own invention which give the
movements and general ambiance a sort of psychic quality
which reveals all the secrets of the unconscious. '

Here, dear friend, is a rough idea of what I think you could

say. I enclose the documents, but I am most eager that this
letter should be posted tonight. Please forgive me for the trouble
I am causing you and thank you again ; please believe in my
sincere friendship.
My affectionate regards to the Doctor,
Antonin Artaud

1 47

Berlin, 1 2 July [ 1 930] 8'

Dear doctor and friend,

I have already written to Ruttmann about the scenario. But
I must be more specific about my relations with Pathe-Nathan.
I simply sent a letter to one of the directors pointing out that I
have several scenarios which might be filmed, and in reply I
received a letter asking me to send the scenarios together with
a printed questionaire asking me my name and qualifications,
and which director I had in mind. Opposite this last question
I put Walter Ruttman for the scenario of Thirty-two. That is
all. That does not mean that things are very far advanced. My
health continues to cause me every possible difficulty. The op
pression in my neck is always crushing whenever I want to get
down to work. Besides, I have no desire to work. It is with the
greatest diffi culty that I do what I have to do at the Studio,
which is no fun, and the difficulty is aggravated by the disap
pearance of elementry reflexes which in my profession is most
inconvenient. It is much later that you realise that you have
not done such a thing which circumstances required and that
you have not had such and such a reaction but have remained
motionless when, in a normal state, you would have jumped.
And when you become aware of this profound inertia that
weighs you down, you feel a powerful and complete physical
indifference which goes as far as forgetting what you could have
There are plenty of homeopathical chemists here. Maybe
you could suggest a medicine which would reduce these symp-
1 48
toms, if you can think of one. I saw Professor Sachs who sent
me to the great German director G. W. Pabst. He seemed to
take an interest in me and I must see him again to talk at
greater length, he said. I also saw Monsieur Raffaelo Busoni
who is a very attractive man indeed and a painter of some
talent, even if rather classical. I missed an appointment with
him at which I was to have met an important politician and a
well-known journalist, because of the cinema, but I have been
invited again on Monday evening.
If I were not permanently tortured by my headache I would
enjoy Berlin enormously : it is an astonishingly luxurious and
amazingly licentious town. I am constantly staggered by what
I see. They carry their obsession with eroticism everywhere,
even in the shop windows where all the mannequins stretch out
their stomachs. Apart from that, gold, red, green and black, and
mauve lighting. There are streams of food and everywhere one
sees images of cakes with cream and ices loaded with fruit. On
the other hand the coffee is undrinkable and the tobacco un
smokeable. On the whole the Germans are gentle, polite ob
sequious, nervous and sometimes a little servile. I occasionally
come across soldiers of the Reichswehr who cast withering
glances at me and mutter that I am French without my even
opening my mouth.
There is an extraordinary building called the Vaterland
and Paris has nothing like it. It is a sort of entertainment
palace on five floors with one or two cafe-restaurants on every
floor, each representing a different country, and at the end of
the cafe is a stage landscape, in relief, showing the Bosphorous
(in the Turkish cafe), the mountains of the Tyrol, Vienna,
Spain, Hungary, America. And in each local drinks and dishes
are served. The most amazing one of all is the Rhine cafe
which has a view of the Rhine and its castles over a sort of
balustrade. And suddenly the sky clouds over, thunder rolls, it
grows dark, and rain pours down in lighting representing
lightening and a storm entirely realistically. And the thunder
is nothing like stage thunder. The slightest rumble is heard
with meticulous precision. It is incredible.
1 49
When I started this letter I did not realise it would be so
long. I had to break off this morning somewhere near the
second page because of the ghastly pains I felt, but this even
ing I am a little better.
Please send my regards to Madame Allendy. My best
Antonin Artaud
Passauer Strasse 1 o, Berlin

P.S. I am writing at the same time to Pathe-Nathan saying

that Walter Ruttmann has already chosen an actress in the
event of the film being made, Madamoiselle Athanasiou
something which I did not specify the first time.

[Around 3 January, 1 93 1 ] 8 G

P.S. You are a friend of E. Pamer ; he is going to make

several detective films. He gave me an audition for one of these
films and then I heard no more. In Berlin you said I should
consider you a friend. So as a friend I beg you to put in a word
for me with E. Pamer and tell him that the profundity of my
character, my career as a writer, my temperament, and the
physical suffering I have endured, still more than my physical
appearance, make me particularly qualified for certain anguish
ing parts and give me, I believe, special rights to them. It is not
fair that some young star who has never seen the hard side of
life should be chosen instead of me.
Tell him this in the way I mean it and I will be eternally
grateful to you.

Paris, ll February, 1 93 1 86

My dear Vitrac,
I do not understand your play ; I do not even recognise it.
This sort of lapse of interest at the end of the second act
amazes me. For me, at this point the play is ended, almost
against the will of the characters-and, I should think, of the
spectators, who will not get over seeing things cut short. Re
member that I am not standing as a censor (you can interpret
this term any way you like), nor even as a critic. I am simply
giving you my view and telling you of my disappointment and
surprise. It looks as though you were in a hurry to get it over
and put an end to everything, in any way. And this is all the
worse (in my opinion) since one has the distinct feeling that the
characters are at their wits' end and that you confined them in
spite of themselves. You always have the right (because I do
not want you to think I have not understood your intention,
your point of view)--you always have the right not to impose
unity of interest on your play, not to limit us to one situation
or one story. But it seems to me that until the end of the second
act the whole play was going to be enacted on the premisses set
at the beginning of the first scene of that act, and one is
rather surprised by the sudden collapse of an intrigue which
seemed so well organised. You can of course have ten intrigues
in one play and there is no rule, but as far as that particular
intrigue is concerned, one sees through it too quickly and it
looks like a joke. You will retort that it is a joke, but then it does
not seem intentional. One simply feels that the author has run
1 52
out of breath. There is too much real mystery, the characters
are drawn too boldly, to brutally, too strikingly for things to be
suddenly cut short. And that which comes out of their comings
and goings, their appearance, their character, is too slender,
too slim. One feels one is losing the thread. And until the end
of the second act one is still really waiting for the real play,
heralded by all these movements. It all looks like an enormous
exposition. The three scenes seem to announce a play that
never comes. Anyhow, after the general explosion at the end of
the first act-which is splendid-<me expects surprising events,
one wonders what that ' genius ' whom the midwife announces
is going to do, and it seems to me that after that he no longer
has the right (in view of the play itself, its atmosphere, its
spirit, its movement) to be merely facetious. In short one ex
pects some action, not because everything has to have action,
but because this play, by the way in which it evolves, attracts
the attention and demands violent, powerful action. After the
first act, the spectator's faculties are aroused to their highest
pitch. He only wishes to use them. And indeed, strange charac
ters arrive, move, show their faults, emerge surprisingly, but do
not act. The whole play is a multiple depiction of characters lit
by a curious light, but these characters remain unused. All this,
as it is, is really valid, but to justify this means of proceeding
there should be twenty acts which can explain this sort of
failure of the intrigue by putting it on its real level, that is to say
by mixing it with numerous other intrigues of which this par
ticular one, broached in this way, would only be an example.
I am not picking a quarrel with you, nor am I trying to ex
cuse myself. I deplore the regression of this play which collap
ses after the first act.
You can of course follow Chekhov's example, but it seems to
me that Chekhov regulated the interest, above all that he regu
lated the emphasis. I believe that in the theatre there is a unity
of tone, or at least a unity of attention to which one must con
form. I am no school-master. You know that as well as I do,
but maybe, as an author, it is far less easy for you than for me
to judge your play objectively, and I therefore take the liberty
1 53
of pointing out what seems to me a sort of fault of construc
tion. Besides, you can do what you like with my remarks and I
am almost sure that you will take no notice of them ; but
1 . I do not think I am wrong,
2 . I would always think twice before presenting a play con
structed in that way,
3. I do not like Chekhov and I do not regard Chekhov as
theatre, at least not as the theatre we are waiting for, which we
are striving towards.
Anyhow, one can use the stage to do anything ; without
writing what is called a play one can stitch together, as in your
play, a certain number of situations which revolve round a
certain number of characters. And the characters have always
got the right to send us home after the curtain has fallen with
out having revealed their depths. And this can contribute a
valid play, which I will always stage even if it is not up my
street, but on condition that I do not have the impression that
the author, as in this case, has suddenly dried up. This is what
I wanted to tell you. Even in this state, and provided that the
last act arrives, I will stage the play and stick up for it, but I
fear that the fault I have pointed out may affect its reception.
Besides, where is the last act? How far have you got? What
has become of the play? Why don't you send me the end?
We have now reached the time set by Berlin to resume negoti
ations.87 I cannot resume them if I am not sure of having a
complete play to present. Besides, I am sure that as it stands,
and whatever the faults of its construction, the almost super
natural atmosphere which pervades it from beginning to end,
with these characters drawn in incisive lines which hit us
broadside on, makes your play striking and unusual, and I am
sure that the mere pleasure of seeing the characters develop
makes it worth staging. But once again, I need a complete play.
And I impatiently await the end.
Can I rely on it soon?
Yours ever,
Antonin Artaud

1 54

Paris, 1 5 April, 1 9 3 1

Dear Sir,
If the Alfred Jarry Theatre is no more, I, unfortunately for
me, am still alive, and am in an awkward situation. I am in
urgent need of work and I thought that you could not not give
me a hand. You can see from my film performances what parts
you could give me without running any risks, but I expect
something else from you.
You know about my attempts at directing from having
severely criticised them ! Think what you like about them, they
were trying to express a modern mentality similar to the one I
express in my writing. This mentality exists ; it has dominated,
nourished all literature for the past ten years. I am not asking
you for the means to stage a play in your theatre which has
been censored by modem ideas. I am asking you to give me a
chance to practise my activity as director in your theatre in a
limited field. And this is how it seems practical and possible to
me. I do not aspire to working for you as stage manager, I can
already see the smile of derision, the shrug of your shoulders at
the mere idea. I need to eat ; my inactivity oppresses me and it
seems faintly monstrous to me to be restricted to the position of
a mere performer. I will accept the parts which people are kind
enough to give me, but I am also sure that if you look hard,
with a little good will, you will find an interesting job for me
in your theatre. You could use me to polish up productions and
to edit the plays. Then, I may be able to make some remarks at
the rehearsals which would prove useful, exert some critical
1 55
faculties which might contribute to the perfection of a work.
Mere suggestions. With this purpose, and to show you what I
can do, I am sending you :
( a) a production project for Strindberg's Ghost Sonata.
(b) a short talking pantomime.ss This pantomime, which has
already been sold to someone, does not really belong to me any
more, although I wrote it, but it is unpublished and is in search
of a stage. I think it gives a fairly accurate idea of my idea, not
of the pantomime but of the theatre. I think it would be a
good curtain raiser.
I await your reply and hope that you will consider my de
mand. Yours very sincerely,
Antonin Artaud
45 , rue Pigalle, Hotel Saint-Charles.

P.S. Please read the projects submitted to you attentively

and reply according to the impression they made on you.
You must understand the spirit in which I am writing to you.
I would just like you to give me a hand, to let me indulge in an
activity which I do not consider totally uninteresting, to prac
tise it, and, if you think that I have something to say, to let me
begin to stammer it. I am far more accommodating than people
say and I only want to hear myself, and I would finally like you
to believe in the urgency of the assistance which I require. In
any case, thank you.

Paris, 2 7 April, I 93 I 8 9

Dear Sir,
At our last meeting you mentioned your plan to expand dur
ing the next season. Although I did not exactly have the impres
sion that you wanted to take me on I am sending you a second
production plan,90 for a modem play,91 this time.
Even your repertory proves that you are trying to concen
trate on a modem school of theatre.92 And yet all the plays
which you have performed so far remain within certain limits
and conform to a certain view, a certain tradition. You obvi
ously agree with me, as everybody today does, that one can go
further, that the real theatre we are all waiting for implies a
complete reversal of standard, structure and orientation, that
its centre of gravity is elsewhere. And it seems to me that, how
ever little you enlarge your repertory, you should add other
plays to your conventional plays, plays which are more reso
lutely, more essentially revolutionary.93 This can only be done
if you have entirely reliable productions to support these plays.
But there is no reason why plays which are revolutionary in my
sense of the word should not become reliable, because they will
suddenly appear as the only plays which conform to the new
visual angle of a public starved of novelty and the unexpec
ted. 94 The modem theatre is waiting for its form in accordance
with the moral, intellectual and sentimental perspectives of the
time. However little we succeed in providing it,95 the public
will never want another one. In short, my theory is that it is
very cunning to be revolutionary nowadays : it is the only way
1 57
of becoming commercial ! ! !
I am not sending you the play on which my project is based
as an example of this type of theatre. It only shows one side of
the theatre which we are hoping for, but which in my opinion
should be far freer intellectually, and more liberated morally,
physically and in every sense.
Cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud
45, rue Pigalle.

Paris, 2 9 April, 1 93 1

Dear Sir,
I enclose the second project which I mentioned to you.96
Some newspapers say-so I am not being indiscreet if I
mention it to you-that you are thinking of directing the
Theatre Pigalle in the next season.
I apologise for importuning you so often and at such length,
but I want to specify a certain number of points. You must
realise that this instability, this irregularity which is held
against me is only the result of the instability and irregularity
of a life which has not accomplished its purpose. I am far less
mad than people think ; I will no longer be at all mad when I
have some important responsibilities and find myself able to
deploy all my activity in an interesting direction.
I felt, and I may be wrong, that you thought the idea of ask
ing me to collaborate with you was faintly absurd. The few
prejudices you may have would not survive the shortest test.
I would work with you without any reservations, entirely on
your side. Finally, I hope that you do not judge me by the im
provised performances at the Alfred Jarry Theatre : you know
better than I do how indirect staging is and how much one is
1 first by the actors

2 . then by circumstances.
And I can say that I was betrayed as much as one can be.
The theatre can stand improvisation less than anything else, un
less it has trained improvisers ready for everything,97 which was
1 59
certainly not the case.
Finally, whether it be good or bad, I am bringing the theatre
a new point of view. I have the impression that the public is
fed up, that they need a change and that the only way to
bring it back to the theatre is to invent plastically, physically
and psychologically an unexpected form which grips them, but
which is itself based on the oldest theatrical tradition.
I would like it to be you who enables me to find my way
and I dare to say that it will be in your interest.
Very cordially yours,
Ant. Artaud

1 60
(Draft of letter)98

Sunday, 3 May

I am preparing a film on sorcery and the occult sciences. My
aim is to give visual proof of the acts and manifestations of
sorcery at the present time, to show how occultism proves its
existence physically and, how it conveys itself to the mob and
to others.
I show what the practice of higher sciences has come to in
our modern world and above all the elements of these sciences
which have passed into the treatment of disease.
So there are two films to be made,
1 . one about pure sorcery
2 . the other showing the scientific and physically accessible
aspect of this ancient sorcery.
The scenario is ready, a business deal is being negotiated, and
production companies have been informed. And I can see a
way of bringing in a speaker who would be a man occupying
an important position in our world of science and letters, with
an interest in the occult sciences. I believe this matter might
interest you. Your opinion would interest me. I would like to
see you and hear your suggestions. Talk to you about all I have
May I make an appointment?
Yours etc.,
Ant. Artaud
45 , rue Pigalle, E.V.

