Artaud the Mômo is Antonin Artaud’s most extraordinary poetic work of the brief final phase of his life, from his return to Paris from a nine-year incarceration in France’s psychiatric institutions in 1946 until his death in 1948. The work is an unprecedented anatomical excavation carried through in vocal language, envisioning new gestural futures for the human body in its splintered fragments, while also generating black-humor illuminations into Artaud’s own status as the scorned Marseille-born child-fool, the ‘mômo’ (a self-naming that fascinated Jacques Derrida in his writings on this work). Artaud moves between extreme irreligious obscenity and delicate evocations of his immediate corporeal perception and his sense of solitude. The book’s five-part sequence ends with Artaud’s caustic denunciation of psychiatric institutions and of the very conception of madness itself.
This edition, translated by Clayton Eshleman—the acclaimed foremost translator of Artaud’s work—presents the work in the spatial format Artaud intended, for the first time since its original edition in 1947. It also incorporates the eight original drawings by Artaud—showing reconfigured bodies, weapons of resistance and assault—which he selected for that edition, having initially attempted to persuade Picasso to collaborate with him.
The editorial material draws on Artaud’s previously unknown manuscript letters of 1946-48 to the book’s publisher, Pierre Bordas, which give unique insights into the work from its origins to its publication.