50 Drawings to Murder Magic

Antonin Artaud

Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith


8.75 x 11.25 inches, 98pp 50 bw illustrations 2008

ISBN : 9780857423504

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Antonin Artaud was a poet, theorist, philosopher, essayist, playwright, actor and director, and one of the 20th century\'s most important theoreticians of drama. His theory of the ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ has influenced playwrights as diverse as Beckett, Genet, Albee and Gelber.

Magic was always a central concept for Artaud, and in nearly all his writing it is given the most positive force, as something capable of healing the rift between words and things, culture and life. But during his nine years of incarceration in mental asylums, magic seemed to lose its illuminating transformative power and to become demonic and persecutory. Artaud entered the realm of spectres and vampires which he believed were sucking the vitality from his mind and body.

Artaud later filled twelve little exercise books with an account of his struggles to escape this physical, psychological and artistic hell. The first eleven books are filled with fragments of writing and extraordinary sketches of totemic figures, pierced bodies and enigmatic machines. Two months before his death, he took a twelfth exercise book and wrote a remarkable, incantatory text, 50 Drawings to Murder Magic. It was the last text he wrote.


Antonin Artaud spent most of his life in and out of sanatoriums and asylums. He published his most well-known work 1938, The Theatre and its Double. The book is a series of essays, two of which expand on Artaud's 'Theatre of Cruelty', a major defining philosophy in experimental theatre and performing art. He has influenced the works of a number of performers and producers, from Peter Brook to Spalding Gray to Motley Crue and Bauhaus.

Artaud´s theories in Theatre and Its Double influenced rock musician Jim Morrison. Motley Crüe named the Theatre of Pain album after reading his proposal for a Theatre of Cruelty, much like Christian Death had with their album Only Theatre of Pain. The band Bauhaus included a song about the playwright, called 'Antonin Artaud', on their album Burning from the Inside. Influential Argentinean folk-rock songwriter Luis Alberto Spinetta named his album Artaud and wrote most of the songs on that album based on his writings. Theatrical practitioner Peter Brook took inspiration from Artaud's 'Theatre of Cruelty in a series of workshops that lead up to his well-known production of Marat/Sade. The Living Theatre was also heavily influenced by him, as was much English-language experimental theatre and performance art—Karen Finley, Spalding Gray, Liz LeCompte, Richard Foreman, Charles Marowitz, Sam Shepard, Joseph Chaikin, and more all named Artaud as one of their influences.



Donald Nicholson-Smith’s translations include works by Guy Debord, Jean Piaget, Jean Patrick Manchette, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, J.B. Pontalis and Jean Laplanche, Thierry Jonquet, Henri Lefebvre and Raoul Vaneigem. Born in Manchester, England, he is a long-time denizen of New York city.

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