Rheims, 26 June, I 93 I

Dear Sir,
Two months ago you did not seem to reject the idea of col
laborating with me in at least some of the plays which you in
tend to stage in the course of the next season. Your decision
was to depend on the success or conclusion of certain plans. I
am at the moment on the point of signing a long term contract
with Pathe-Nathan. A contract which would tie me down com
pletely for about a year. I will only sign this contract, which is
very profitable to me financially, if I have to give up all hopes
of indulging in an activity of far greater interest to me than
the profession of a film actor which is devoid of all personal
initiative !
I think I have something to say about the stage, something
absolutely personal, like a modem painter who contributes his
own formula to other living formulae. And I believe that the
public is unconsciously waiting for something from the theatre
which painting, music and poetry have already provided. No
modern play, of the plays by young playwrights with the pos
sible exception of Salacrou (and then only occasionally, fleet
ingly) gives the stage the equivalent of Chirico, say, or of any
other painter in the most modern style. I also admit that this
is as much a question of general tendency as of personality.
I wrote you two rather theoretical letters to express some
thing very simple : I have the feeling that it would be in your
1 62
interest to give other procedures, inspired by modern tenden
cies, a chance to express themselves next to the solid plays per
formed according to established methods of production.
I hope to hear from you soon, and I remain yours sincerely,

Antonin Artaud
(Draft of letter)99

Paris, 1 4 July, 1 93 1


Dear friend,
I am still wondering about the point of your objection con-
cerning the intervention of the notion of duality in [ J.
And yet you agree with me in thinking that the sort of mani
festo which we must draw up together to explain the aims of
the theatre should be based on absolutely concrete objectives,
should depart from the present situation of the theatre in
France and Europe, and should say, for instance, that :
to the state of organic degeneration in which the French

theatre has been struggling since the war, a sort of industrial
crisis has been added of late which has just forced a large
number of theatres in Paris to close prematurely.
However, the fact that a certain number of cinemas should
continue to play to full houses is most significant for the future
of French theatre. We do not believe that the relatively low
prices of the cinema are enough to explain this sudden lapse of
public interest in the theatre and sudden dislike of a form of ex
pression for which the public once felt, especially in moments
of crisis, a need comparable to that for provisions of prime
necessity. It seems, however, that the taste for the theatre of
that part of the public which only went to a theatrical per
formance in search of relaxation of a purely digestive order,
finds the requisite satisfaction in the cinema. Because if we
can see that the theatre, as it is used in France today, is in-
1 64
ferior to any film, however banal, we cannot see how it can
manifest its superiority either in the intellectual sphere or from
the point of view of the spectacle. Besides, the audience which
walks out of all theatres where literally pretentious plays of
dubious psychological merit survive, does justice to something
which has long been out of date.
It the theatre is made to condense a system of life, if it has
to constitute the heroic synthesis of the epoch in which it was
conceived, if it can be defined as the concrete residue and the
reflection of the customs and habits of an epoch, it is certain
that the cinema gives us a dynamic and complete image of
modern life in its most varied aspects which the theatre comes
nowhere near.
The stage as it has been used not only in France, but in the
whole of Europe for over a century is limited to the psychologi
cal and spoken depiction of the individual. All the specifically
theatrical means of expression have gradually made way for
the text which absorbed the action to such an extent that one
finally saw the entire theatrical spectacle reduced to a single
person soliloquising in front of a screen.
The concept, however valid it may be in itself, consecrates,
for the western mind, the supremacy of the articulated lan
guage which is more precise and more abstract, over every
other. And its unexpected result was to make that art of images,
the cinema, a substitute for the spoken theatre !
If the cinema won the first round in its competition with the
theatre, it seems to have lost the second. But it is not as if the
theatre, now become irremediably passive, had drawn from
this state of affairs a life which it had long lost.
And yet, while French theatre seems unable to escape from
a stuffy room and never exceed the interest of a court session,
an effort was made in certain European countries before the
war, (and particularly in Germany), and in Russia since the
war to restore a lost lustre to theatrical production. The Bal
lets Russes have returned the feeling of colour to the stage. And
from now on, when we stage a play, we will have to reckon
with the necessity of visual harmony, just as, after Piscator, we
1 65
have to reckon with the dynamic and plastic necessity of move
ment, just as, after Meyerhold and Appia, we have to reckon
with an architectural concept of decor used not only in depth
but also in height, and employing masses and volumes instead
of flat surfaces and trompe-l'oeil.
According to the psychological concept, to the old classical
concept of the theatre de moeurs and the theatre de caractere,
man was studied inertly, almost photographically, he was dead
from the start, anti-heroic by definition, and was observed
with his passions in an everyday setting so that every play was
like a game of chess or psychological construction and only
managed to give us a desolate and flat image of reality ; and
when, through some innovation, the usual concept of man cast
in a simple mould, acting by thrusts and jerks, was succeeded
by a scattered and multiform concept of man divided into a
gallery of mirrors, as in the masterpieces of Pirandello, we left
the court of summary justice, or at least the assize court, for
the psychoanalyst's consulting room and descended a step in
our psychological and demoralising experience of man, who re
mained the man of everyday, whatever monsters he produced
and kept company with. Since then the only really theatrical ex
periment was performed in Russia, during the Revolution, in
an attempt to make a theatre of action and of the masses suc
ceed to this concept of man in ecstacy before his personal mon

An epoch of the theatre is closed, and we do [not] 1 0 1 think

we should waste our time condemning a tradition already con
demned by events.
In as far as the theatre is [ ] 1 0 2 the cinema has taken
its place.

It is now time for a theatre which . . .

It is possible that the cinema contains poetry, but

I . most of the time the industrial necessities will force the
cinema to reject it ;
1 66
2 . when it does exist it can never be put on a level with the
theatre physiologically, naturally or mechanically ;
3 . coarse, without magnetism ; it is wrong to talk about the
mechanism of images.

Sunday, 2 August

Dear friend,
I would like to remind you that we were to meet on your re
turn at the end of July.
I am determined, or tenacious, because I feel that I have
something to say. And what I have always considered a sort of
impermeability of the theatrical world against all that does not
strictly belong to it, what I have always thought of the virtual
usel<:,SS11ess of the wol"d which is no longer the vehicle but the
link of thought, of the vanity of our sentimental or psycho

logical preoccupations in the theatrical field ,, of the necessity
for the theatre to represent some of the strange aspects of the
unconscious in depth and perceptive, in hieroglyphic move
ments which are disinterested, entirely new constructions of
the mind, all this fulfilled and represented by the amazing per
formances of the Balinese Theatre, which is a fine snub to our
idea of the theatre. I would like to talk to you about this and
many other things in the hope that our collaboration turns into
more than a few hurried conversations about the theatre with
references to the play you are about to stage.
I am not a man for money and once my life is assured, the
rest is indifferent to me.
Cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud
58, rue La Bruyere, Paris IX.

1 68

Thouars, 2 7 August, '3 1

In view of the impossibility of obtaining any sort of reply to
my proposals, I must ask you to send me back the manuscripts :
production projects, dramatic pantomime, etc., which I en
trusted to you.
When I have taken the trouble to send someone even an out
line of my ideas, I am not prepared to let them go without a
reply and without discussing them. I have been accustomed to
better treatment in recent years in the French literary world,
and even in the cinema. Besides, I am just about to realise the
plans, which I could not realise with you, elsewhere, and it will
be to your loss. The theatre is not the coarse product of a stu
dious artisan which you make it, the product of a geometer of
skins which leaves all else unexplored. It will develop along the
lines which I suggest. It will get there with or without me.
Yours faithfully,
Antonin Artaud
5 8 , rue La Bruyere, Paris IX

Thursday evening
1 7 September, 1 93 1

Dear friend,
What I want to say to you, now, urgently, can be said in a
few words, and I prefer to say it in writing so that you can
think it over at leisure and give me a fully considered reply
when me meet. So, without being able to give me a definite
date, you offer me-if the circumstances are propitious-the
chance to stage a play at the Theatre Pigalle, and you cannot
say whether it will be this season or another. That will of course
depend on the success of your next play. So you are prepared to
let me stage a play, you sincerely believe that I would not do
it too badly, but you are not convinced of the necessity of let
ting me prove myself at once. But I think there is some ur
gency. Besides, this is not exactly what I expected from you nor
what I thought you were going to suggest. I am talking as a
friend, as a chum, and my policy is not to be diplomatic but to
say exactly what I think, to reveal the bottom of my heart. I
am sure I am right in thinking that this attitude will appeal to
you and that you will understand me if I express myself
I had gathered that you required assistance in your work,
but I thought you expected precise and immediate assistance
from me which would consist of more than relieving you as
director and directing a play in your theatre some time in the
future. You obviously think I have no reason to refuse. But
what shall I do between now and then? Since nobody is sup-
1 70
porting me I have to think about earning by daily bread. I
can work in the cinema but, contrary to what you think, this
might tie me down for ever. Since I do not know when or how
I shall direct with you I cannot refuse offers from the cinema,
and this might lead me
1 . first to sign long term contracts which would leave me no
liberty by day or night or at times when you might need me,
2 . then to leave the country, as I did last year when I spent
six months in Berlin.
Then, having no contract in Paris, I might have to remain
abroad as I did last year when I was a hair's breadth from
signing on as a stage director in one of the main theatres in
Berlin. What nearly succeeded a year ago might fully succeed
this year. It seems to me that if you want to have me, and it
may be naive of me to think so, you must want to be sure of
my co-operation. And I thought this co-operation could be
effective and continuous. That I could in some way become
your right arm and assist you in all sorts of things : ' Polish up
productions begun by you, read and scout for manuscripts, re
place you at rehearsals which you will be unable to attend, edit
press releases, draw up programmes, adjust the sets and the
lighting in accordance with your own schemes, all jobs giving
me experience of the inner workings of the theatre where you
will then be able to make an effort and get through a great
deal of work, and the small monthly wage which I would get
would be amply earned by my work and the stimulus given
to the theatre. I would even accept a lower figure than the one
I mentioned provided that I am allowed to make ends meet in
my spare time. But I will belong to you completely and will
not have to direct in any other theatres. I have clearly ex
plained my position to you, which is that of a man who lives
by his work alone. I believe that if you really wanted me, it
would be child's play to convince the management of the
Pigalle. But I do not believe you want me, at least not on the
conditions I suggested. That is why I want to know exactly
what you intend, so that I can make my own arrangements.
You suggested that I should offer my services as director to
Paramount, among other companies. In the present state of the
cinema and in view of the present mentality I am the last per
son they would take. Can you see or have you a way of over
coming their resistance and telling Paramount who I am and
what I have done and how far I am to be relied on. Of course,
if I could direct one or two sketches to start with it would be
a temporary solution. But that would mean that the cinema
has changed its pathetic, scandalous direction. And that would
enable me to wait until you need me.
Finally I must again insist on the urgency in experimenting
with theatrical procedures which have never been used on the
French stage, on the urgency of taking the first steps, of taking
priority over what could be done abroad in the same direction.
Everything that seems bloody theoretical as long as one simply
talks about it, seems even more theoretical and gratuitous under
my pen, and even contrary to experience, as long as it has not
been realised. Because there are things which cannot be inter
preted in words, which words betray, and it is at least to give
an idea of future realisation that I would like to work as a
general assistant immediately, before coming to you as a direc
tor, so that you can judge the work to come by the details. Do
not reply. I will come and see you tomorrow, or after the day
after tomorrow evening, and I will ask you to grant me an hour.
I do not think you will regret it.
Yours ever,
Antonin Artaud

Forgive this interminable scrawl

I could not do otherwise.

[Second half of September l 93 l ]

Monday evening

Dear friend,
I shall call for you on Wednesday evening at about 1 2 .30
at the cafe opposite the Theatre Pigalle. I hope you will be
free and that we shall be able to have a talk. I now need defi
nite news-in as far as you can give it to me--either about
what you can do, or about what you cannot do, so as to be able
to make my own arrangements and take some important de
Yours ever,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. If you would prefer another evening, please let me

know. If I hear nothing to the contrary I shall come on Wed

1 73

Paris, 23 September, 1 93 1

Very dear friend,

One of these days I hope to open a school of dramatic and
cinematographic art. I shall teach in the lecture room of Edi
tions Denoel et Steele, l g rue Amelie.
Do you think you can send me students?
In any case, I hope you can mention it to your acquain
tances and print a short note about it in the N.R.F. It is enough
to say that Antonin Artaud is going to give lessons in dramatic
and cinematographic art. That is part of a whole plan of ac
tion. So you see that these lessons will have more than a merely
didactic interest and I think they will interest many beginners.
Could this note appear in the next no. ? I shall go on my
own to the publicity department of the N.R.F. to see if they
can give me a small space for the same purpose, at a cheap
If you are back I shall come to see you soon. I am longing
to see you again.
Your devoted friend,
Antonin Artaud
58, rue La Bruyere.

P.S. It will be enough for the prospective students to send

me a note at r g rue Amelie, care of Denoel & Steele, or at my
Thank you and forgive me.

1 74

[Around 1 5 October, 1 93 1 ]
Thursday evening

Dear friend,
When could you see me? I mean, let me have an hour of
your time? I will not ask you that before the first night of
Judith.104 But afterwards ! I have a play which I would like to
read to you, not to show you its beauty, which would be ab
surd, but so that you can hear my interpretation, to show you
my personal note. Nothing exists at present in the theatre
seems to be more urgent than to perform this play.1 0 5-Let
alone the perversion, the more or less advanced squalor of this
age, just consider the painfully human sound of this play, the
echoes like cries in a cavern or a dream. No man, at any period,
is unaffected by the workings of his unconscious. Why not let
me stage this play at the Theatre Pigalle? Even if Judith is a
success. That would make two of them if I am allowed the time
to work as I wish. That would not raise the expenses of the
Theatre Pigalle excessively, since you have the company. If
there is a difference of a few thousand francs for the sets I may
be able to find them.
Very cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. Has the Theatre Pigalle really accepted Le Roi des

Enfants100 and what sort of success can it expect?
I do not understand!

