Quotes by Antonin Artaud are full of poetry and vitality. They are the fruit of a creator who explored practically all literary genres, although he gained notoriety mainly as a poet and dramatist. In fact, he is known as the creator of the “theater of cruelty”.
It can be said that all the modern theater drinks from the philosophy that this extraordinary French writer gave him. Many of Antonin Artaud’s phrases speak precisely of the theater, but also of other human realities that he discovered in the context of an existence of suffering.
“I have been sick all my life and I ask only to continue being, because the conditions of deprivation of life have always given me better indications about the plethora of my power than the petty bourgeois beliefs that: health is enough”.
At age 4, Artaud suffered a meningitis that left him with sequels for life. At age 9, her sister surprisingly died and was immersed in a process of mourning that did not completely overcome. Perhaps it was those difficult experiences that made him a writer of deep sensitivity and lucidity. These are some of the most remembered phrases of Antonin Artaud.
1. What is living?
“Life is nothing else than burn in questions”.
It is one of the most beautiful phrases by Antonin Artaud. Associate in it life and the essential ignorance that defines it. We are born without knowing hardly anything and we die having solved only a minimum part of those questions that lie in wait for us.
Artaud does not speak of that ignorance from an intellectual point of view. That’s why he uses the word “burn.” All that not knowing is a flame that burns. We do not know exactly where we are from, where we are going, or why we are here.
2. Cinema, a drug
“Cinema has, above all, the virtue of a harmless and direct poison, a subcutaneous injection of morphine.”
This phrase is an exaltation and a critique of cinema. Artaud was mainly a theater man and viewed the movie boom with some skepticism. It seemed to him that this mediation of the screen detracted what he exhibited.
That is why it gives an ambiguous value to this art. He calls it morphine, which is at the same time a harmful substance and carrier of a certain well-being. Hence, it defines it as a harmless poison: it is intrinsically negative, but it does not cause serious damage.
3. One of Antonin Artaud’s phrases about being
“Where it smells like shit, it smells like being.”
There are many phrases of Antonin Artaud in which his intense and almost violent spirit is revealed. The illness of his childhood turned him into a nervous person, who with the passage of time developed paranoid delusions.
That is why Artaud spent long periods interned in psychiatric hospitals. The phrase in the header, although said in an aggressive way, reveals a very human message. Being is not something only sublime, but also prosaic and vulgar.
4. The language of words
“It has not been proven, much less, that the language of words is the best possible.”
Antonin Artaud was also someone very interested in mystical phenomena. During his childhood and youth he was very devoted to religion. Later he undertook new spiritual searches, which even led him to live with the Tarahumara community in Mexico.
His way of looking at life made him very sensitive to the most subtle phenomena. With the Tarahumara he deeply penetrated, despite the language barrier. Perhaps that is why the phrase alludes to the fact that words are just one of many means that exist to communicate and generate understanding.
5. The only occupation
“I am at the point where I no longer touch life, but I have in me all the appetites and the insistent titillation of being. I only have one occupation: redo myself. “
Artaud was above all an explorer of the human spirit. After his stay in Mexico he entered into some esoteric practices, such as Tarot, astrology and numerology. His obsession with these issues led him again to a state of extreme nervousness.
In 1938 he was deported from Ireland to France for “exceeding the limits of marginality.” He then spent nine years in mental hospitals. It was a time of great suffering for him and that ratified his hatred for psychiatry, which he blamed for the damage done to many human beings.