Voice Devoured: Artaud
and Borges on Dubbing
TRANSLATED BY LARRY P. JOSEPH
OCTOBER 64, Spring 1993.
- On April 19, 1929, Artaud wrote to Yvonne Allendy to inform her that
he was completing work on the screenplay for the film The Dybbuk, which was to contain "sound fragments": "I have decided to introduce sound and even talking portions into all my screenplays since there has been such a push toward the talkie that in a year or two no one will want silent films any more."2 The script of The Dybbuk did not survive, but its very title is highly suggestive. A dybbuk is a character in Jewish folklore, a person inhabited by the spirit of someone who has died and who speaks through the mouth of that person. The ghost of the deceased torments the living person, causing him to writhe and to rave, forcing him to blaspheme against his will. This folkloric character obviously recapitulates, in its own way, the problematic of dubbing, though in an inverted form: in dubbing, the film star divests the live actor of his voice; through the dybbuk, the voice of the deceased inhabits a living body. Nevertheless, in both cases the situation remains much the same; the voice resides in someone else's body. Given his love for anagrams and of glossolalia, Artaud might well have identified one with the other, purposely retaining the foreign, English spelling of the word dubbing: dubbing-dibbouk.3 The overtly satanic subtext of an article about dubbing, which is about something "thoroughly ghoulish"-the snatching of the personality, of the soul-is crucial.