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Surrealism has caught up with us

Posted on Sep 23, 2020 in Buñuel, Inez Holden, Magritte, Max Ernst | 9 Comments

Last week I was reading Inez Holden’s diary of the Blitz, It was Different at the Time, published in 1943. This is from the entry of a day after a night of particularly heavy bombardment: ‘One morning I walked back through the park, and saw the highest branches of a tree draped with . . . some sort of silk, with two or three odd stockings and, wrapped round the top of a tree, like a cloak quick-thrown over the shoulder of some high-born hidalgo, some purple damask. Below it, balanced on a twig, as if twirled round a finger, was a brand new bowler hat. A surrealist painter whom I know slightly was staring at it, too. He said, “Of course we were painting this sort of thing years ago, but it has taken some time to get here.”‘

I was reminded of this a day or two later when I was having dinner with two friends at a restaurant where all the waiting staff were wearing black masks. They looked terrifically chic and would also have looked rather sinister if they hadn’t been so friendly and smiling. It made me think of Magritte and Max Ernst and the films of Buñuel. The illustration is from Amazon, but it could easily be from a Max Ernst collage. The surreal has become the everyday. We are indeed living in strange times.

9 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    September 23, 2020

    Oh, we are indeed, Christine! It’s a bit like writing, as I see it. In some ways, real-life ‘normal’ is becoming stranger than fiction…

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      September 23, 2020

      I couldn’t more, Margot! I sometimes feel as if I am living in someone else’s dystopian novel.

      Reply
  2. C'rysta Winter
    September 23, 2020

    Especially today I also felt something surreal. My mother is in a wheelchair. She is 96. She still values her appearance. And as soon as the sun shines she insists on wearing her sun hat. Today it was a bit windy. And so I wrapped a silk scarf around the sun hat so that it would not fly away and fastened it under her chin. The way she was sitting there in her wheelchair with the hat and the shawl, she could have come from a Jane Austen book. But then came the nose-mouth mask. And suddenly everything was different. There was no longer an elder, fashion-conscious lady sitting in her wheelchair. That was a strange, unknown yes … almost surreal being.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      September 23, 2020

      You conjure up the scene brilliantly, C’rysta! The switch from someone so familiar to someone who could almost be a stranger . . . My best wishes to you both.

      Reply
      • C'rysta Winter
        September 24, 2020

        This is a wonderful feed back for a German crime writer who loves the subtext. Thanks Christine.

        Reply
  3. tracybham
    September 23, 2020

    So true, Christine. I haven’t been brave enough to go out to eat yet. In our area, indoor dining has “opened” yet. There are a good number of restaurants with tables set up outside (including one of our favorites), but I am not even ready for that yet. I am not a Pollyanna-type person, but I try to look for something positive in this, and for me, it is that I got serious about gardening again. In a small way, since we have a very small area in front and back of our condo, but plenty for me.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      September 23, 2020

      It’s good to hear from you, Tracy. Having our online connections has been so important during these difficult days. I’m glad that you have found something positive. One thing for me has been becoming closer to friends I have kept in touch with by phone, and Zoom, and FaceTime in a way that I might not otherwise have done.

      Reply
  4. Moira@Clothes in Books
    October 19, 2020

    What amazing images conjured up in this post and the comments. An artist could have a field day – presumably some of them are taking inspiration from the current times.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      October 19, 2020

      I suspect that it will be harder to be inspired by what’s happening now – at least until it is safely past. I think there are a lot of writers struggling to write and that includes me!

      Reply

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