Heliogabalus or, the Crowned Anarchist
by Antonin Artaud
Antonin Artaud’s Heliogabalus is simultaneously his most extreme, revolutionary and deranged book, and likely now also to prove his most influential in the contemporary moment with the publication by Infinity Land Press of this first complete English-language translation, by Alexis Lykiard.
Dating from the period when Artaud was preparing his legendary ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ experiments, Heliogabalus anatomises and recreates the sperm and blood-constellated life of the infamous Roman emperor who was assassinated by his own guards at the age of 18 after four years spent relentlessly deriding and disintegrating the empire’s power. Artaud asserts that ‘The entire life of Heliogabalus is anarchy in action... fire, gesture, blood, cry... Fanatical, a real king, a rebel, a crazed individualist.’
Artaud explicitly wrote his account of Heliogabalus’s acts as an embodiment of himself and of his own insurgency in art. Three years after the book’s publication, he was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum, emerging only shortly before his death in 1948.
This edition includes an introduction by Stephen Barber and his translations of all of the surviving letters written by Artaud about his work on Heliogabalus.
Translated by Alexis Lykiard
With an introduction by Stephen Barber
Artworks by Martin Bladh
Photographs by Karolina Urbaniak
2019 & 2022
Hardbound, 196 pages, 190 x 148mm
Each Collector's Edition set includes an original A3 collage produced by Martin Bladh and the book.
About the authors
Antonin Artaud's work has a world-renowned status for experimentation across performance, film, sound, poetry and visual art. In the 1920s, he was a member of the Surrealist movement until his expulsion, and formulated theoretical plans across the first half of the 1930s for his 'Theatre of Cruelty' and attempted to carry them through. He made a living as a film actor from 1924 to 1935 and made many attempts to direct his own film projects. In 1936, he travelled to Mexico with a plan to take peyote in the Tarahumara lands. In 1937, preoccupied with the imminent apocalypse, he travelled to Ireland but was deported, beginning a nine-year asylum incarceration during which he continued to write and also made many drawings. After his release in 1946, he lived in the grounds of a sanatorium in Ivry-sur-Seine, close to Paris, and worked intensively on drawings, writings and sound-recordings. He died on 4 March 1948. His drawings have been exhibited on several occasions, notably at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna in 2002 and at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in 2006.
Alexis Lykiard (born 1940) is a British writer of Greek heritage, who began his prolific career as novelist and poet in the 1960s. His poems about jazz have received particular acclaim, including from Maya Angelou, Hugo Williams, Roy Fisher, Kevin Bailey and others. He is also known as translator of Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautréamont, Alfred Jarry, Antonin Artaud and many notable French literary figures. In addition, Lykiard has written two highly praised intimate memoirs of Jean Rhys: Jean Rhys Revisited (2000) and Jean Rhys: Afterwords (2006).
Stephen Barber’s books have been acclaimed as ‘brilliant, profound and provocative’ by The Times newspaper in the UK, and he has been called ‘a writer of real distinction’ and ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ by The Independent newspaper. The Sunday Times newspaper hailed his books as ‘exhilarating and disquieting’.
He is the author of many fiction and non-fiction books, including studies of Antonin Artaud, Pierre Guyotat, Jean Genet and Eadweard Muybridge. Among his recent books are England’s Darkness (SunVision Press) and Berlin Bodies.
Martin Bladh is a Swedish-born artist of multiple mediums. His work lays bare themes of violence, obsession, fantasy, domination, submission and narcissism. Bladh is a founding member of the post-industrial band IRM, the musical avant-garde unit Skin Area and co-founder of Infinity Land Press. His published work includes To Putrefaction, Qualis Artifex Pereo, DES, The Hurtin’ Club and Darkleaks - The Ripper Genome. He lives and works in London.
Karolina Urbaniak is a visual artist and co-founder of Infinity Land Press. Urbaniak’s published work includes To Putrefaction, 2014, Altered Balance – A Tribute to Coil, 2014/15, The Void Ratio, 2015, Artaud 1937 Apocalypse, 2018 and Deart Mort Tod - A European Book of the Dead, 2018. Her recent multimedia projects include the soundtrack for Darkleaks - The Ripper Genome and the audio/visual installation On The New Revelations of Being inspired by the work of Antonin Artaud. She lives and works in London.