Tova Herzl

Surrealism now, apocalypse later

Hello children, it is lovely to meet you again, on this beautiful spring day! I am glad to see both Benjamins sitting together nicely in the front of the class!

You probably remember that in the last lesson, we began to talk about surrealism, and how the term became part of daily language – we use it to describe something which is hard to believe. This is difficult, so let me explain again that surrealism developed in Europe after the First World War, when traumatized artists wanted to allow their subconscious to express itself. Together with reality as we know it, we got something above reality, and in French – surrealism. It includes surprises and things which do not seem reasonable, so we are expected to suspend all we consider logical. After seeing a lot of surrealism in various art forms, people adopted the word to describe stuff in life that is hard or even impossible to comprehend.

Understood? So now, who did their homework, and wants to share an example of surrealism with the rest of us?

Yes Benjamin? A person depends on someone important who helps him in many ways, but instead of expressing gratitude, he constantly attacks his benefactor because he wants to appear strong to his family. He behaves as though they are equal, maybe he even pretends that he is more important than the rich and influential person!

Really, Benjamin, that story sounds completely unreasonable and I agree that it is surrealist, well done! You have another example? Alright, but quickly. Someone led a successful business to an unprecedented crisis but insists on keeping his job, and the shareholders are unwilling or unable to remove him? You are very creative today! And on the mark!

Anyone else? Yes Sara, I see you are eager to show us what you brought. A family which is struggling economically and the parents decided that this is the time to invest family money in expensive beauty equipment. They also repair their pool, at the expense of their poor relatives! Thank you, Sara, those are excellent examples of surrealism, you are an outstanding student!

Itamar? Letting the fox into the henhouse? That is a proverb, not an example. You will have to try harder.

I hope the next one is better. Aryeh? One person stands safely outside a dangerous project and insists that his advice to those inside is as valuable as the work of those actually endangering themselves, and demands equal pay. Sorry Aryeh, that is not surrealism. Could be comedy or tragedy, depending on the outcome. Wait, I see that the two G’s, Gafni and Goldknopf, are disappointed. Did you three prepare your homework together? You know what? I don’t want to disappoint you. Yes, there is a surrealistic connection! No, not the kibitzer who advises. Those who comply with his demands, that is surrealistic.

We have time for one more example. Benjamin? No, not you, you have already taken up far too much time in this class. The other one, the tall one. Someone was regularly lied to, and continues to trust the liar and even support him? Sorry, that is not a good example of surrealism. What is it? Before the next lesson, discuss it with your friend Gadi and come back and tell us what it is.

That’s it, our time here is running out. You can begin preparing for the next concept we will learn, apocalypse. See you next week! Oh, I forgot, you are going on a long vacation. Enjoy! And don’t forget, prepare for apocalypse!

About the Author
Tova Herzl served twice as congressional liaison in Washington DC, was Israel's first ambassador to the newly independent Baltic states, and took early retirement after a tumultuous ambassadorship in South Africa. She is the author of the book, Madame Ambassador; Behind The Scenes With A Candid Israeli Diplomat.