1 75

Tuesday evening
20 October, 1 93 1

Dear friend,
Why not leave me the manuscript of Roi des Enfants a little
longer? My personal opinion of the value of this play matters
as little as the prognosis of success which I might give. I simply
wanted to know if this play was definitely going to be per
formed, and if you, Louis Jouvet, were personally counting on
a successful performance, and what sort of success you expect. I

also wanted to know if the date of the performance was settled.

All this so as not to do something useless. Having said this, and
if you sincerely think that I can be of use to you in anything, I
ask nothing better, regardless of whether or not the play is per
formed, to get down to work and let you have all my personal
suggestions regarding it. I shall write a sort of report, as com
plete as possible, and you can use it as you like.
I think you will agree that there is no performable play, how
ever good, which cannot be improved and even remade by a
skilful production. But I believe a production to be a question
of writing, which can be done on paper. But the distinctive
quality of the theatre is that it cannot be contained in words or
even in sketches. A production is made before the stage. And
either one is a man of the theatre or one is not. It seems to me
impossible to describe a movement, a gesture, or above all a
theatrical intonation if one does not make them. To describe
a production verbally or graphically is to try and make a sketch
of a type of pain, for example. The production plans for The
1 76
Ghost Sonata and Le Coup de Trafa/,gar, which seemed rather
literary to you, seemed to me to be the maximum of what can
be written and described if one limits oneself to the language of
words. The same words trying to describe a gesture, the sound
of a voice, can be seen and heard on the stage in ten thousand
different ways. All this is incommunicable and has to be in the
flesh. The idea of the theatrical apparatus which I could give
you is only valid by the way in which it is furnished with move
ments, gestures, whispers and cries. I have an idea for a whole
aural and visual technique which can only be described by
volumes filled with verbal ratiocinations all revolving round the
same point recaptured hundreds of times. All this would be
useless if a single real intonation were to fulfil the same pur
pose instantaneously. Which means that the suggestions I could
make would only be valid if I were enabled to direct the play
materially, objectively. I see the production reduced to a few
indispensable and significant objects and props, always with a
certain number of floors or levels, the dimensions and perspec
tives of which form part of the architecture of the decor. I see
these levels or floors as part of a quality of light which is for
me the main element of the scenic world. But I also see the
pitch of the voices and the extent of the intonations which also
constitute types of floors, and in any case a concrete element as
important as the decor or the luminous pitch. All this with
movements, gestures, expressions regulated with the same
severity as the movements of a ballet. For me it is this severity,
attached to every possible form of expression on the stage,
which is the theatre, while in European theatre only the
text counts, if anything. As well as this truly paradoxical idea
taken from Diderot, that the actor on the stage does not really
feel what he says, that he retains complete control over his
acts, and that he can act and think about something else at the
same time : about his chicken and his soup.-1 would have
more to say about that, but I shall stop. All this will be the
subject of a lecture on the theatre which I am going to give at
the Sorbonne together with the reading of a play. I would like
you to read my article on the Balinese Theatre1 0 7 in the
1 77
Nouvelle Revue Franfais of October and discu it with me. I
am honestly at your disposal and quite prepared to do anything
you want about Le Roi des En/ants. I ask nothing better than
to work at it very meticulously. I am no longer in a position to
refuse work, since I no longer want to work in the cinema, as
an actor, and I must even beg you to give me a chance to
Cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud
58, rue La Bruyere, Paris IX

[ 1 93 1 ]
Tuesday evening

Dear friend,
Saturday will be fine. I shall call for Groethuysen at 6.oo.
Thank you for the news. Between now and then I hope to
work something out. Besides, I hope that apart from Wozzeck
either Dullin or Jouvet will be able to use me in some way
agreeable to me. All that you do for me from the material
point of view moves me very deeply.
I saw the other Marx Brothers film, which was astonishing
and significant.
I hope to see this one and if nobody has promised you some
thing on it I shall try and write an article ;10 8 I shall tell you
about that when I have seen it.
Yours ever,
Antonin Artaud

1 79
(Draft of letter)19

[December 1 93 1 ]

My dear Boverio,
I did not come and see you after the performance because I
did not want to bother you, and not because of the appalling
impression Obey's wretched work110 made on me. It is not the
nationalism of it that disgusts me, but the silly and primitive
way in which it expresses itself. Nationalism is an attitude that
must be defended with tongs of iron and not with sticks of
marshmallow, and I am prepared to appreciate a sinister and
ghastly patriotism. It can be defended humanly. But not this
nationalism of church mice and missals, with these stupid
litanies to generals, and this Camaval prostitute, this Goddess
Reason clothed as Lady France, and who represents the Repub
lican image of France.
The wicked thing about the play is that it is admirable
theatrically, and just when one is ready to get up and shout in
disgust something concrete and plastic, something which is
rediscovered and renewed dramatic art, suddenly grips your
entrails and silences you out of respect for the actors. Yes, at
moments one feels the breath of true theatre pass over and that
is very important.
If the N.R.F. has not yet published anything on Les
Quinz,111 I am prepared to write an article either on your last
play or on all your plays. Let me know at once.
Salacrou has undoubtedly used certain elements of Vitrac's
play Le Coup de Trafalgar which he arranged in his own way,
1 80
just as certain as stage devices in his play112 are influenced by
the Alfred Jarry Theatre. There can be no doubt about it. If
I see you I shall be more specific and I think you will agree
with me.
You are excellent as the Messenger, needless to say.
Ant. Artaud

P.S. I have remembered the exact terms of your colleague's

I notice it as a good example of a review which misses the
He accuses me of having used a certain surrealist process
which, according to him, I had not quite understood ; but I
invented this surrealist process at the same time and in the
same way as the other surrealists, and it was after reading my
writings that the others asked me to join them and contribute
to the R.S. where these writings first appeared and from which
I later retracted them.
As much as I am prepared to appreciate the criticism of a
writer who has proved himself, I cannot take into consideration
the attack of an amateur critic who loses his literary virginity
by criticising. I insist on this point since I hate injustice, especi
ally when it is dictated by ignorance .
(Draft of letter)113

1 2 December, 1 93 1

Dear Sir,
As you know Monsieur L. Jouvet has just given me the
manuscript of The Tricksters. He did it with your consent so
you will not be surprised to hear from me. I won't tell you what
I think of it ; I don't think anything : I admire it and find it
' stunning ' . It winded me, to put it vulgarly. Finally I find it
like one of those ingenious machines which leave a dominant
impression of dizziness and stupor. Please believe that I am not
exaggerating, but this play seems so powerful to me, intellec
tually speaking, that I am simply frightened of the reactions of
an audience which usually thinks with its penis and not with
its mind.
In your play I like the disdain for the ineradicable whore
dom of women which emerges in almost every line and every
thought of Luckmann when he agrees to ' reveal ' his thoughts.
If women are such whores, if everything to do with love de
pends on the question of Sex, if physical fidelity, like the other
sort of fidelity, is impossible, it is because our age has lost the
sense of the mystical reality of love as, furthermore, of all
reality which is not physical, material and immediately acces
sible to the senses.
In view of this, it is a good idea finally to see a play in which
a man avenges what is inaccessible in love, uses, reduces and
empties a woman on every level on which all that is not in her
physical and sexual domain can reach her, and leaves, having
drained her and annihilated her, with the mysterious image
1 82
which he was able to create. It is a good idea to be dealing for
once with a man who thinks, and who thinks forcefully enough
(whether this man be you or Luckmann) to attack the problem
which he sets, to deduce all the human consequences from it,
to set in all its rigour and to give it the only solution which it
can bear : it is because basically, (but we won't say this too
loudly at the performance), love, a spiritual image, can only
be resolved by the mind, by a sort of second creation which one
keeps and defends.
We won't say this too loudly, or maybe we must say it ex
tremely loudly, because this play can only have a conclusion in
the facts and those who demand one are morons who have not
So we all come to the same conclusion, and I am deeply im
pressed to have found, in a play by you, that for the true Or
thodox Thinker the only way out is madness or the tomb.
And that little supernatural breath on which the play ends
is still perceptible in the middle when Luckmann cannot con
ceal the real anxiety which assails him at the idea that the dead
Agatha, who killed herself, might come and plague him.
This idea that the only way out is in madness or the tomb
may seem rather stupid to you expressed in this way, but since
it is really as banal as it is true, consider that I meant that I
was impressed to see that a sort of metaphysical anxiety was
expressed in your play, by your own methods which are psy
chological, and it is an anxiety which the Jewish people may
have, but which everything of any value in our modern and
Western world possesses to a supreme degree.
I have a great deal more to say about your play.
In any case, you cannot doubt that I understood it. I do
not know where you will find Samuel Luckmann and the others
in Paris because of the infinite psychological subtlety of your
dialogue which demands from the actors a presence of mind of
which few actors here are capable.
I am at your disposal and remain yours sincerely,
Antonin Artaud
Just as absolute poetry is metaphysical in its essence, not be
cause it expresses extreme ideas, but because it is these extreme
ideas, made active once again. It expresses decisive intellectual
states, it takes back this power of dissociation, of disconnec
tion. 114
(Draft of letter)115


Dear Sir,
I am sure that my interpretation will seem false and slightly
ridiculous to you. I saw all that you did not put into your play
and nothing of what you wanted to put into it. I think that
your success will be due to the fact that if Luckmann cheats,
he cheats so well that after the play is over his mind still re
mains an enigma.
Yes, but does he cheat?
And in this sort of systematic, unbridled lie, is there not an
element of the unconscious, of suggestion, is there not basically
always the same desire to throw oneself back into the chimera,
the illusion, unreality, etc., etc., and other false exits. The
trickster is he who always changes destiny, hence reality, so he
is a mystic in his way.
You will understand the sort of scruples which make me
write to you as I do. I hope I have not bothered you too much
and believe me cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. Why does he cheat if it is not out of dissatisfaction and

after first cheating himself.
An appallingly just injury from the psychological point of
view, but too hopeless.

1 85
(Draft of letter)116

Monday evening

My Dear V.,
There is one question that presents itself throughout your
play : ' Why has she shaved half her head? ' You reply by tell
ing us what she did with her hair, not for what inner, myster
ious, even mystical reason, if you like, she shaved it (or if this
even mystical reason does not exist, it is insufficiently materia
There is also a further question which presents itself :
' Why did Ark. desert? '
You reply magnificently, not on the level of facts and logic,
but on an inner level, on the level of the mind, by a perfectly
valid and surprisingly intellectual attitude in view of the facts
and reality.
In my opinion, to complete your play, you must give us, on
this same inner and mysterious level, a valid reason for this
half-shaven head, which is then shaved completely.
I am all for the play not ending, and not having its climax
at the end, but it seems to me that if your play is slightly disap
pointing it is not because of the lapse of action, but of the lapse
of tone and of the interest which we have in the characters. It
is right that we should abandon them, detach ourselves from
them, that we should even find them insipid, but not that the
last scene should seem useless and that we should have the im
pression that the atmosphere which prevails in it is not that
which has prevailed throughout the play. In my opinion you
1 86
should alter this scene. It does not need much :
change or add five or six lines, then find a more surprising
explanation of the shaved hair.
I shall come to discuss this with you on Friday.
This is only because of the interest I have in the play, for
which I shall do all I can, if you allow me to.
Yours ever,
(Draft of letter)

1 7 December, 1 93 1

My dear Vitrac,
When you have explained the mystery of the hair in the
transcendant (I insist on this word, however pretentious it may
sound) manner on which we all rely, you will still have to ex
plain, in an equally transcendant but this time more objective
manner, the arrest of Arkade and his appearance as a statue or
a pile of gelatine tumefied by the blows he has received from
the cops. It seems to me that a spoken or written explanation
is enough for the hair, but the error of which Arkade is victim
must not be solely gratuitous, must not remain as gratuitous as
it is at the moment. Because it settles the play. Now, this arrest,
about which you want the spectator to be left in doubt so that
he does not know whether it is justified or not and which he
has to regard as the moral consequence and material punish
ment of Arkade's crimes and his suspicious attitude, this arrest
which solves the play morally, is a conclusion which must also
appear objectively, one must feel the association, feel that it is
in this moral manner that this arrest, which would otherwise
be a gratuitous mistake by the police, is motivated.
It is up to you to work out the details, elements and ob
jective witticisms which put all this into relief and bring out
the morality of the work.
Cordially yours,
Antonin Artaud

1 88
(Draft of letter)

Sunday evening
[2 7 December, 1 93 1 ]

My dear Vitrac,
I have again discussed your play with the Allendys : like me
they think that however small the changes which the explana
tion of your shaved hair may lead to, you must find some
explanation because without it your play is unfinished. But
the explanation of the shaved hair entails another. In your
play there is a natural philosophy of destruction, of which the
morbid and magnetic force is symbolised and synthesised by
the figure of Arkade and the unconscious movement that guides
it all. This movement, like this almost psychological confusion
of barely human beings at one point joins another movement,
just as unconcious but vaster and more universal, which
Arkade also expresses.
On the other hand :
the police mistake of which he is the victim and which can,
in a different way and from a different point of view to that
of the hair, close-
the play,
is only valid if it is motivated not logically, by the facts, but,
one might almost say,
if it appears like a revolt of fate and destiny against Arkade
who never ceases to violate them and who has so far done it un
consciously-<:>r if it is not fate which he violates, but simply
little girls and if he simply does it like a satyr-which would be
1 89
another aspect of his character in relation to the shaved hair,
because it is all connected-it all needs to be padded
And the image of Arkade who lets his beard grow and
covers himself with blue glasses could end up as something
almost sublime and worrying if, in the sadistic atmosphere
which emerges, you manage to find the harmonious side, the
harmonious and musical side of violated music, the melodic
side of the process of intellectual laceration of Sade himself.
I mean, if you manage to make us feel the reason of deep
and melodious harmony for this mystery and these effusions.
It is all connected : 'the shaved hair, (shortened), the blue
glasses and Arkade's long beard'.
It contains profound ideas of mystical balance and com
pensation, if only in the domain of the hairs. But in dreams
there is no such thing as a base domain or symbol. You know
that better than I do.
I swear that my praises have not missed the point. It is by
putting all that on the elevated level which I suggest that you
will make your play into a great play, not arbitrarily, but the
great play that it must be, and maybe if you yourself have
enough lucidity to deduce these consequences which flow
spontaneously and almost mechanically from it.
Antonin Artaud

P.S. I discussed your play again with the Allendys ; they

agree with me that everything can stay as it is and that you
must simply find an explanation for the shaved hair which
does not even need to be real, but which must at all costs be
transcendant and carry us onto an elevated level like that of
desertion. And however small the alterations to which it might
lead, you must find it because otherwise your play is incom
plete ;-and you must not cheat : as long as the explanation
is not up to what it should be the play will remain incomplete.
You are wrong in thinking that the charm of the details,
the humour, the atmosphere will make one forget the absence
1 90
of basis and explanation. Do not forget that this explanation
is the centre of the play.
Besides, this explanation entails another which I shall try
to define. In your play there is a sort of natural philosophy of
destruction. You condemn a whole petit bourgeois world with
its stupidity, its hypocrisy, its faults symbolised by Arkade who
is also a sort of morbid and magnetic synthesis of all the vices
and assaults whose unconscious and guiding movement joins
another far vaster and more universal unconscious movement.
All this seems to be expressed in Arkade's marvellous revolu
tionary tirade. And is obviously not as clear in your play as
I make it out to be, and this is for the best. I am wrong to
reduce all this confusion to such clear and determined terms,
but I am obliged to do so by the necessity of my proof ; because
this is what I wanted to say.

