Heliogabalus; or, the Crowned Anarchist

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9780971457805: Heliogabalus; or, the Crowned Anarchist
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Antonin Artaud's novelised biography of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Heliogabalus is simultaneously his most accessible and his most extreme book. Written in 1933, at the time when Artaud was preparing to stage his legendary Theatre of Cruelty, Heliogabalus is a powerful concoction of sexual excess, self-deification and terminal violence. Translated by Alexis Lykiard (acclaimed translator of Lautreamont's Maldoror) and with an introduction by Stephen Barber (author of Artaud: Blows & Bombs; Artaud: The Screaming Body; and Caligula: Divine Carnage).

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About the Author:

Antonin Artaud is one of the most deeply influential writers of the 20th Century, known for his invention of the Theater Of Cruelty.

Alexis Lykiard, Greek-born and living in England, is best known for his translation of Lautreamont’s Maldoror, a text now adopted in many US universities. He has translated several other classic works of Surrealism, including works by Celine, Apollinaire and Aragon.

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Introduction - Stephen Barber The acts of excess, atrocity and aberration of the Roman Emperors have provoked richly obsessional responses from innumerable writers over the centuries. In the twentieth century, that compulsive fascination (now shared too by filmmakers) emerged at moments of profound upheaval and social disintegration: in Germany during the 1910s, in France during the 1930s, in Japan during the 1960s "and worldwide, in the contemporary moment. The grandiose abuse of colossal power, the overriding desire for immediate sexual ecstasy and oblivion through violence and torture, and the arbitrary eradication of entire populations, are ever-more vital and relevant preoccupations. Of all the Roman Emperors, it is the figure of the anarchist child-god Heliogabalus (along with the crazed Caligula and the matricidal Nero), with his ephemeral and implosive reign of gold, blood, semen and excrement, which most intimately connects into contemporary manias, panics and desires. The four-year reign of Heliogabalus, who was slaughtered at the age of eighteen, was characterized by spectacles of incest, sodomy, butchery, debauchery, and an anarchic ridicule for the powers of government. And of all the many responses to the Roman Emperors, right across the centuries, it is the French writer Antonin Artaud’s extraordinary biography of Heliogabalus which most exactly aligns those divine forces of uproar with the seisms that now seize contemporary empires, audiences and perceptions. Antonin Artaud is most renowned as the legendary instigator of the Theatre of Cruelty "the inspirational project which irreparably transformed the nature of theatre and performance "and as the dissident Surrealist poet and filmmaker who effortlessly out-imagined and out-hallucinated Andr‚ Breton, and faced expulsion from the Surrealist movement as a result. It was in 1933 that his publisher Robert Denol (who would later be assassinated) proposed that Artaud was the ideal candidate to write a biography of Heliogabalus. The figure of Heliogabalus was a supremely revelatory one in the France of the 1930s, as its moral systems disintegrated towards warfare and Nazi Occupation (the writer Jean Genet would compose a play about Heliogabalus during the Occupation years, though he later destroyed it). Artaud researched the book over many months in the National Library in Paris, consulting ancient esoteric and astrological texts as well as books of Roman history...

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