Tomiche, Anne (2012): “L’Intraduisible dont je suis fait”: Artaud et les avant-gardes occidentales. Paris: Le Manuscrit, 410 p.[Record]

  • Alexandra Lukes

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  • Alexandra Lukes
    Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Note d'Érudit

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This book is a significant contribution to both Artaud scholarship and translations studies. It reveals the importance for the development of Artaud’s poetics of a heretofore largely neglected facet of his writing – namely, his idiosyncratic practice of translation. While a small selection of Artaud’s translations have received some interest from critics (Deleuze and Lecercle among others), the connection between the translations and Artaud’s more obscure material has not previously been studied in such depth. In her introduction, Tomiche notes possible reasons for a lack of sustained attention. On the one hand, the translations themselves occupy a very small place in Artaud’s work and are limited both in time-frame (to 1943-1944, during his internment in the asylum of Rodez) and in size –a handful of mostly short texts and poems, with the exception of the longer adaptation of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk, undertaken in 1931. On the other hand, Artaud himself was profoundly dismissive of the activity of translation and his knowledge of English was very poor. Yet, what is significant about these translations is that they coincide with Artaud’s return to writing after the breakdown in 1937, which led to a nine-year period of interment in a series of mental asylums. The question, then, that drives Tomiche’s study is the following: what role did the translations and, more broadly, the activity of translating, play in Artaud’s rediscovery of writing and what light can they shed on the development of his poetics? Tomiche explores these questions in three parts, following a trajectory that moves from text to context. This trajectory begins with the detailed textual analysis of what Tomiche calls “traductions linguistiques”; then proceeds to re-evaluate Artaud’s post-Rodez poetics, via a focus on the relationship between language, glossolalia, and drawing based on “translations glossolaliques” and “translations graphiques”; and, finally, contextualizes Artaud’s poetic practice within the broader framework of avant-garde twentieth-century literary production. The book integrates a series of previously published articles, substantially revised, so as to offer a cohesive analysis of Artaud’s work, and presents a reading of Artaud as practising a form of avant-garde poetics that engages with both the theory and the practice of translation. The first section explores three translations: two texts by Lewis Carroll - the poem “Tèma con Variaziòni” and the episode of “Humpty Dumpty” from Through the Looking-Glass - and a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, “Israfel.” These texts are chosen not only because each one illustrates a different translational practice but also because they are accompanied by letters and commentaries that reflect upon the practice of translation itself. Tomiche’s approach is two-fold: she provides a detailed reading of the translations and examines the particular translation strategy used in each case; at the same time, she reveals the broader thematic concerns that play out in each translation and traces their occurrence throughout Artaud’s corpus. In so doing, she establishes a continuity in Artaud’s works, punctuated by the experience of Rodez, while also showing how it is the practice of translation itself that embeds the recurring themes into the work of language. More precisely, the progression of Artaud’s treatment of language is inherently tied up with the specific themes that Tomiche identifies in each translation. From the confrontation with Carroll’s “Tèma con Variaziòni,” there emerges a concern with a relationship between orality and fecal matter; this, Tomiche argues, develops into a writing that privileges the materiality of the word – Tomiche refers to this as “le mot-matière régurgitée.” In translating Carroll’s “Humpty Dumpty,” Artaud explores the connection between sense and nonsense in ...