'Aim, explanation of mistake,

mistake, mistake,
of the police.'
(Draft of letter)111

Sunday evening

My dear Rouleau,
You did not ask me, or hardly, for my opinion of your play,
but here it is.
From the beginning to the end there are some good things
in the performance, some very good, successful parts, and
when I say in the performance I mean the acting as well as the
direction. Next to these very good things there are some faults.
A character often stands immobile without his immobility
seeming intentional.
In a word, the play lacks a little life, lacks real movement.
Tania, your wife, is remarkable. She is by far the most
alive, the most genuine and the most sincere of them all and
her part was diffi cult. The little servant under your spell is
good, but her character seemed to me composed rather too
(Draft of letter)118

Monday morning
2 January, 1 93 2
My dear Rouleau,
Your play is full of very good things, of successful parts, the
text is analysed with precision and acuteness, although perhaps
not all its nuances are equally good. Some important touches
seem to be lacking here and there.
Tania is remarkable, human, and very sincere and moving.
The little skivvy under your spell is just right. What she does is
correct and pretty, but maybe a little systematic. That is in
experience. Solange Moret is very good in the poison scene :
she is human and desperate, but somehow not moving. The
rest of her character does not develop with the sharpness
As for you, your part clashes with the others. You act it in a
stylised way totally opposed to the play. At moments I thought
I was seeing the Patrice119 of The Secrets of Love which
has nothing to do with the ultra-realistic play of Bruckner.
Those leaps with arms outstretched, those inhuman cries, those
bounds give him a fantastic and inhuman appearance which
you cannot sustain, because the human, deliberate, calculated
side of the character has nothing to do with this physical
ebriety and the result is something vague and indecisive.
And how can one explain the immobility of the characters
standing bolt upright at moments, indecisive and not knowing
what to do, if not by the inexperience and indecision of the
director who has not known how to make them move and put
them into position.
1 93
Movement is the main thing lacking in this production
movement, animation and life on one side, and a certain
general movement, a central rhythm indispensible for an
understanding of the play, and by which the production would
affirm its existence and the director would show that he has
understood his subject.
This production, successful in its details, is neither synthetic
nor conceived from above.
So the changes of situation, the psychological alterations, the
turns, the transformation of feeling, the shifts of angle are
obscure and not indicated either in the tone or in the move
ment. Inexperience, no doubt, but great inexperience. Because
that is where a director affi rms his personality.
At the point of decay which contemporary theatre has
reached, at this point of ratiocination, of senility where it only
seems able to repeat what others have done before, young
people coming to the stage only have a reason of existence if
they contribute something new, if, by their actions and gestures,
they rise up against their elders instead of following in their
New experiments can only be justified if they are revolution
ary. Now, apart from the play which describes a very common
degree of decay of which we see examples every day in the
minds of the young, at no moment did I find that original,
racy touch in this production, that striking device which would
indicate the presence of a vigorous and reassuring personality.
However sharp, and even subtle, the analysis of feelings may
be in places it does not express itself in sharp gestures, in ex
pressions of a reassuring truth which would give me the im
pression of the novelty and experience, of the unexpected and
the jamais vu which every poetic device which deserves to
survive should have. However that may be, the experiment is
interesting, and, coming from a young and inexperienced
director, it deserves consideration.-But be careful, and you
too consider the events. We live [in] 1 20 a state which is about
to crumble. And the only people to survive are those who will
have given surety to the future in a revolutionary sense. Whose
1 94
works will display a complete and detertnined break with all
theforms of the past.
Wishing you good luck, I remain your friend,

Antonin Artaud

1 95

5 January, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
You think that the capitalist and bourgeois order in which
we live can still survive and resist events. I think it is ready to
crack, and events alone will prove which of us is right.
I think it is going to crack
1 . because it no longer has what it takes to face the cata
strophic necessities of the present,
2 . because it is immoral since it is based exclusively on
profit and money.
It is not fair, it is odious that money should block the road
to ideas and that you, for example, should find it impossible to
perform the plays you like because a play must be profitable
and only mediocre plays, which do not take any issue by the
horns, are profitable.-ln any case, we live in a tense period,
and I think that at this moment it would be extremely cunning
and commercial to give the public a play which shakes it,
which breaks something inside it, and makes it fork out.
I am being very frank with you. I could conceal my ideas
and titles : I give them to you.
Apart from Vitrac's play there is Ribemont-Dessaignes'
Faust at the Commerce, as well as another play by Bucher,
Leonce and Lena.
If the public still goes to the Empire (where, incidentally,
it no longer goes as eagerly as it used to), finally, if it still goes
1 96
anywhere, it will have to go to Pigalle, for the same reasons
and because we will primarily have aroused its vulgar side to
get it to accept the rest IN THAT wAY.
I hope to see you soon. Yours,
Ant. Artaud

1 97

I O January, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
Why, in this period of stagnation, do you not let me stage
something at the Theatre Pigalle on my own, let me put on a
trial performance which I will do on my own responsibility. Or
better still, why, since chance solutions are often the best at
times of crisis, do you not play the card that I am and which
you always have left.
You must understand me : both on principle and materially
there is nothing in the practical sphere, to which you rightly
attach a primordial importance, to prevent you from fulfilling
my demands.
You have a company which is idle, you have the theatre
which would cost you no more if I were to stage something
rather than someone else. As a director I shall ask a minute
salary, or even no salary, if you prefer, although I am poverty
stricken. We will use makeshift sets picked up somewhere or
other ; you know that my ideas about decor are as unpreten
tious as possible and that I pick up old sets and arrange them
in my own way, according to my particular angle, to give an
impression of riches and novelty !
So : With no extra expense, you will have a new play. I in
sist : if I suggested a ' trial performance ' it is because of the
reservations that certain people may retain about me.
You could give a dress-rehearsal on a Saturday morning,
and announce occasional evening performances. If it looked as
1 98
though it were going to work out you could make it a regular
performance, and in any case, since it will be an experimental
play for which the Theatre Pigalle could decline moral re
sponsibility, you will not be committed.
However much I might think about it I cannot see what
you might have against my plan. There are no objections on
the practical side. Since the problem of money, which would
have been the greatest in these uncertain times, does not exist.
On the other hand I am sure of catching the public's
attention in some way, and if it is not by the play it will be by
certain devices in the production. Furthermore 'production '
does not imply what it usually implies, that is to say decor,
costumes, and ornamentation, but something coarse and
striking which solicits the senses brutally and attracts the mind
surreptitiously without the pigs in the audience noticing it ;
I can see a way of exacerbating the attention of the spectator
without giving him time to heave a sigh.
So it seems to me that if it does not win every point, it will
at least be sure to succeed and arouse the interest of the
audience to its highest pitch.
I beg you not to say no this time.
I am your friend,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. Even if they decide in the meantime to perform a play

of their own choosing, as they did last time with the Romains, 1 2 1
the objection will not be valid because who would stop us
staging the play that I suggest on the sly, almost in our spare
time, so as to have two plays ready at almost the same time ;
and whatever the success of the other play, mine would at least
get a dress rehearsal, and then we shall see.
Ever yours,

1 9 January, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
A strange sort of enthusiasm appears to be arising every
where for the performance of Bruckner's Mal de la Jeunesse
now being played at the Theatre de l'Oeuvre by a company of
young actors. These actors, who have called their company the
Theatre du Marais, are all young and their youth is in their
favour and could lead to indulgence, but from indulgence to
enthusiasm is a big step, and I can assure you that everybody
who still has a sense of authenticity would be amazed to see
the Nouvelle Revue Francaise take this step. I will not go as far
as to say that the performance of Bruckner's play is of no
interest, but it is all young and terribly inexperienced, and,
what is more, with no sense of originality. Rouleau, the director
of this company, acted with me and played the lead in nearly
all the plays in the Alfred Jarry Theatre. Now, he acts the
realistic, ferocious part, full of human observation in Bruckner's
play with the same prejudices of stylisation, the same systematic
jerks with which he played Patrice in Vitrac's The Secrets of
Love, a crazy play which draws its merit from a sort of hard
logic and an excess of stylisation and bewildered fantasy. The
contrived and stereo-typed attitudes, the unexpected shouts, the
suspended silences, the contained stiffness, all this is inapplic
able to his part and introduces an incomprehensible shift into
the play which makes it all the more impenetrable and con
trived. In a word, he plays this part in an inhuman way while
the play, whatever the psychological excesses which it suggests,
only motivates them by presenting us with plausible characters
who may be abnormal (but even this does not seem to be the
intention of the author who entitles his play Mal de la Jeunesse
and therefore seems to want to give us a study of society and
not a landscape of puppets), but who are alive and are not
like effigies or dummies who have just been given life. So there
is a basic mistake. And this is all the more patent since the rest
of the production is full of little details which aim at truth,
accurate observation, etc. This production has some good
points, details of movement, everyday life, habits of young
students which seem genuine and well observed. All this next
to flagrant blunders which are the result of inexperience and
are repeated rather often. So, when a certain character is
spoken to, he turns his head to his interlocutor and after
having talked to him for some time, suddenly notices that it
would be more logical and plausible to tum his feet in the
direction of his head too ; and he does it. But I never felt that
a certain type of humour caused by situations, groupings,
attitudes, was free or natural. That the principal actress, Tania
Balachova, was remarkably moving, almost heart-rending, and
that she should have been the only one to act professionally,
does not make up for the faults I have mentioned. She gives
the impression of having loved and of having suffered through
love, and that is invaluable on the stage. Since few actresses
really manage to give the impression of true suffering. There
are two other women in this play who are good. One of them
gives an impressive performance during the poison scene ; the
other, who is also prey to a violent passion, only manages to
emphasise the inexperience of a production in which the
director's desire to systematise is constantly jolting the situation,
giving a jerky rhythm to the scenes which they should not have.
At one point, holding a bucket in her hand, she enters like a
dead leaf swept by the wind which has nothing to do either
with the character or the situation. I am all for the director
trying to convey her madness and the absorbed and hunted
quality of a woman in an inferior position in love with her
master by the brusqueness with which she enters a room and
sees characters of whom she is jealous, and the man who has her
in thrall, perhaps, but this intention is so obvious that it be
comes absurd, without introducing the bizarre element which
the director was looking for. There is also a fight between
women, who pull each other's hair-this could have had a gran
diose atrocity, but is just passably well directed, although very
well acted by Tania Balachova. Then I do not like this play in
which I consider the rotten hearts of a certain type of youth
rotten enough without these students having to hold forth
about tuberculosis of the lungs and introducing pus and other
details which they have been studying. This is useless and un
successful. Of course, it is all interesting enough, and I am all
for an interest being taken in a company of young actors who
are under thirty. I am also all for papers like Comoedia, Grin
goire, Candide, etc., taking credit for admiring an audacious
play, but the N.R.F. should think twice before being taken in
by certain false values. This performance has nothing which a
good performance of Strindberg would not have given us
twenty years ago, and a rehash of the Free Theatre will not
save the theatre from decay ; I think we must be all the harder
since we have the right, today, to expect young people to bring
us new ideas, new ways of acting, something original and un
expected, no matter how maladroitly, and this young company
does not do so. When a unanimous agreement about a new
experiment appears in the bourgeois press we must be careful.
Profound novelty usually meets with greater resistance. I be
lieve that all the shrieks which greeted the Jarry Theatre in
every milieu were more to its credit than the success of the
Theatre du Marais. That the Jarry Theatre or its principles
should now have a success would be understandable : the
ground was cleared five years ago. I only once read a compre
hensive122 article on the Jarry Theatre : it was Benjamin
Cremieux's article on the Dream and he gives his reasons. My
dear friend, I wanted to write to you at such length about this
2 02
subject, and I am sure that if you see the play you will agree
with me. The N.R.F. must not commit itself wrongly on some
thing of dubious merit.
Your friend,
Antonin Artaud

(Draft of letter)123

Tuesday evening
20 January, 1 93 2

Dear Monsieur Gide,

We were interrupted at the Cocteau evening1H just as you
were about to touch on a very important point for me : the
Theatre. You were saying that you found the performance of
Bruckner's play Mal de la Jeunesse curious, and I know you
warmly congratulated the actors. Well, I saw the same per
formance and I by no means agree with you. I would therefore
be very glad to know the reasons for your admiration (is that
saying too much) so as to establish better the fairly bad im
pression which I had of the same play.
I must admit that however sure I am of my own judgement
the radically opposite nature of yours worries me slightly.
I cannot of course deny the incontestable temperament
which, for lack of real talent, three women out of four showed
in this play, but something unstable, vague, ill-managed in the
production seemed to me to ruin their efforts and leave them
ineffectual. In any case, your opinion does not seem to me
to concern details of interpretation so much as the general im
pression left by the play which you described as 'curious'. But
it is precisely the general spirit of this production which strikes
me as contestable and false, in spite of certain points, certain
gestures, certain details of direction which were very success

