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Antonin Artaud, Stephen Barber (ed.): Watchfiends and Rack Screams

Antonin Artaud, Stephen Barber (ed.)

Watchfiends and Rack Screams
Artaud’s Last Unpublished Work

Translated by Stephen Barber, Paul Buck, Clayton Eshleman and Catherine Petit

Softcover, 224 pages

Date of publication: 31.10.2024

Artaud’s Last Unpublished Work

Drawing on texts and letters dating from 1946, some of them written while he was still confined at the Rodez psychiatric hospital, Artaud devoted the months of November 1946 to February 1947 to completing his book through a long series of vocal improvisations titled Interjections, dictated at his pavilion on the edge of Paris. He cursed the assassins he believed were on their way there to steal his semen, to make his brain go “up in smoke as under the action of one of those machines created to suck up filth from the floor,” and finally to erase him. The publisher who had commissioned the book, Louis Broder, was horrified at reading its incandescent, fiercely obscene, and anti-religious manuscript and refused to publish it. Ambitious and experimental in scale, fragmentary and ferocious in intent, it was not published until 1978, in an edition prepared by Artaud’s close friend Paule Thévenin. Artaud commented that it was an “impossible” book, and that “nobody has ever read it from end to end, not even its own author.”

Clayton Eshleman, together with his translation collaborators such as David Rattray, began to work soon after 1978 on an English-language edition, with extracts appearing especially in Eshleman’s poetry magazine, Sulfur. This volume presents his translations with additional ones by Stephen
Barber, Paul Buck, and Catherine Petit it in its complete form in English for the first time.

  • avant-garde
  • autobiography
  • literature
  • poetry
  • poetry
  • Modernism

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Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud

(1896–1948) is one of the seminal figures of twentieth century writing, art and sound experimentation, known especially for his work with the Surrealist movement, his performance theories, his asylum incarcerations, and his artworks which have been exhibited in major exhibitions, at New York’s MOMA and many other art-museums.

Stephen Barber

is the author of twenty-five books, including seven novels, most recently White Noise Ballrooms and The Projectionists. Eadweard Muybridge and the Future Projections of the Moving Image. He has received several awards for his books, which have been translated into many languages, such as Japanese and Chinese. The Independent newspaper (London) once called him “the most dangerous man in Europe.” He is a professor at the Kingston School of Art, Kingston University, London, and a visiting research fellow at the Free University Berlin and Keio University Tokyo.