Saturday, March 15, 2008

Honoring the Mad French on this St. Patrick's Day

I love all you temporary fake Irish and your aggressive green-ness. How did the environmental movement not capitalize on St Patrick's Day, challenging the world to really make things green this year. Maybe they did and I was too focused on free hot dogs with green mustard to notice.

My favorite thing about the non-existent patron saint of Ireland involves no Irish historical figures at all, but instead my favorite Frenchman. Antonin Artaud, the French playwright responsible to dismantling the illusionary nature of theatre in his book The Theatre and Its Double, found trouble putting his Theatre of Cruelty into commercially viable action, despite his popularity as a writer and actor, so he went on a trip to Mexico to study native tribes and peyote. He was forced by circumstance to kick his heroin habit on this arduous journey and his hallucinatory findings are detailed in broad, blood-soaked strokes in his semi-poetic Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara. It's a gripping read if you're into the drug ravings of French madmen from the 30's, but I mean... who isn't into that?

Anyway, shortly after returning to France, Artaud discovered a walking stick that had obviously belonged to St. Patrick - the very stick with which the Saint chased all the snakes from Ireland's shores. This stick, which also had connections to Lucifer and Jesus - you try chasing snakes off an island without your bases covered, had no business being in France, so Artaud took it upon himself to return it to it's rightful home. Artaud was a well known figure in France, but on this steamer, he was a broke non-English speaking looney, and on the return voyage, he was confined to a strait jacket. Two questions come to mind: 1) Where is that stick now? and 2) Were straitjackets standard gear on steamer ships back then, just for situations like these? Are they now?

The incident severed poor Antonin's final nerve and he was shuffled around among asylums, hiding out in Vichy during the Nazi Occupation, until 1946, when the creative fire he previously held was rekindled (purportedly by electro-shock treatments) and he recorded Pour en Finir avec le Jugement de dieu (To Have Done With the Judgment of god) a wondrous cacophony of percussion, and frenzied raving that is, among other things: scatological, anti-American, nonsensical and gripping. used to have it in their sound archives, but it appears to be gone. (two minutes of it are available from this site.) It is worth seeking out. It's a crushing final blow from someone who saw the world as needing one.

So, raise your hot dogs high and flick specs of green mustard in the spring air for poor old Antonin Artaud this St. Patrick's Day, straitjacketed on an Irish steamer, and if you see a snake in your yard today, should have listened.

and it was then
that I exploded everything
because my body
can never be touched.

1 comment:

  1. The merest glance at what I thought was green ketchup there made my stomach heave. It makes no sense, but knowing that it is, in fact, green mustard, somehow makes it just fine.