2 2 January, 1 93 212 6

Dear friend,
I had the impression,-and I beg you to let me know quite
frankly, that you were a little disappointed by my lecture.127
I am not afraid of reservations, provided they are motivated
and fair, when I meet Jean Cocteau-on the contrary. I prefer
to be aware of a fault or a lacuna so as to make up for it next
time, rather than be hypnotised by qualities which are, all too
often non-existent. It would therefore be a great favour to me
if you would reply frankly and bluntly to the question I ask
I suppose that when you read the lecture it did not make the
violent, splendid impression on you which it made at the Sor
As far as I am concerned I continue to think that this lecture
is an excellent thing and even fairly important from certain
points of view, but imperfections of form, at moments flagrant
and, above all, numerous, and which my spoken lecture man
aged to conceal, struck you when you read it, and seemed
clumsy. Isn't that what happened? Otherwise how can you ex
plain that this lecture, which you said you wanted to print as
the manifesto of the N.R.F.'s ideas on the stage, did not appear
on the first page of the no. ? How can you explain that you
even hesitated for an instant to print it in the February no.
when you yourself asked me, the day after my reading it at the
Sorbonne, if February was not too soon for me, so urgent did it
seem to you? You must understand the spirit in which I am
asking you these questions. They are all the result of the anxiety
of an author who is worried about the value of his work.
Ah ! I certainly do not write in any ecstacy of joy. My for
mer obstacles have not yet been completely reabsorbed. All
that I write is the result of a conquest of myself, of an atrocious
inner conflict in which my mind is rarely at an advantage. You
will tell me that this happens to every poet ! But you know per
ectly well that it does not, and in any case not in the same
way, not to the same extent. My mind is sick. You must not
doubt it.
My conflicts are not the conflicts of a healthy brain. A
healthy brain, for a man who knows his language, does not
have those sudden blanks, those repeated forgetfulnesses which
are irreparable because their correction entails the full depth
of thought. Tell me the truth, Jean Paulhan. I shall not be
petty enough to resent it. One needs all the baseness of mind
of a surrealist to resent a sincere and just criticism, because
their so-called pride is nothing but the shy of a conscience
alarmed by its weakness, which bucks miserably. One day I
shall write something about all this rubbish because nothing
nauseates me more violently, nauseates my mind, than the per
sistent activity of a long exhausted group which has nothing
more to say, this sort of over-played activity, this obstinate lie,
this determination to sustain the mind and the organs of the
heart in an inhuman attitude which has long since ceased to
correspond to anything in the mind or in life. This old quarrel
between the surrealists and Cocteau is absurd. Because basically
it is all so similar, and I assure you that people who do not
know about their animal bickering put a film like L'Age d'Or
and a film like The Blood of a Poet in the same sack, the one
as gratuitous and useless as the other. Cocteau has been very
kind to me and I will not say what I think of his film in public,
at least not at the moment.-So I beg of you, in all friendship,
keep this all strictly to yourself. It is secret.-But of all these
films I think that The Shell and the Clergyman has had child
ren, and that they are all in the same spiritual tone, but what
2 06
was of interest in 1 92 7-because The Shell was a precursor-is
of none in 1 93 2 , or five years later.
I do not think people are capable of doing justice, and
intellectual honesty is nothing but a word today, a dirty and
embarrassing word, but by rights criticism, if such a thing still
exists, should recognise the affi liation between these films and
should say that they ALL stem from The Shell and the Clergy
man, except for the spirit, which no one has understood.
This sort of film composed in a state of semi-conciousness, to
the sombre and secret logic of a dream, but what the others
missed was the intellectual current, the organisation of these
dream images which are only imposed on the mind by the force
of this organising and underlying current. It is not much to say
that they must be felt like music. What is opposed to music is
arbitrariness, stupidity and gratuity. Now, however beautiful
each image may be taken on its own-and there are some
beautiful images in The Blood of a Poet as there were in L'Age
d'Or-they get their value and their sense (and by sense I do
not mean what they mean, in a clear and lucid manner, but
the reason of their existence, their power of analogy and
discrimination) from the way in which they are integrated, in
which they participate in a sort of basic intellectual music, a
music which is totally lacking both in L'Age d'Or and The
Blood of a Poet! Images must not be cast like a line, at random !
These obedient images in a film constructed according to the
sombre and hidden rules of the unconscious, are necessary
images, demanding and authoritative images, and we are wide
of the mark in every case.
Besides, I think that the time for that sort of intellectual
exercise is over, completely finished !-It may be all right, for
a short period, to find, by indirect, excessive, arbitrary ways,
naked, stripped and dry methods, polished to the bone, laws of
eternal poetry, but these laws are always the same, and the
aim of poetry cannot be to play solely with the laws with which
it has been created. Now, it is precisely around this that the
cinema, literature, painting and all the arts have been revolving
for the last ten years. Whether the rules of the game have be-
2 07
come infinitely clear because of the aid of psychoanalysis, or
whether poetic technique has given us its methods, the aim is
not to prove that we are extraordinarily intelligent and that we
know how to set about it today, but to provide at last exemplary
works of this poetry of the unconscious, of this profound
analogical poetry which I call 'of the unconscious' , for lack of
a better word, but which is the only poetry possible, the only
possible and true poetry, with metaphysical tendencies, on
which films like The Blood of a Poet tum their backs. As well
as L' Age d'Or as well as any surrealistic poem ever written.
There is a world to say about all this. One day I shall try to ex
plain what I think of it, when my mind is free, free from the
profound unconscious obstacles. All day long this mind is
bogged down, tied up ; when it escapes a little I write my lec
ture on the Theatre, for instance, with occasional faults of style,
these formal hitches which are the sign of the persistence of a
profound and terrifying disease which poisons and reforms my
whole life. I impatiently await your letter giving me your real
opinion of my lecture and the rest.
Your sincere friend,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. I did not send you the article you asked me for on the
Threepenny Opera for several reasons :
1 . First of all, I had no time ;
2 . I had not seen the film and could only see it on Wednes
day afternoon. It was too late.
3 . What I had to say about it was too important to be said
in one page. Because after having 'viewed' it, as one says in
cinema jargon, it seemed to me that the observations to which it
gave rise were so important that a mere report would not
suffice. I consider them of capital importance, and it is the
very life and raison d'etre of the cinema that is at stake in such
a film. And through it, and because of its prodigious success,
the general value of Opinion is at stake, of what is called
Opinion, at the same time as the intellectual standard of these
times which prove its baseness and complete disorientation. I
insist on the word. Disorientation. Lack of landmarks. ' One
really c annot find the north.' The intellectual north, of course.
4 . I myself acted in this film which I wanted to criticise and
I intend to bring serious criticisms to bear against it. And in
other terms and circumstances, and if it were about something
else, I criticise and accuse in the right place. But having
acted in it thisis awkward. I could only do it efficiently if in
vested with official authority, which I would only obtain if I
were the official critic of a review or a newspaper. I see you
smile and look surprised, because you think you have caught
a glimpse of a sort of petty ambition which you did not expect
to find in me. But after all, the N.R.F. has no regular film
column. Could you not start one, a column which would have
film reviews every month, in every number. This column
would be carefully kept up to date. Of course there is not a
film worth talking about every month, but the existence of this
regular column could stimulate interesting ideas about the state
of the cinema. I would of course retain complete independence,
I would be able to talk freely. No doubt my acting career
would suffer. But so much the worse. I gave up making a
career of acting in a profession rotten to the core a long time
ago, for elementary reasons. And it would be refreshing, for
me and for everyone,-to say that the world of the cinema is
more rotten than anything imaginable. A practical detail which
has its value : writing for this column would enable me to
possess a press card and have a free ticket for all performances
and important film premieres. And besides, I believe that it
could be commercially advantageous for the N.R.F. if people
knew that it had a regular film report. This would gain it all
the readers who like good cinema and do not know to whom to
tum. You will tell me that there is the Revue du cinema, but
it is not the same thing. And one can always say that the
N.R.F. has a more literary approach and the Revue du cinema
a more technical one. But all this is between ourselves ! !
As far as the Threepenny Opera in concerned, I found it
fairly mediocre for a film which has aroused the enthusiasm
of the intellectual elite for so many months ! And it even took
2 09
advantage of the censorship, which makes me dislike it still
more, because the bitter human salt of the story which it tells
has nothing which could justify such direct and excessive sever
ity, so OUT OF DATE does it all seem. And I consider that both
the censor, who saw something pernicious in this film, and the
literary and artistic elite who thought they were defending a
work of high moral and intellectual value by protesting against
the censor's idiotic decisions, took a ridiculous and unnecessary
attitude. Of course, the eighteenth-century English opera, The
Beggar's Opera, as well as the second German version of this
unique work, Die drei Groschen Oper, deserve every defence
and enthusiasm, but not G. W. Pabst's screen version.

Dialectics is the art of considering ideas under every imagin

able aspect-it is a method of distribution of ideas.128

2 10
(Draft of letter) 129

Saturday evening
29 January, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
I can't get over the production of The Tricksters.180 Those
puppet-like characters astonished me.
None of those characters are human, act humanely, they do
not behave outwardly as their inner reactions, as their words
could lead one to believe that they feel and react. In a word,
they act conventionally, striking the attitudes of the old con
ventional style, acting a stylisation in immobility which can
produce good effects when it is intentional, but when it is in
voluntary, as it is here, has disastrous results and reveals in
sufficient understanding of the psychological tendencies and
levels of the work.
The more these characters, who reveal our feelings, em
phasise their reactions intellectually, the more concrete and
plastic must they become through movement and coarse out
lines which indicate the inner fluctuations of thought by
physical methods. Seeing such a production one would say
that the stage, with its space, its levels, its perspective and its
possibility of movement, does not exist. But it-only exists for
that, to enable everything of a senstive, psychic and intel
lectual order to materialise coarsely. A movement, a gesture in
the nick of time sometimes does more to elucidate a com
plicated thought than all the treasures of the spoken language.
That is what I think.
Next to the rhythm and structure of the word, the theatre
21 1
has rhythm and a structure of movement, of movements, which
must leave the memory of a complete whole in the mind, the
memory of a sort of perfectly balanced support, bathed in air
and space, and which plastically clarifies and orders a whole
psychology by its lines, its proportions, its general spirit. This
construction is three sided. It contains the text, its plasticity
(intonations, etc.) and the plasticity of the movements, all ar
ranged and put in position. This POSITIONING was missing in
The Tricksters.
It is this lack of positioning which undoubtedly prevented
the play from having the success it deserved, in spite of all it
may have which is artificial and contrived.
These characters, when centred round an essential problem,
when confronted with each other, do not say any of the things
which one has a right to expect from them.
The problem which they set is radiant. It is essential, and
one could almost say that for a man and a woman, for two
men and women confronted with each other, there is no other
problem. So it is really a game, a sort of modem game of love
and chance, and that is thrilling when one realises that the
chance in the play is called Luckman and that he has arranged
everything with a view to abstract and absolute ends which
he is the only person to know about and cherish. He has seen
through the sad realities of love, the wretched indecisions and
hypocritical satisfactions which love gives and then removes
treacherously, and he has rejected them. The more the ques
tions (thing-feelings) raised are of a subtle, intellectual nature,
the more coarsely they must be expressed and defined. I had
the impression of something intricately worked out and an ex
tremely elevated intellectual level. I no longer have this im
pression of extreme intellectuality. The actors devoured it so
completely that I began to wonder about the meaning of the
text, this spiritual text which has made such a deep impression
on me. Few people live for their mind alone, with their mind
alone. These actors showed us that they had senses but very
little intellect. Which falsifies their character, their position,
I might almost say their attitude to one another.
(Draft of letter)m

Around the beginning of February 1 9 3 2

Dear friend,
I found Savoir's play182 exactly as you described it to me.
You have caught the sense and spirit of it, and have sum
marised it admirably. Besides, all those intentions which you
pointed out to me are very clear, there is no doubt about it.
Savoir wanted to create a myth, a symbolic image, a sort of
corporeal being-the image of war. It is all clear and detailed
enough until the first blackout for it to be possible to follow the
text without adding hardly any objective or scenic detail ; you
simply have to find the movements, the shifts in the voices,
above all the tempo, the significant pitches of the voices which
grow louder at the right moment. This is all the more im
portant since the atmosphere to be created is mythical, like a
winged spirit floating in the air.
However, there is one concrete detail which is elementary,
but all the more essential.
The centre of attraction throughout the whole play until the
first black-out is the Pastry-shop.
The Pastry-shop is Heaven, the circle of the Elected, the
chosen centre.
The people outside are shut into the exterior like prisoners,
and like prisoners they come to gaze into the Pastry-shop.
So the window through which they gaze, to which they press
their noses, is of great importance and must be given a special
value. To begin with it is the window of the Officers' Mess
and then of the Pastry-shop.
After the black-out and the Armistice, it is the exterior
which is heaven, there is no window, but the front of the
Pastry-shop where the pastry cook Madeleine stands and
gazes in the opposite direction.

After the window some lighting device must be found which

forms a definite contrast or a curious fusion by areas which
approach or move away.
Then, after the black-out, you must think of a way of pre
senting the tea-room to the spectators,
of changing the angle and, whereas all the life at the be
ginning was concentrated in the Pastry-shop and the exterior
was far off and lost, you must turn THE EXTERIOR into Paradise
in the last scene and the Pastry-shop into something far off and
lost, at the back of the stage, in a corner, looking shabby.
But do not show that you are changing the angle, reversing
the telescope, so much as enveloping it all in a certain poetic
lighting and decor which will suggest all these things.

She too must occasionally, imperceptibly look through the

mask, show the face of the Monster she is, the insensitive, un
conscious monster, by a physical stiffness, a hoarser voice, may
be even by sounds like those of a whistle peevishly punctuating
her speeches.

Besides, when the decor is reversed, life seems gay, carefree,

bathed in sun, on the front of the stage, while at the back
stands the pale white-haired figure of the woman who survived
her dream.
Statue of despair, of memory, of hope, of obsession, of cad
averous resurrection.

Maybe put her at the end of a tunnel?

Anyhow the soldiers must not be projected on a piece of

canvas or a screen ; the projections must overlap the frame,
burst out of the frame and the stage, depict the characters in
2 14
flesh and bones, pass through them.
The stage must be filled with a winged flickering at several
speeds, maybe [ ] 1 83 speeds, or all together. That remains
to be seen.

Sounds from the square at the beginning.

Series of sounds of departure at the time of the Armistice.

