Description Of a Physical State

By Antonin Artaud

A sharp, burning sensation in my limbs, muscles knotted, as if raw, feeling like glass, brittle, fear, cringing at movement or noise. Unconsciously confused steps, gestures and movement. Willpower forever keyed up to make the simplest gestures,

renunciation of simple gestures, stunning, focal fatigue, a sort of exhausting fatigue. Movements have to be reorganised, a sort of dead tired­ness, the mind tired by the exercise of the simplest muscular extension, the act of grasping, unconsciously hanging on to something, sustained by continuous willpower.

Genetic fatigue, the feeling of dragging one’s body about, the feeling of unbelievable fragility becoming splitting pain, a state of painful numbness, a sort of numbness localized in the skin which does not hinder any movement but changes the sensation within the limbs so that the simple act of standing up straight is achieved only at the cost of a victorious struggle.

Probably localized in the skin, but feeling like the radical removal of a limb and offering the mind nothing but tenuous, woolly pictures of limbs, pictures of distant limbs out of place. A sort of inner breakdown in the entire nervous system.

Variable giddiness, a sort of oblique dazzling accompanies each effort, a thickening heat band gripping the whole surface of my skull, where heat patches detach themselves and move about piece by piece.

Painful inflammation of the skull, gasping nervous tension, the back of the neck doggedly suffering, temples glassy and blotched, head trampled by horses.

Here, we should mention the disembodiment of reality, that sort of break, intent it seems on self-proliferation between objects and the feelings they exercise on our mind, the place they belong.

This instantaneous classification of objects in the brain cells, not so much in their own logical order but in sensed or emotional order (which no longer occurs). Objects now have no smell or gender. But their logical order is also sometimes broken, precisely because it lacks an emotional odor. Words rot at unconscious commands from the brain. All words for no matter what type of mental operation, in particular those which trigger off the mind’s most common and active responses.

Corti, Victor, trans.  “Description Of a Physical State. Antonin Artaud: Collected Works Vol. 1. London: Calder and Boyars Ltd., 1968. Page 54-56.
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