Born in 1908 to prosperous Russian parents of Armenian extraction, Arthur Adamov was educated primarily in French. The outbreak of World War I found the Adamov family on vacation in Germany, from which they escaped, with royal intervention, in order to seek refuge in Geneva, Switzerland, where the young Adamov was to receive much of his formal education. After a brief residence in Mainz, Germany, the sixteen-year-old Adamov found his way to Paris, where he was soon befriended by the early Surrealists and became editor of the periodical Discontinuité. Before long, however, Adamov’s writing career was interrupted by his first experience of the recurring mental and emotional disturbance later to be described at some length in L’Aveu. It was probably during this period that Adamov made the acquaintance of the brilliant, eccentric Antonin Artaud, now esteemed as one of the foremost theoreticians of contemporary drama, who shared with Adamov the affliction of mental illness.
During this period, Adamov first conceived a number of theories and positions that would stand him in good stead around the onset of middle age, when he began to write for the theater. Never really free of his Surrealist origins, Adamov as an artist came to value the lucidity provided by his neurosis, going so far as to assert that his madness gave him a visionary power denied to ordinary mortals. By the end of World War II, after a brief period of internment and two years’ residence in occupied Paris, Adamov had worked out his personal response to changes both internal (psychological) and external (political), a response articulated both in essays and in attempts at...
(The entire section is 685 words.)