(Draft of letter)154

[Around the beginning of February 1 932]

Dear friend,
If fo r the first act we need a decor which is both precise and
symbolic, which sets the action in very Parisian surroundings,
recalls the architectural framework of the army and the war,
and is both realistic and significant, I think I have found a
spot that possesses all these qualities, and I suggested the idea
to Moullaert : 13 it is a view of the barracks in the avenue du
President-Wilson. There is a marvellous view of roofs which
removes all the banality and dreariness of the barracks, but
which nevertheless contains the barracks, a close view of the
Eiffel Tower, and the Invalides and the Ecole Militaire in the
background. It also shows the avenue du President-Wilson on
the right WHICH CLIMBS up, opposite several streets descending
steeply in steps, and on the left the avenue which bends as it
descends and vanishes towards the Alma. This seems to me the
synthetic landscape of one's dreams, both symbolical and real,
with the Seine which can glisten in the distance.
Since we do not want realism, but likelihood, we could have
a sort of square with benches in the middle and at the back
this square would suddenly end in a landscape of roofs and a
couple of flights of steps plunging towards the avenue du

2 16

5 February, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
In the dream at the end what would you say to using about
twenty dummies five metres high, of which six would represent
the most typical characters of the play, with their prominent
features, suddenly appearing and trudging along solemnly to
the tune of a military march, which would be bizarre, full of
Oriental consonances, in the midst of light signals and flares.
Each of these personages could have a badge and one of them
could carry the arch of triumph on his shoulders.
The whole crowned by a halo of rags, stuffed to bursting
point, with podgy limbs, and floating the traditional laurel leaf
over the heads of the heroes. They would march enveloped in
gigantic flags which would hang from the sky. I see them
crossing the stage diagonally from the back right hand comer
to the front left hand corner, but marching at a certain height,
as though they were crossing a bridge.
Far from fearing the humorous side of this I would em
phasise it, I would boldly rig out the better or less known faces
with superb moustaches and fine black beards.
The fact that one would recognise some of the puppets as
certain heroes of the play would emphasise Magdeleine's ob
session. So this dream would explain itself on two sides, and its
poetic and psychological value would be considerably in
creased. I can see two great advantages in this device :
1 . There is no danger in reproducing over-familiar images
cinematographically, and it avoids the danger of the cinema
transported on to the stage. Which has hitherto proved very
2 . You are sure of the hallucinatory aspect of the idea and
you are sure of conveying it.
3 . It is either an original experiment, or, in view of the
complete lack of public culture, can pass as such.
4. Psychologically, plastically, humoristically such a fan
tasy is motivated both by the spirit of the work and by its
material aspect, its practical necessities, etc.
The fantom-like nature of the dummies and the lighting will
make them unreal enough to contrast with the appearance of
the postman. As for the realisation, the obstacles should not be
insurmountable-despite the little time we have left.
I see the procession lasting one and a half to two minutes.
I have worked on the third act and hope to have found a
seductive formula which I shall tell you about this afternoon
at the Theatre Pigalle.
Yours affectionately,
Antonin Artaud


7 February, 1 93 2
Dear friend,
I wrote a fairly long article on Steve Passeur's play The
Tricksters which seems to me worth discussing at length, how
ever imperfect, limited and truncated it may be. In any case,
the considerations which it has led me to develop interest me,
and I think they will interest you. So I hope that even if some
one has already given you something on this play, or promised
to give you something-no doubt Benjamin Cremieux has done
so-you will still be able to accept my article which is an essay
after Steve Passeur's play and about it, rather than a review. 1 36
I know that your March number is very full, so I don't suppose
you can print it. On the other hand it is of current interest and
it would be better not to wait too long before it appears.
So I suggest that you print my article not as a re.view, but as
a report. Because a review is generally printed all in one while
reports can have a sequence, and to emphasise this (I admit I
would very much appreciate this because of its current interest
and for motives of opportunism which I will tell you about
when I see you), maybe you could print one page of the report
in the March number and put 'to be continued'. There is still
another possibility : it would be to start printing it in March,
but at the end of the no. in very small print, like all polemics.
Because it contains a polemical part about the inconceivable
lack of understanding of the critics. The critics could have
attacked the production and its faults, but they attacked what
the play attacked-the rigorous attitude towards the abstract
and pathetic outburst of passionate love.
I am your friend,
Ant. Artaud

P.S. I shall send you the article the day after tomorrow. You
decide what to do with it.
A. Artaud

I also wonder if there is a way of officially and regularly

letting me do the monthly film reviews for the N.R.F.
Is it possible.
I think it would be necessary, anyway.


g February, 1 932181

Dear friend,
You may think I am overstepping my duties and that I am
meddling in something which does not concern me, but the
scene of projection and evocation seems unrealisable and im
possible to me. I am prepared to admit the principle, if need
be, although I am personally not very much in favour of it, but
on condition that we manage objectively and materially to
have it accepted by the audience without hesitation, that they
never at any moment want to cry out at such an unlikely
device. For this the appearance of the soldiers must be imposed
like a real dream, a dream which would be black and grey, but
valid and admissable as such. Here are the ideas that that
suggests to me : in view of the fact that the images of the
soldiers will dissolve into each other instead of appearing clearly
separated and outlined, and that they will only appear through
a hole in the clouds intended to conceal their immobility, it
seems to me that you could start the projection with a sort of
sonorous, brutal resplendence which will distract the attention
from the images, a resplendence suddenly reconstructing all
the sounds of war. Then the images will emerge, but I feel that
instead of separating them from the rest of the stage, of de
taching them from the character of Madeleine, you could start
by projecting them directly onto her and the sets, so as to create
a vague gleam which would respond to the resplendence of the
sounds. So the images will rise on the movement of the clouds,
22 1
but in my opinion, instead of starting to sing the Madeleine at
once, you could, right at the beginning, after the war noises
with which the projection will start, introduce a strange
Oriental type of music which would emphasise the evocative,
dream-like element of the scene and would gradually turn into
the Madeleine to end briskly, be suddenly cut short, and
appear like a broken dream crashing onto Madeleine's earth.
And I then see the final lighting as banal and realistic, without
any fancy effect.
Basically, dear friend, I am very annoyed at having to con
firm my complete uselessness. What I am doing is not even
worth a metro ticket.
Yours very cordially,
Ant. Artaud


Sunday, 2 7 February, 1 9 3 2 1 3 8

Dear friend,
Forgive me for saying so, but you really are discouraging.
You make me feel that the six hours we spent at the organ were
a waste of time, and that we were absolutely wrong while I am
sure that at least half of the things you heard correspond very
exactly to the definition of what you claim we have not done :
that is to say a research of imitative and basic sounds, some
times tonically transposed, but not musical. And I am sure that
it would be enough to reduce the other half of the sounds to
the elements of which they are composed and which we looked
for isolatedly, to have the entire register of the sounds corres
ponding to this play in their pure state.
I also insist on the fact that, not being a musician myself, I
cannot communicate ideas to the organist, so the organist re
sists with all the strength of his unconscious, the idea of isola
ting the non-musical sounds in this way, and his interpretation
of the precise points is never what we agreed on because of this
tendency which he cannot avoid.
Remember that I am not blaming anybody. I am only
pointing out certain difficulties.
Ever yours,


[Paris, 1 March, 1 932] 1 39

Dear friend,
This afternoon I left the rehearsal shortly before the end
after having seen the main part, and I think that if our ideas
had been introduced with taste and discernment they would
have padded out a play which needed it.
As far as I am concerned, I took a great deal of trouble and
wasted many hours, but what disappointed me and hurts me
most is the feeling that all these things were useful, that there
was a way of introducing them, if you had left us more initia
tive, because you finally came up against problems which had
been pointed out at the beginning and subsequently forgotten.
And the play will suffer because of this. But however pessimistic
I am I do not think this play will be a commercial loss.
If you want to see me before the first night, I shall be at the
Pigalle tomorrow at about four. You just need to leave a
message with the concierge.
Your faithful friend,
Ant. Artaud

P.S. I sent a note to Mademoiselle Doris to ask her if it

would be possible for me to have two hours a week, one hour
at a time, of a Studio de la Comedie for lessons for interested
beginners. This would be of material advantage for me.


Monday evening, 1 March, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
Although I found the approach of Savoir's play interesting
and thought that the particular scenic modulations which you
wanted to impose on its secret spirit and aim might make it
a success, now that I have seen it performed, it seems flimsy
and hopeless. Above all, I blame the actors for the failure of
this play-not their profession or their talent, but their spirit.
You must not mind if I differ with you, but I do not share your
opinion about experience and its value. And having knocked
about the world a bit myself, I have a vast enough experience
of feeling, of the world of the imagination and thought, of the
active procedures of the mind, to have the right to demand
that my opinion should be taken into account. Well, I think
that Savoir's play does not stand up on its own and that it is
the duty of a good director to betray an author, if necessary,
in order to tum his play into an impressive performance. As
for my particular part, I think we should give the maximum
intensity and efficacity to the sound-track, provided it is situa
ted in places where it does not get in anybody's way and comes
off best. The purely imitative noises which the organ will never
imitate perfectly will not be understood because they are not
frank. Since we are making dissonances, let us make them, but
let us also tell the audience that we are making them. They will
scream or applaud, but they will not be in this state of un
certainty caused by half measures. At the end of the first act
we wanted to show war, its dirty, ghastly and menacing side,
to show that the intensity and symbolic frankness of our means
correspond to our intentions. The effect of the wind which you
want was out of place today and drowned the actors' voices,
but it seems to me indispensable en principle and very success
ful as an impression. Pierre Renoir himself came to tell me that
he found it very striking. You ask Messiaen to make his music
merrier : I do not understand why. He could make his har
monisations of bells or his amplifications on the gramophone
merrier, but not the interpolated sounds. I do not believe in
groping around and experimenting any more than I believe
in experience. I can just admit that experience enables me to
justify an hypothesis, but it will never make me give something
up which I feel to be true. I believe only in my intuition. And
the resistances of some, the incredulity of others, and above all
the fear of the reactions of the audience must on no account
make us give up our idea or prevent us from getting the most
out of it. If, instead of simply imitating the sound of the shell
flying through the air, one could hear the dramatic com
mentary of the organ letting burst a few violent dischords in
the anxiety and silence of the soldiers, it will constitute a very
important element, and it is these additional touches which
often make a work a success .
Ever yours,
Antonin Artaud

P.S. I believe that the audience will always appreciate some

thing which shocks their opinions and jolts their habits, if they
understand why this has been done. And I believe that the so
called new masterpieces, which the audience greet with volleys
of whistles because they shock their way of thinking, are badly
acted and badly produced masterpieces which would otherwise
have succeeded. And the idea of the theatrical performance as
a black-balled masterpiece is an idea one never thinks of.

(Draft of letter) uo

1 2 March, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
I t oo could see things from the complex angle from which
you see them, remember that, but I do not do so, maybe be

cause I do not have your experience. I admit that I do not
have your experience,
1. because it is a fact, I have not worked in the theatre as
long as you because I have not had the time materially,
2 . because I did other things, my tendencies, my tum of
mind led me to other things,
but I do not think I am too stupid, I too think I have a
certain lucidity, and this lucidity allows me to say that if this
woman is created as an incarnation of the war, as a sort of
chance murderess, the author should develop the premisses
thus set, and develop his play according to them. This character
was necessary, it was necessary to undo oneself and tum, and,
in view of the objective paroxysm of this slaughter which
materialises, tries itself out on two or three points, on two or
three characters with the havoc which roves round their con
sciences, a sort of vengeance of Destiny by the events was
necessary ; the abandonment of men is not enough, and is so
feeble, so innocuous in the play,
gentle madness is too little,
but the image of this madness are, in my opinion, what
made the play fail-
1 do not demand that the author should pronounce a verdict
on war, for or against it, I demand a verdict by Madeleine
Jaudon, the pivot of the play,
and some sort of psychological sanction of these acts, and,
since a vision was needed, or example, I demand that the
vision should take on the form of a nightmare and not a mere
sacred evocation of uniforms ; a parade of dream uniforms,
followed by the appearance of the postman's uniform is too
little after all that has been stirred up and you can be sure that
is is the minginess, the flimsine both of the fact and the final
point of view in itself, as well as the absurd side of the details
by which it manifests itself and the psychology of the principle
character who dwindles away and turns short, which caused
the failure of the play.
I firmly believe I have grasped the point of contention, if
I may say so.
Believe me your friend,

[March 1 93 2 ]

Here, dear friend, i s m y monthly article. I hope you like it,

and, as you see, I have every reservation about the value of
Passeur's work, so nobody will be able to say I was wrong.
I find D. de Rougemont's article on Goethe very interesting,
striking even, and R. de Reneville's article is good. I think I
am in good time for the April number and that my article will
not be considered too long. What I like about it is that
I broached an unusual subject for me and I do not think I
My best wishes, dear friend, and forgive me for writing a
letter, but however humorous it may seem, I would not have
been able to write the article without it.
I am at your disposal if you want it retyped.
Ant. Art.


Tuesday evening
2 1 March, 1 93 2 1 41

Dear friend,
Since you said that provided I post the article to you this
evening and you get it tomorrow there is still time to send you
a new version of it I am sending you a new article dealing with
The Tricksters and I beg you to throw the other one away,
together with the part about the Mal de la ]eunesse. If it is too
late I urgently implore you not to print anything, but I hope
I am in time.
Your friend.

P.S. I spoke to Fargue. He agreed to anything you want. So

it is up to you, dear friend, to correct the new proofs and pass
it to the press .

[Berlin, 2 0 May, 1 93 2 ] 14 2

Dear friend,
I am ever more convinced that the cinema is and will re
main an art of the past. One cannot work in it without feeling
Ever yours,
A. Artaud

1 6 December, 1 93 2

Dear friend,
I am reading Seneca-it seems mad to compare him with
the moralist tutor of some tyrant of the Roman decadence
or else he was the Tutor, but as an old man, having lost his
belief in magic. However this may be, he seems to me the
greatest tragedian of history, an initiate in the Secrets, who
knew better than Aeschylus how to put them into words. I
weep as I read his plays, and I feel the transparent effer
vescence of the forces of chaos groan under his words in the
most sinister manner. And this reminds me of something :
once I am better I intend to organise some lectures on drama
for a man who denies the text of the theatre this will be quite
something-public lectures at which I shall read the Tragedies
of Seneca and all the possible patrons of the Theatre of Cruelty
shall be summoned. There is no better written example of what
can be understood by cruelty in the theatre than all the
Tragedies of Seneca, but above all than A traeus and
Th yest es .148 You know, it is still more visible in the mind. Those
monsters are wicked as only blind forces can be and I believe
the theatre only exists on a level which is not quite human. Tell
me what you think of this idea.
A word from you would give me pleasure. I hope I shall be
out in ten days-a new man.
Your friend,
Antonin Artaud
In Seneca the primordial forces echo in the spasmodic
vibration of the words. And the names which designate secrets
and forces designate them in the passage of these forces and
with their uprooting and pulverising force.

