A Natural History with Reggie Chamberlain-King

The French avant-garde playwright and surrealist Antonin Artaud came to Ireland in 1937 with a wooden staff he believed once belonged to St Patrick. Artaud penned numerous postcards to leading cultural figures back home in Paris – including André Breton – as he wandered desolately from Cobh to Galway and on to the remote island of Inishmore. His self-imposed mission: to return St Patrick’s staff to its rightful home while locating the original source of the great and ancient tradition of surrealism.

He was eventually deported.

Artaud was not alone in his pursuit; others have come to Ireland to seek the root of all Weirdness, Otherness, and Alchemy. From surrealist painters to Nazi anthropologists, from eccentric amateur archeologists to rural prophets and Biblical linguists, others have always tried to tell the Irish who they are – the Irish being unable to agree among themselves.

Reggie Chamberlain-King, presenter of The Surrealist’s Map of Ireland on Radio 4 and author of Weird Belfast and Weird Dublin (Blackstaff Press), continues his exploration of the island’s strange shape.

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