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Obliteration of the World: A Guide to the Occult Belief System of Antonin Artaud

by Peter Valente


'Obliteration of the World' is a series of essays which explores the hermetic side of Antonin Artaud’s thought, drawing from a selection of letters written late in his life, to André Breton, Georges Braque, Marthe Robert, Anie Besnard, and Collette Thomas. 'Artaud’s Sacred Triad' uses the Qabalah and ideas about the Tarot to explore his own sexuality and magick. 'Cubism and the Gnostic', explores Artaud’s criticism of Georges Braque where Artaud goes beyond mere aesthetics to question the essence of representation. 'Artaud’s Book of the Dead', explores the Tibetan idea of the afterlife and Artaud’s relation to it. 'The Incestuous Father and his Daughters of the Heart', explores Artaud’s relation to the various women in his life. To these women, Artaud was a force alternately sympathetic and cruel, manipulative and romantic. The final essay, 'The Jesus-staff of Artaud', is concerned with Artaud’s travels in Mexico and his obsession with the mystical staff of St. Patrick. Artaud’s apocalyptic vision for mankind led him on a journey, beginning in Mexico in 1936 and ending, tragically, in Ireland in 1937, with a mental breakdown and silence. In 1948, Artaud wrote:

At this moment, I want to destroy my thought and my mind. Above all, thought, mind and consciousness. I do not want to suppose anything, admit anything, enter into anything, discuss anything…

For Artaud, this constitutes his final obliteration of the world.


Obliteration of the World

  • Out 4 March 2023

    Soft-bound, 106 pages 

    190 x 148mm


  • 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.

    Peter Valente is a writer, translator, and filmmaker. He is the author of twelve full length books. His most recent books are a collection of essays on several of Werner Schroeter’s films, A Credible Utopia (Punctum, 2022) and his translation of Gérard de Nerval, The Illuminated (Wakefield Press, 2022). Forthcoming is his translation of Nicolas Pages by Guillaume Dustan (Semiotext(e), 2024). He has shown twenty-four of his short experimental films at Anthology Film Archives.

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