Paris, 1 5 October, 1 934

Great and dear friend,

You gave me the idea for the Theatre and the Plague,1H
one of the greatest satisfactions of my life.
Andre Gide came to the Champs-Elysees the other night to
talk about it with the most moving warmth.
In Barnowsky's As rOU Like It, Annabella emerges as a first
class actress and Paris talks of nothing else.
I am sending you an article in which I mention her and
Balthus.m On the whole the play was not bad and if it is not
quite right I say why in this article.
For it to be of current interest it should appear on the 1 st of
next November, if you can find room for it. And I know you
will do what you can.
If I am bitterly opposed to the press, it is because I have
suffered from it for twelve years and am a theatre actor. I hope
to come and see you this week and embrace you.
Your friend,
Antonin Artaud
Hotel des Etats-Unis, 1 3 5 Bd Montparnasse .

2 34

[ 1 934] 146

Dear friend,
Here are the few lines to be added to the rest : besides, it is
all connected. 1 47
What most critics lack today is sensitivity and a head. And
it is with one's head that, after being impressed by Balthus'
forests-I do not like the courtyard of the castle, which is a
completely different set to the original model-one realises
that, unlike ordinary stage forests, these contain darkness and
a rhythm which speaks to the soul ; and that behind the trees
and the lights of nature they evoke cries, words, noises : they
are imaginary concepts in which the mind breathes.
You must also know that Balthus was let down by incom
petent executants and had to repaint over seven hundred
square metres of canvas himself, working day and night, and
thereby gave his sets a particular composition, style and order.

2 35

[Paris, 1 6 October, 1 934] 1 4 8

Dear friend,
I have thought it over : do not print my article on Annabella.
Her performance, which was very good, does not deserve my
excessive enthusiasm. She is an intelligent and astute pupil, not
a great actress. And it would look to the Press as if I were
attacking people well disposed towards me, who will not
differentiate themselves from the others. And on the whole the
play is not worth defending so energetically. Just destroy my
Your friend-and I hope to see you very soon,

Antonin Artaud

I cannot write without enthusiasm and I always go too far.


I. Eighteen Seconds, Les Cahiers de la Pieiade, Spring 1 949.

2. Two nations on the borders of Mongolia . . . Scenario sub
mitted by Monsieur Jean-Marie Conty.
3 . The Shell and the Clergyman, Nouvelle Revue Franfaise,
no. 1 70, November 1 92 7. Of all Antonin Artaud's scenarios,
The Shell and the Clergyman is the only one to have been
filmed. The film was made by Germaine Dulac, and Antonin
Artaud particularly wanted to participate, but it appears that
Germaine Dulac did not wish to collaborate with him. Sub
sequently Antonin Artaud disclaimed Germaine Dulac's pro
duction which he considered a solely oneirotic interpretation
of his scenario. It was first shown at the Studio des Ursulines
on 9 February, 1 92 8. Antonin Artaud went to the showing
with a few friends and they protested so violently that they
were turned out of the cinema.
4. Thirty-two. Submitted by Madame Colette Allendy. This
scenario was deposited at the Association des Auteurs de Films,
II rue Ballu.
5 . The Butcher's Revolt, Nouvelle Revue Franfaise, no. 20 1 ,
June 1 930.
6. Flights. Submitted by Madame Colette Allendy. Antonin
Artaud refers to a scenario on air services in the letter of Feb
ruary 24, 1 929 addressed to Madame Yvonne Allendy (vol.
I, p. 204) and in the letters of 1 6 and 1 9 February, 1 92 9 (vol.
III, pp. 1 1 5 and 1 1 6. In the letter of 1 9 February he writes :
2 39
'Of course, for me it was purely a question of money.' This
helps to account for the very different mood of this scenario.
The document submitted by Madame Colette Allendy is a
typed copy corrected by Madame Yvonne Allendy.
However, Madame Colette Allendy has sent us a fragment
of a scenario (only two typed pages have survived, numbered
6 and 7) which also refers to the Paris-Saigon air connection.
Did Antonin Artaud think that a scenario about this connection
would have a commercial interest and that it would be easy to
find backers to support it? Did he write two successive versions?
It is possible that the scenario entitled Flights was a first
draft which Antonin Artaud was going to develop later. But
Madame Colette Allendy has unfortunately only found this
fragment of a later version :

'A small group is discovered, standing round a table, sur

rounded by a ring of mirrors towering over the group and in
which its members seem to verify the reality of their words and
gestures, the whereabouts and identity of their mouths, etc.,
after every phrase.
Fearfully, they discuss the problem of the so-called betrayal,
the disappearance of the engineer and his fiancee, the
evaporation of the residence, the invasion of the Chinese
revolutionaries, etc., etc.
In the meantime the aeroplane has taken off.
The sky around it supremely beautiful. It flies over Port
Said, the Red Sea. Reaches the plateau of Iran.
But the spell which has sprung from the magnetic entrails
of the Indo-Chinese soil rushes towards it. Opaque swirls of
dust sweep up from Saigon, take on a metallic hue over the
Ganges, rise mournfully into the sky.
The swirls of dust reach the wings, the tail, the body of the
aeroplane and its joints vibrate. The sky around it is pitch
black, but it rests on the black swirls like a ship. It seems to be
swimming motionlessly on frozen water which holds it back.
In the cockpit the dispatches, the letters, the sealed orders
tum into marble slabs engraved with an immutable script.
And suddenly the aeroplane breaks out into the blue air and
speeds away.
But this time the entire sky has turned into a furnace. Glow
ing sparks arrive from every part of the horizon. Every mole
cule, every atom of air seems to dart like an arrow of fire.
The transparent aeroplane flies into the fire and the flames
pass through it. Then, there comes a wind which seems to dis
locate the mountains. But the metallic aeroplane cuts the thick
wind as with the blade of a razor. And the pilot sits motionless
in his cockpit, flying unconsciously through this outburst of
illusory spells. His face is supremely beautiful and at moments
the features of the imprisoned engineer seem to appear on it.
Then the aeroplane, which has miraculously risen over the
storm, dives. The propellor moves visible columns of air, and
the appalling din of the engine, visible from the vibrations
which it gives out, seems to attack the Oriental spell.
The front of the aeroplane, shot on the screen from every
possible angle, whirls round in the sky. And it looks as though
the gust of the propellor draws the ground to it and sends the
earth flying. The menacing towns of the Orient seem to be
tom up by the machine. They quiver and crack into pieces.
The aeroplane dives and Benares rises into the sky with the
wicked faces of its houses and its tombs.
Groups of men rush away in all directions.
The aeroplane dives faster and faster.
In Saigon the cellars quake. Columns of translucid men rise
up like arrows, building a sort of . . .'
7 . The Master of Ballantrae. Scenario deposited at the
Association des Auteurs de Films, II rue Ballu, with the follow
ing label :
No : 289
Deposited by Antonin Artaud.
Date of deposit : 26 April, 1 929.
8. A few words are missing in the manuscript which seems to
be in Madame Yvonne Allendy's handwriting.

9. Reply to an Inquiry. Document submitted by Madame

1 0. Word missing.
1 I . Cinema and A bstraction, Le Monde Illustre, no. 364 5 ,
October 1 92 7. Printed with this introductory paragraph :
'Some people think that the cinema will find its true direc
tion in the expression of subjective images. This is the ex
periment which the poet Antonin Artaud wanted to make with
a scenario composed of one dream, The Shell and the Clergy
man, which is soon to be shown to the public. Madame Ger
maine Dulac has fortunately undertaken the realisation of this
scenario and it required all her talent to restore the light, move
ment and atmosphere to the images. Here the author of the
scenario explains the ideas behind his experiment.'
1 2 . The Shell and the Clergyman, Cahiers de Belgique, no. 8,
October 1 928.
1 3 . Witchcraft and the Cinema. Submitted by Madame
Colette Allendy. Partly published in the catalogue of the
Festival du Film Maudit, 1 9 49.
1 4. Distinction between Fundamental and Formal A vant
Garde. Submitted by Madame Colette Allendy.
This text was probably written as a presentation of the show
ing of The Shell and the Clergyman.
I 5 . A variant written between the title and the first sentence :
'have withdrawn under false pretexts which reveal their fear
and conceal some intrigue which has nothing to do with the
cinema but with some odious parochial or personal interests.'
1 6. After this paragraph this sentence was crossed out : 'But
it was not possible to prevent the public from seeing it and it
will see it from such and such a date in the Salle Adhyar.'
I 7. Plan for Setting up a Company . . . Submitted by Madame
Colette Allendy.
1 8. The Polish Jew at the Olympia, Nouvelle Revue Franfaise,
no. 2 1 8, November 1 93 1 .
1 9. The Precocious Old Age of the Cinema, Cinema 33, Les
Cahiers Jaunes, no. 4 , 1 933
20. The Liabilities of Dubbing. Submitted by Monsieur Rene
2 l . Word missing in the manuscript.
2 2 . Word missing in the manuscript.
2 3 . A few words missing in the manuscript.


24. Antonin Artaud, Cinemonde, l August, 1 929.

2 5 . We usually read that Antonin Artaud played the part of
the monk Massieu in Dreyer's film.
26. Antonin Artaud tells us about German Cinema, Pour
Vous, 28 July, 1 9 3 2 .


2 7 . To Max Jacob . Letter written on paper headed La

Regence, copyright Jacques Doucet. This letter must have been
written in 1 92 1 at the time when Antonin Artaud had an
audition with Gemier. It was also in 1 92 1 that Antonin
Artaud's poems were published for the first time in Action.
28. To Mademoiselle r vonne Gilles. Letter written at the
same time as the previous one. Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles
was a young painter whom Antonin Artaud had met at
24 3
2 9. Le Simoun by H.-R. Lenormand was first performed at
the Comedie Montaigne, directed by Gemier, on 2 1 December,
1 920.
30. To Mademoiselle Tvonne Gilles. In a previous letter
Antonin Artaud had asked her if she knew 'a family who
wanted a lodger.'
3 1 . In The Miser Antonin Artaud played the part of Anselme.
3 2 . To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles. Antonin Artaud played
Galvan, the Moorish king, in M oriana et Galvan, three scenes
taken from Romancero Moresque by Alexandre Arnoux, per
formed on 2 March, 1 92 2 , at the Salle Pasdeloup, I O rue des
Ursulines. On the same evening he played Sottinet in Reg
nard's Le Divorce. He had also designed the costumes for
Les Olives, an interlude after Lope de Rueda, played on the
same day.
33. To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles. Life is a Dream by
Calderon was performed at the Theatre du Vieux-Colombier
on 2 0 June, 1 922 ; Antonin Artaud played Basilio.
3 4 . To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles. Letter written on paper
headed Wepler, 1 4 place Clichy.
35. Antigone was performed at the Theatre de !'Atelier on
2 1 December, 1 92 2 . The music was by Honegger.
36. To Mademoiselle Yvonne Gilles. R. U.R., Utopian comedy
by Karel Tchapek, performed on 2 6 March, 1 924, by George
Pitoeff's company at the Comedie des Champs-Elysees,
directed by Komisarievsky. Antonin Artaud was Marius,
3 7 . In Pirandello's Six Characters in search of an Author,
Antonin Artaud was playing the Prompter.
38. A medee et les Messieurs en rang, play in one act by Jules
Romains, was performed by Pitoeff on 1 9 December, 1 92 3 .
39 . This refers t o Claude Autant-Lara's Fait Divers in which
2 44
Antonin Artaud was Monsieur II.
40. Jean Hort, who was then a member of Pitoeff's company,
reports the following comments by the stage-hands : ' He
sleeps in the theatre ; the other morning we found him stretched
out near the heating . . . . Last night he slept in the auditorium.'
(Jean Hort, Antonin Artaud, Editions Connaitre, Geneva,
1 960, page 5 6.)
4 1 . Tric-Trac du Ciel, May 1 92 3 . The editor of this brochure
was D.-H. Kahnweiler.
4 2 . To the Director of the Comedie-Fran(aise, 84, no. 1 3 ,
March 1 950. It is probable that this letter was written for the
third number of the Revolution Surrealiste which contained
the Andresse au Pape, the Adresse au Dela"i-Lama, etc.
43 . To Jean Paulhan. Letter written on paper headed Cafe de
la Regence.
44. This refers to Marthe et l'Enrage by Jean de Bosschere,
a book about which Antonin Artaud wrote an article which
was published in the September 1 92 7 number of the Nouvelle
Revue Fran(aise vol. II, p. 2 3 3).
45. To Jean Paulhan. Letter written on paper headed
46. The article on Marthe et l'Enrage.
47. Written obliquely in the margin opposite the first para
graph of the letter. Another allusion to the article on Mart he
et l'Enrage by Jean de Bosschere.
4 8. To Jean Paulhan. Obviously a reply to the article which
Jean Prevost wrote about the performance of the Partage de
Midi published in the Nouvelle Revue Fran(aise (no. 1 73,
February 1 928), of which this is an extract : ' . . . . The vast
majority of the audience seemed to dislike the performance ;
this misunderstanding was aggravated by a final statement by
one of the organisers, Monsieur Antonin Artaud, who said
24 5
something like : "The play which we have just performed is by
Monsieur Paul Claude!, Ambassador of France in the United
States who is a traitor." The least one can say about the foun
dation of this statement is that there are no material or literary
proofs of this treachery ; so all that appears from this accusation
is that Monsieur Artaud dislikes Paul Claude! to whom he
certainly bears no resemblance. But many of the spectators
concluded that they had seen a deliberate parody of Partage
de Midi instead of a straight representation. I will say no more
about this point of secondary importance ; I think the per
formance was a mistake . . . '
49 . Correspondence, La Revolution Surrealiste, no. II, 1 5
March, 1 928.
50. To Madame Yvonne Allendy. Date of post mark.
Express. Cf. the letter to Andre Breton included in The Alfred
Jarry Theatre and Public Hostility ( vol. 2 , p. 5 1 ) .
5 1 . To Madame Yvonne Allendy. Date of post mark.
52. This undoubtedly refers to the scenario entitled Flights.
53. To Madame Yvonne Allendy. Letter written on paper
headed Hotel Napoleon, rue Grimaldi, Nice.
54 . Another reference to the scenario Flights.
55. To Madame Yvonne Allendy. Letter written on paper
headed : Au Ballon d'Alsace, Brasserie-Restaurant, Nice.
5 6. In spite of all our efforts we have been unable to discover
to which work Antonin Artaud refers.
57 . The indication of the publisher is written in the margin
on the left.
58. To Madame Yvonne Allendy. Letter written on paper
headed Hotel Napoteon. Date of postmark.
59. Reference to the scenarion Flights.
60. Antonin Artaud was acting in Tarakanova, a film made in
6 1 . To Madame rvonne Allendy. Letter written on paper
headed HOtel Napoteon.
6 2 . To Madame Tvonne Allendy. Le Dibouk, dramatic legend
in three acts by Chalom Anski.
63. To Madame Tvonne Allendy. Date of postmark.

