My hypothesis: Artaud is part of a European and specifically French intellectual lineage obsessed with the rigors of truth-telling. (“We are born, we live,” he said, speaking to a tradition of paradoxical truths, “we die in an environment of lies.”) Artaud aspires to be a magus of truth, a sorcerer of truth, and he is willing to die for it, or to be driven insane by his perceptions: “I believe that our present social state is iniquitous and should be destroyed. If this is a fact for the theater to be preoccupied with, it is even more a matter for machine guns.” Does he believe what he’s saying exactly as he’s saying it, or does he simply believe that the truth is in the avowal, which avowal changes its utterer, makes it nearly impossible for him to bring the message back to the place where it most needs to be brought—the place of mendacity? “Should I be writing like Artaud? I am incapable of it,” Derrida says, “and besides, anyone who would try to write like him, under the pretext of writing toward him, would be even surer of missing him, would lose the slightest chance ever of meeting him in the ridiculous attempt of this mimetic distortion.” Sontag argues that he’s a gnostic (“Artaud wandered in the labyrinth of a specific type of religious sensibility, the Gnostic one”), meaning, I suppose, that he believed in a secret, unimpeded route to the divine, that he could have personal access, without requiring the apparatus of the church and its intercessions. Or: gnostic meaning that the divine with which he consorts is a malignancy?
more from Rick Moody at The Believer here.