From the introduction by Stephen Barber The grandiose and arbitrary abuse of unlimited power, the overriding infinite desire for immediate sexual ecstasy and oblivion especially through violence and subjugation, and the nonchalant eradication of entire populations, are now ever-more familiar 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 infiltrates contemporary manias, panics and desires. The four-year reign of Heliogabalus, who was slaughtered by his own guards at the age of eighteen, was characterised by performances and spectacles of incest, sodomy, butchery, debauchery, and an anarchic ridicule for all powers of government. EXTRACTS If there was around the corpse of Heliogabalus, tombless, its throat cut by his police force in his palace latrines, a heavy flow of blood and excrement, there was around his cradle a heavy flow of sperm. Heliogabalus was born in an era when everybody slept with everybody; and it will never be known when or by whom his mother was actually impregnated. The father to them all, to the female wellspring of this river of rape and infamy, must, before he became priest, have been a coachman, since otherwise it would be incomprehensible — the zealousness which Heliogabalus, once enthroned, put into being buggered by charioteers.
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English Translated into English for the first time, this novelized biography of the 3rd-century Roman Emperor Heliogabalus is simultaneously Arauds most accessible and his most extreme book. Written in , 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. Reflecting its authors preoccupations with the occult, magic, Satan, and a range of esoteric religions, this account of Heliogabalus reign invents incidents in the Emperors life in order to make the print of the authors own passionate denunciations of modern existence.
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 s, in France during the s, in Japan during the s "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 Artauds 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 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 s, 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 Contents: 1. The Cradle of Sperm 2. The War of Principles 3.
Heliogabalus; or, the Crowned Anarchist
So a thing can be compared with any other thing and one may draw parallel lines between any mythologems and any phenomena… And Antonin Artaud boldly follows this trail, transmuting salaciousness into poetic language. His Heliogabalus is a tale about a madman told by another madman, the fantastic ejaculation of a poetical mind. He declared himself a living god-emperor, and through marriage to Bene Gesserat Livia produced several generations of active-trait males. One appears to have been the first known Abomination, a man who heard voices and claimed to be both male and female, but whose actions were so perverse that Voice Claudia refuses to describe them. Especially based on this quote: All the same, Heliogabalus the pederast king who wanted to be a woman, was a priest of the Masculine. He achieved in himself the identity of opposites, but did not achieve it without harm, and his devout pederasty had no origin other than an obstinate and abstract conflict between Masculine and Feminine.
Heliogabalus, or The Anarchist Crowned
Antonin Artaud - Heliogabalus: Or, the Crowned Anarchist