64. Therese Raquin, adapted for the screen by Jaques Feyder.

65. To Madame Tvonne Allendy. Date of p ostmark .
66.To Madame rvonne Allendy. Express letter written on
paper headed Hotel Napoleon. Date of postmark.
67. This is the figure written by Antonin Artaud. The result
is incorrect. It should be 384, 500.
68. To Madame r vonne Allendy. Express letter. Date of post
6 9 . To Madame r vonne Allendy. Express letter. Date of post
7 0 . To the newspaper 'L'lntransigeant' . Letter printed in the
column : Le Courrier des Treize, preceded by this note :
'Thinking that he was implied in a report printed in this
paper Monsieur Antonin Artaud has written us this letter
which we are including, impartially.'
It obviously refers to the new edition of the First Surrealist
Manifesto in 1 929. In the Preface to the 1 929 edition, Andre
Breton wrote : 'Once again, in accordance with my principle
of always going beyond any sort of sentimental obstacle, I will
not stop to judge those of my first companions who took fright
and turned back, I shall not indulge myself by giving a list
of names which could make this book seem up to date. I shall
simply say that the most precious gifts of the mind cannot sur
vive the loss of a scrap of honour . . .' (Andre Breton, Les
Manifestes du Surrealisme Sagittaire, 1 946 , p. 1 2 . ) In the
Second Surrealist Manifesto Andre Breton published Antonin
Artaud's letter to L' Intransigeant in full (Les Manif estes du
Surrealisme, p. I O I ) and made a violent reply ( cf. vol 2, notes
2 , 23, 24, and 25).
7 1 . To Madame rvonne Allendy. Undated letter written on
paper headed Theatre Alfred Jarry.
7 2 . To Jean Paulhan. This undoubtedly refers to the publica
tion of the Correspondence in the eleventh number of the Rev
olution Surrealiste ( cf. p. I 3 7 ) .
7 3 . To Madame rvonne Allendy. Express letter. Date of post
7 4 . To Madame rvonne Allendy. Express letter. Date of post
75. Trente ans ou la vie d'un joueur, melodrama in three acts
and in prose by Ducange and Dinaux.
76. The Monk, black novel by M. G. Lewis which Antonin
Artaud told for the Editions Denae! & Steele in I 93 1 .
7 7. To Jean Paulhan. Letter written on paper headed : Le
Franco-Italien, 1 06 boulevard de Clichy.
7 8 . The Alfred Jarry Theatre and Public Hostility. (vol. 2 ,
p. 33 ).
79. To Jean Paulhan. This refers to The Butcher's Revolt.
80. A word is missing in the post-script ; maybe : ' worth print
ing' .
8 1 . To Jean Paulhan. Very probably the introduction to
The Butcher's Revolt ( see p. 3 8 ) .
82. To Madame rvonne Allendy. Express letter.
8 3 . Filippo Tommaso Marinetti ( I 876- I 944). Italian poet ;
some of his works were written in French, in particular Le Roi
Bombance, a satirical tragedy first performed at the Theatre
de !'Oeuvre on 3 April, I 909, and the Manifeste technique de
la litterature futuriste which appeared in Le Figaro in May
1 g 1 2 and in which he declared that war was the only form of
hygiene in the world. He became the official poet of the Fascist
regime and occupied official posts.
8 4 . To Doctor Rene Allendy. The year is indicated by the
85. Post-Script. No indication of the addressee. Written on the
back of the beginning of a letter dated 3 January, 1 93 i . Sub
mitted by Monsieur Jean-Marie Conty.
86. To Roger Vitrac. Letter which was probably not sent. Sub
mitted by Monsieur Rene Thomas. The play mentioned in
this letter is Le Coup de Trafalgar. (Most of the letters trans
mittted by Monsieur Rene Thomas were tom up by Antonin
Artaud, but preserved.)
8 7. During his last stay in Berlin it was suggested that Antonin
Artaud should work as director in one of the main theatres
there ( cf. letter of 1 7 September, I 93 1 to Louis J ouvet, p. 1 70 ) .
88. To Louis Jouvet. This refers to The Philosopher's Stone,
( cf. vol. 2 , p. 7 3 ) .
89. To Louis Jouvet. Monsieur Jean - Marie Conty submitted
a rough copy of this letter to us ; we shall give the variants
existing between these two versions :
go. ' did not have the impression that you wanted to take
me on. I am sending you a second project just in case.'
g i . Here is a message which is no longer in the letter : ' It is for
a play by the same Roger Vitrac, but without any excessive
vulgarity, any inopportune Surrealism, without anything
directly shocking or provocative, and bearable for all audiences.
'Why don't you stage it? Even your repertory . . ' .

9 2 . ' an overwhelming reception. And yet so far you have

not gone beyond a certain point. And Vitrac's play is far
enough from his school ; it resolutely breaks all moulds, it
cracks the wide frame in which it seems that people want to
keep the theatre, in spite of everything.
'And yet it is impossible not to feel that the true public wants
more liberty in the theatre, that it is searching for, that it feels
the foreboding of, that it is hoping for a sort of new force into
which the theatre will mould itself, will insert itself sooner or
later !
'You obviously agree with me, with us all, that one can go
further . . .'
93. ' that your enlarged repertory must have, besides the
conventional plays, other plays which are more resolutely and
essentially revolutionary. And there is no reason . . . '
94. ' of an audience starved of the unexpected.'
95. 'However little we succeed in providing it, the public will
never want another one and it would be clever to be revolu
tionary in order to become commercial. Besides, as far as I am
concerned, the theatre should be far freer of heaviness,
morally, physically and in every sense, than the play on which
my project is based. I am not sending it to you as an example
of this type of theatre. It only gives us one side of the theatre
which we are hoping for, but which should be freer
96. To Louis Jou vet. This refers to the production of Le Coup
de Trafalgar by Roger Vitrac.
9 7 . Only the second syllable of this word can be read in the
original letter, written on the first line of the second sheet of
the letter, on the back. Antonin Artaud probably thought he
had written the first syllable on the front of this sheet.
98. To Maitre Mau rice Garf on. Draft of Letter submitted by
Monsieur Jean-Marie Conty.
99. To Rene Daumal. This draft was transmitted to us by
Monsieur Jean-Marie Conty. We asked Monsieur Andre
Rolland de Reneville about it and he seems to remember a
2 50
conversation between Rene Daumal and Antonin Artaud
which might have given rise to this manifesto. The letter re
mained in draft form.
1 oo. A blank in the original.
1 o 1 . Word missing in the original.
1 02 . A blank in the original.
1 03 . To Louis Jou vet. Although the envelope is marked : Per
sonal, urgent, this letter does not seem to have reached its
destination. It was submitted to us by Monsieur Rene Thomas.
1 04. To Louis Jouvet. The first night of Judith by Jean
Giraudoux was at the Theatre Pigalle on November 4, 1 93 1 ,
It was directed by Louis Jouvet.
1 05 . This refers to Buchner's Wozzeck.
1 06. To Louis Jouvet. Le Roi des Enfants. In the archives of
the Theatre de I' Athenee, deposited at the Bibliotheque de
!'Arsenal, there is a rough plan and sketches of sets for a play
entitled L'Heurs des En/ants. Maybe this is the play to which
Antonin Artaud refers. Unfortunately these sketches contain
no indication of the name of the author. In spite of all our
efforts we have been unable to discover anything else about
this play.
1 07 . To Louis Jouvet. Le Theatre Balinais, a l'exposition
coloniale appeared in no. 2 1 7 (October 1 93 1 ) of the Nouvelle
Revue Franfaise. This text was subsequently reprinted in The
Theatre and its Double.
1 08. To Jean Paulhan. The article on the Marx Brothers, Les
Freres Marx au Cinema du Pantheon, appeared in the January
1 93 2 number of the Nouvelle Revue Franfaise. Subsequently,
entitled The Marx Brothers, it was included in The Theatre
and its Double. ( vol. 4 ) .
1 09. To Auguste Boverio. Draft of Letter submitted by Mon
sieur Rene Thomas.
1 1 0. Bataille de la Marne, play in two acts by Andre Obey,
was first performed by the Compagnie des Quinze at the
Theatre du Vieux-Colombier on December 3, 1 93 1 . Auguste
Bovfrio played the Messenger.
1 1 1 . The Compagnie des Quinze was directed by Michel

Saint-Denis .
l 1 2 . The play by Armand Salacrou performed on the same
day at the Theatre du Vieux-Colombier was La Vie en Rose.
1 1 3 . To Steve Passeur. Draft of letter submitted by Monsieur
Rene Thomas.
l 1 4. This sentence is written on the first page of the letter and
crossed with a single line. It seems that the letter was written
on paper already bearing this sentence.
1 1 5 . To Steve Passeur. Draft of letter submitted by Mon
sieur Rene Thomas.
1 1 6. To Roger Vitrac. These three drafts were submitted to
us by Monsieur Rene Thomas. Like the letter of February 1 1 ,
1 9 3 1 ( p. 1 52 ) it contains Antonin Artaud's comments on Le
Coup de Trafalgar. The letter of 27 December, 1 93 1 , ( p. 1 89 ) .
was in an envelope with the following note :
'Sunday, 2 7 December, 1 93 1
To R. Vitrac
on Le Coup de Trafalgar
rue de Seine
1 1 7 . To Raymond Rouleau. Draft of letter submitted by
Monsieur Rene Thomas.
1 1 8. To Raymond Rouleau. Draft of letter submitted by Mon
sieur Rene Thomas. There is a mistake in the date : 2 7 Decem
ber, 1 93 1 was a Sunday, the 28th was a Monday, and 2
January, 1 93 2 must have been a Saturday.
In this, as in the previous letter, Antonin Artaud gives Ray-
mond Rouleau his views on the production of Bruckner's Mal
de la ]eunesse which was performed by the Theatre du Marais,
directed by Raymond Rouleau, on 20 April, l 93 l in Brussels,
and then in Paris at the Theatre de l'Oeuvre on 28 December,
1 93 1 .
l 1 9. In The Secrets of Love, Raymond Rouleau had played
1 20. Word missing in the original.
1 2 1 . To Louis ]ouvet. This must refer to Donogoo by Jules
Romains which was performed at the Theatre Pigalle on 25
October, l 930.
1 2 2 . To Jean Paulhan. This is what is written in the original
letter, but Antonin Artaud must have wanted to write : 'I only
read one comprehensive article . . . '
1 2 3 . To Andre Gide. Draft df letter submitted by Mon
sieur Rene Thomas. 2 0 January, 1 93 2 must have been a
Wednesday, not a Tuesday.
1 24. The showing of Jean Cocteau's fihn The Blood of a Poet,
as we gather from this opening of a letter to Andre Gide, sub
mitted by Monsieur Jean-Marie Canty :
'Paris, Wednesday, 20 January, 1 93 2
Monsieur Andre Gide.
Dear Monsieur,
We were interrupted yesterday evening at the showing of
Cocteau's Blood of a Poet just as you were about to discuss
Bruckner's play. I know that the performance interested you
and I would have been interested to have a more detailed
account of your . . . '
1 2 5 . On the back of the letter were the following notes re
ferring to the performance of Mal de la ]eunesse :
'In so far as they are obeying this sort of physical temptation,
'In so far as they prove capable of making the most of the
immediate physical possibilities which the stage has to offer,
'In so far as the temptation of space becomes a reality on
the stage,
'In so far as the usual dead forms of the theatre,
'to substitute the frozen forms of the art by live and menacing
forms which would give the sense of the ancient ceremonial
magic a new reality on the level of the theatre.'
Another variant, this time crossed out :
' . . . to make the most of the temptation and physical possi
bilities which the stage has to offer in order to immediately
withdraw profound and decisive consequences,'
1 26. To Jean Paulhan. Letter submitted by Monsieur Rene
Thomas. This letter was never posted.
1 2 7. Antonin Artaud's lecture, Production and Metaphysics,
was published in no. 2 2 1 (February 1 932) of the Nouvelle
Revue Franfaise. It was subsequently included in The Theatre
and its Double.
1 2 8. Sentence written on the back of the last page of the letter.
1 2 9. To Jean Paulhan. Draft of letter submitted by Mon
sieur Rene Thomas. 29 January, 1 93 2 must have been a Fri
day, not a Saturday.
1 30. The Tricksters by Steve Passeur was first performed by
the Troupe de l'Atelier at the Galeries de Bruxelles on 2 1
January, 1 93 2 . The play was revived in Paris, at the Theatre
de l'Atelier, on 30 January, 1 93 2 .
1 3 1 . To Louis Jouvet. Draft o f letter submitted by Monsieur
Jean-Marie Canty.
1 3 2 . La Patissiere de Village by Alfred Savoir. The play was
directed by Louis Jouvet and first performed at the Theatre
Pigalle on 8 March, 1 93 2 .
1 33. A blank in the original letter.
1 34. To Louis Jouvet. Draft of letter submitted by Monsieur
Jean-Marie Canty.
2 54
1 3 5 The sets for Alfred Savoir's La Patissiere de Village were
designed by Rene Moulaert.
1 36. To Jean Paulhan. The article on The Tricksters appeared
in no. 224 (May 1 932) of the Nouvelle Revue Franfaise. (See
vol. 2, p. 1 38 ) .
1 3 7 To Louis Jouvet. 9 February, 1 932 must have been a
Tuesday, not a Wednesday.
1 38. To Louis Jouvet. This letter, submitted by Monsieur
Jean-Marie Conty, was never posted. 27 February, 1 932 must
have been a Saturday, not a Sunday.
l 39. To Louis Jou vet. Date of postmark.
l 40. To Louis Jou vet. Draft of letter submitted by Monsieur
Rene Thomas.
1 4 1 . To Jean Paulhan. 2 1 March, 1 932, must have been a
Sunday, not a Tuesday.
l 42 . To Louis Jou vet. Postcard sent from Berlin. Date of post
1 43 To Jean Paulhan. Cf. About a Lost Play ( vol. 2 ) .
1 44 To Jean Paulhan. The Theatre and the Plague appeared
in no. 253 (October 1 934) of the Nouvelle Revue Franfaise.
This text is also included in The Theatre and its Double.
1 45 Cf. Annabella at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, printed
in the November 1 934 number of the Nouvelle Revue Fran
faise ( vol. 2, p. 1 47 . )
1 46. To Jean Paulhan. Letter written o n paper headed the
Brasserie Lorraine, 2 et 4 place des Ternes.
1 47 This passage is not in the text published in the Nouvelle
Revue Franfaise. Antonin Artaud may have given up the idea
since he says that he does not want this note published, in his
express letter of l 6 October, l 934.
1 48. To Jean Paulhan. Express letter. Date of postmark.