The question of what Antonin Artaud means by positing a compatibility between goodness and cruelty is taken up at the end of his infamous last public reading, ‘The Story Lived by Artaud Mômo’ where he said, ‘I put myself in your place, and I see very well that what I am saying isn’t interesting at all, it’s still theatre. What can I do to be truly sincere?’1 After an hour of inundating his audience with poems, travel experiences, and stories of black magic, Artaud spoke for another two hours of his psychiatric incarcerations, his vehement refutations of death, and generally flailed about making wild gestures, cries and screams.2 Having posed his curious question of sincerity, Artaud, who had dropped all his papers, read his final poem, ‘Artaud the Mômo’, glaring at the audience as he uttered the words, ‘the filthy meat’, and abruptly left the stage (Artaud, 1995: 117). Disabused of its saccharine associations,Artaud’s sincerity is an ‘affective’ theatrical plea that could just as well be a specious glance toward authenticity. What would be the difference? In a letter to André Breton, Artaud writes, ‘I left because I realized that the only / language I could use on an audience was to / take bombs out of my pockets and throw them / in their faces in a gesture of unmistakable / aggression’ (Artaud, 1989: 183). And yet there is this refrain, this bow, this histrionic collapse in front of nine hundred people. Artaud’s plaintive interrogation of the constitution of truthfulness is a burden to the audience and to himself, (a rhetorical question, or more precisely, part of Artaud’s interrogative practice of
disciplined cruelty) and more importantly a repetition, a repetition of the creation of the ideal kernel of pure thought itself.