I make no apology for the fact that I have become a rabid surrealophobe. We need to be careful with our terminology, however. Time was when a phobia meant an irrational fear – as in triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. Nowadays, in our debased world, the -phobia suffix has come to denote little more than hatred, irrational because it is not shared by right-on Guardian reading types. Thus homophobia and Islamophobia, for instance. This is not the place to take a forensic fork to the weird interior world of Guardian readers, who are generally tolerant of absolutely everything except everything with which they disagree, which is verboten, forever and ever.
It must be understood, then, that I have neither an irrational fear nor hatred of surrealists. Quite the contrary. What I hate, with a loathing that seems to me entirely reasonable, is the bandying about of the word “surreal” to refer to the mildly out of the ordinary, or at times even the wholly ordinary.
“Oh wow it was surreal”, a halfwit will announce, panting with stupidity, at something or other. I have heard such exclamations yelped at sight of, for example, a minor traffic accident, a malfunctioning self-service till in a supermarket, and a cat behaving like a cat. There is not a jot of surrealism in any of these things. Anybody who thinks – let alone jabbers aloud – that there is needs the innards of their head sluiced out with a powerful antistupidity solvent.
It may be time to begin a campaign to Bring Back Real Surrealism, with badges and banners and marches and petitions and chance encounters of sewing machines and umbrellas on operating tables.
NOTA BENE : Mr Key is not a surrealist. His work is not surrealism.
Real Surrealism :
Leonora Carrington, The Temptation Of Saint Anthony (1947)