Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Antonin Artaud (ahr-toh), a poet, dramatist, and essayist, was a central figure in the European avant-garde movement. An inquisitive student and a voracious reader, he became so deeply depressed at age nineteen that he destroyed all of his early works. His parents committed him to a nearby sanatorium. During the next five years, he was sequestered in several clinics. In 1920 his parents finally sent him to Paris, where he began his career in the arts.
Artaud’s first collection of poems, Heavenly Backgammon, published in 1923, was a slim volume of eight poems written in a mixed style of gothic romanticism and Symbolism; it showed the influence of Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. Artaud later dismissed this work because it followed an established literary tradition. More important during this time was Artaud’s preoccupation with the theater. Until 1924 he worked with Charles Dullin’s experimental Théâtre de l’Atelier, where he collaborated on set and costume design; he also acted in many of the productions and in the budding film industry.
Artaud’s precarious mental and physical states were exacerbated by the laudanum and opium which he had been taking since 1919. This caused him to be erratic and moody, making it impossible for him to sustain personal and professional relationships. Yet Artaud was able to document his experience with pain in the well-received Correspondence with Jacques Rivière, the first...
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Biography (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
Probably the best way to review the works of Antonin Artaud would be simply to print as many fragments of these writings as space permits, leaving it to the reader to react to or experience them, since understanding or appreciation are almost meaningless terms when it comes to Artaud’s wild and visionary products. The second-best approach would probably be to quote nothing, largely ignore the writings themselves, and offer as precise a biography of the man as possible, since Artaud’s writings are, in a sense, much more profound than those of a conventional author, an extension of the person. But inasmuch as both approaches are clearly impractical for a research volume, one is left with the necessity to write a coherent, literate essay about the selected works of a man for whom coherence and literacy were both anathemas and impossibilities.
No author is more essential than Artaud for an understanding of the “modern sensibility.” If his works are “a broken self-mutilated corpus, a vast collection of fragments,” his career a sad, sometimes spectacular, record of failure, and his life a chronicle of aborted relationships, progressive drug addiction, physical pain, incarceration, and pathetic death, his influence and his legend have become dominant forces not only in the theater, his primary focus, but also, for better or worse, in the worldwide countercultural revolution of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Each of his roles—and he had more...
(The entire section is 2097 words.)
Biography (Drama for Students)
Antonin Artaud is a French writer, actor, and intellectual figure as well known for his supposed madness and troubled genius as for his prolific output of writings, plays, films, and drawings. Although he suffered from mental illness and spent a great deal of his life in sanitariums, he is far more respected for his artistic and intellectual innovations than for his biographical mystique.
Born September 4, 1896, in Marseilles, France, to a Catholic family, Antonin Artaud was raised mainly by his mother, his grandmothers, and his governess, because his father, a shipfitter, was frequently away on business. Artaud contracted a severe case of meningitis at age four, and as a result he suffered throughout the rest of his life from neuralgia, a condition characterized by sharp and intense pains in nerve centers. At age seventeen, he became depressed, destroyed the manuscripts of his early work, and withdrew from school. In 1915, he was sent to a sanatorium near Marseilles.
Artaud spent a short amount of time in the army in 1916, but was quickly discharged. He spent the next four years living in various sanitariums, reading and drawing. In 1920, he expressed a desire to live and write in Paris, and his parents referred him to a leading psychotherapist named Edouard Toulouse, who was also the editor of a literary magazine called Demain, which published some of Artaud’s work. Artaud began to work as a theatre and film actor in 1922, and in...
(The entire section is 586 words.)