A poet, philosopher, essayist, playwright, actor, and director, Antonin Artaud was a visionary writer and a major influence within and beyond the French avant-garde. A key text for understanding his thought and his appeal, 50 Drawings to Murder Magic is rooted in the nine years Artaud spent in mental asylums, struggling with schizophrenia and the demonic, persecutory visions it unleashed. Set down in a dozen exercise books written between 1946 and 1948, these pieces trace Artaud's struggle to escape a personal hell that extends far beyond the walls of asylums and the dark magicians he believed ran them.
The first eleven notebooks are filled with fragments of writing and extraordinary sketches: totemic figures, pierced bodies, and enigmatic machines, some revealing the marks of a trembling hand, others carefully built up from firm, forceful pencil strokes. The twelfth notebook, completed two months before Artaud's death in 1948, changes course: it's an extraordinary text on the loss of magic to the demonic--the piece that gives the book its title.
"Artaud matters," wrote John Simon in the Saturday Review years ago. Nearly seventy years after his death, that remains true--perhaps more than ever.