Heliogabalus; or, the Crowned Anarchist - Antonin Artaud, Alexis Lykiard
Voice Claudia also describes the history of a potential, and probable, active-trait male in her territory. 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. (“Bene Gesserit History,” Dune Encyclopedia Tr, p. 121)*


I begin this short note on Antonin Artaud’s Heliogabalus with a quote from a fictional encyclopedia of a fictional future history because this novel puts me most in mind of the Bene Gesserit’s obsessive search for the kwisatz haderach, the person who would bridge the gap between Male and Female. 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. (p. 72)


Having now read Artaud’s version of The Monk and this, I feel confident in writing that I am not a fan of French Surrealism. I fear that I am far too bourgeois to feel much except distate in the author’s worldview. That said, I understand why Artaud feels such rage and why he responds as he does. I don’t think it’s a compelling response but there are nuggets of interest (like the aforementioned conflict between Male and Female principles).**

* The reference here is to Caligula (AD 37-41), of course, and not to the hapless child elevated to the throne by his grandmother and mother in AD 212 but I think the characterization applies equally.

** I emphasize that this is entirely a personal opinion. If some – and from the reviews, there are – find meaning in Artaud, that’s fine, and I would recommend Heliogabalus to them.