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suffering looks like something

June 2, 2009

[The Believer] What’s with the before and after photos of Artaud? Always before illness and then after? You’d think he was a dieter. Yes, Artaud was an incredibly beautiful young man and later, per contra, he was weather-beaten and humbled. Wracked by cancer and decades of addiction, not to mention ECT and other exotic psychiatric treatments. Insulin therapy. Yet perhaps the beaten-down quality is still an interpretation of Artaud. The photos are a luxury for those who already know what they think. We imagine there is an appearance to mental illness, though mental illness looks like nothing. Suffering looks like something. But generally mental illness is simply the physical illness that bears no trace.

Derrida: “It would certainly be disingenuous to close our eyes, either because of some literary feeling or some absentminded politeness, to what Artaud himself describes as a neuropathological persecution. Moreover, that kind of disingenuousness would be insulting. The man is sick.” (read)

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