'Van Gogh:The Man Suicided by Society' by Antonin Artaud (1947)

Wheatfield with Crows, 1890, by Van Gogh (one of his last paintings)

1946, Dr. Gaston Ferdiere and Antonin Artaud at Rodez asylum

A selection from Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society by Antonin Artaud, 1947.

Note: the following selection draws upon both available English translations.

[work in progress]

One can speak of the good mental health of Van Gogh who, during his lifetime, cooked only one of his hands, and other than that did no more than cut off his left ear...
For it isn't man but the world that has become abnormal...

...present-day life goes on its old atmosphere of prurience, of anarchy, of disorder, of delirium, of dementia, of chronic lunacy, of bourgeois inertia, of psychic anomaly (for it is not man but the world which has become abnormal), of deliberate dishonesty and downright hypocrisy, of a mean contempt for everything that shows breeding, of the claim of an entire order based on the fulfillment of a primitive injustice, in short, of organized crime.
Things are bad because sick conscience now has a vital interest in not getting over its sickness.
So a sick society invented psychiatry to defend itself against the investigations of certain visionaries whose faculties of divination disturbed it.

...it is not a certain conformity of manners that the painting of van Gogh attacks, but rather the conformity of institutions themselves.

In comparison with the lucidity of van Gogh, which is a dynamic force, psychiatry is no better than a den of apes who are themselves obsessed and persecuted and who possess nothing to mitigate the most appalling states of anguish and human suffocation but a ridiculous terminology... .

Indeed, their is not a psychiatrist who is not a notorious erotomaniac.

And what is a genuine lunatic?
He is a man who prefers to go mad, in the social sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain higher idea of human honour.

For a lunatic is a man that society does not wish to hear but wants to prevent from uttering certain unbearable truths...

[alt trans: And what is an authentic madman? It is a man who preferred to become mad, in the socially accepted sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain superior idea of human honor. So society has strangled in its asylums all those it wanted to get rid of or protect itself from, because they refused to become its accomplices in certain great nastinesses. For a madman is also a man whom society did not want to hear and whom it wanted to prevent from uttering certain intolerable truths.]

But, in this case, confinement is not its only weapon, and the concerted gathering of men has other means of overcoming the wills it wants to break.

Aside from the trifling witchcraft of country sorcerers, there are the great sessions of world-wide spell-casting in which all alerted consciousness participates periodically.
This is why during a war, a revolution, a hatching social upheaval, the collective conscience is questioned and questions itself, and also voices its own judgement.
This consciousness may also be aroused and called forth spontaneously in connection with certain particularly striking individual cases.
That is why there was a collective spell cast on Baudelaire, Edgar Allen Poe, Gerard de Nerval, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Holderlin and Coleridge.
There was a spell cast on Van Gogh also. 

Thus strange forces are aroused and brought up into the astral vault, into that kind of dark dome which constitutes, over all human respiration, the venomous hostility of the evil spirit of the majority of people.
It is thus that the few rare lucid well-disposed people who have had to struggle on the earth find themselves at certain hours of the day or night in the throws of real and waking nightmares, surrounded by formidable suction, the formidable tentacular oppression of a kind of civic magic which will soon be seen appearing openly in social behavior.

Post Scriptum

It is... shamefully impossible to be a pyschiatrist without bearing the stigma of the most indisputable insanity at the same time...

[alt. It is almost impossible to be a doctor and an honest man, but it is obscenely impossible to be a psychiatrist without at the same time bearing the stamp of the most incontestable madness: that of being unable to resist that old atavistic reflex of the mass of humanity, which makes any man of science who is absorbed by this mass a kind of natural and inborn enemy of all genius.]

 There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.