- Toward a "Rigorous Writing of the Cry"The Two Artauds of the First Derrida
One day my reason must surely honor the undefined forces besieging me—so that they replace higher thought—, those forces which, exteriorly, have the form of a cry.—Antonin Artaud
The Theft of Words
There are things about which one cannot speak. I am referring neither to a logico-discursive nonpower, nor to the nonpower of contradiction, nor to the impotence or fragility of communication. I am referring to the problem imposed when, precisely because it is in no case a mere "object" or anything similar or because it alludes to experiential situations particularly complex or burdensome, the object under discussion demands a word that is not [End Page 127] ventured simply, immediately, or flatly. The brutality of the stories and tales or the violence of enunciation are simply inadequate for what only withdraws from the word or, at the limit, irrupts in the form of a cry.
Perhaps Artaud's "meteoric" existence, which refuses all univocal apprehension and constitutes an exorbitant gesture for thinking, calls for the experience or experiment of something similar. Derrida seeks to mark this difficulty from the beginning: we cannot speak of Artaud simply; we cannot analyze him without any thematic access inevitably erring in naïveté in the end. Derrida recognizes this from the first line of the first text that he dedicates to Artaud in Writing and Difference: "La parole soufflée."1 In fact, this text opens with a rather curious recognition: "Naïveté of the discourse we begin here, speaking toward Antonin Artaud" (Derrida 1978, 169). With this sentence, Derrida not only announces that speaking about Artaud or opening this space for analyzing and problematizing the gesture of his thinking is probably marked by an insurmountable ingenuousness and superficiality; he also emphasizes that one can only speak "toward [en direction de]" Artaud and not "about" him. In no case could Artaud be held for any given theme of discourse; in no case could a text claim to dominate him completely. At the limit, it might be a question of addressing oneself toward him, of making a move toward his work, but one will never grasp or possess him entirely. And in any case, even though we only weakly address him, the risk of naïveté is still involved.
It will thus be necessary to speak toward Artaud, with doubt that one can effectively indicate with words the radicality of his protestations to the written word and intractability to text. With his theatrical, poetic, and literary work, the "meteor" Artaud marks a passage to the limit that demands a reconsideration of language in its power, in its force, in its impetus, a passage that announces the necessity of suspending analysis there where a cry imposes itself and of interlacing the written text with a vital word merely uttered and stolen from all concrete inscription.
Exemplarity/Unicity of Artaud
All of this leads us to believe that, with Artaud, an exemplary experience is named. Artaud was able to confront radical resistance and blockage, [End Page 128] something unpredictable and unrecognizable in appearance, which slowly transformed into an obtuse insistence in his work, a veritable obsession, to the point of taking on characteristics of an essential frustration. Artaud incarnated this essentiality of frustration, which arises before the extreme necessity of facing bodily illness, the desecration of the name, the living and lucid cruelty of sense. This was his radicality: the clearer the rules of the game that he was practicing with his writing and theater became, the more inevitable and exasperating the impossibility of achieving them became.
Yet, precisely, if on the one hand his exemplarity is defined by the fact of his ability to exemplify the tendency typical of literature or artistic practices (as well as philosophy) when he faces the body and its illness (like in Nietzsche, Hölderlin, and many others) because it concretizes characteristics of a radical suspension, the suspension or the blockage exemplary of all silent entry into what exists only as a residuum of the word, on the other...