I attempted to write Running Away (1) in a consciously random way, does that sound wrong? Does it seem counter-intuitive because surely, it’s conscious or it’s random? But for me, surrealism’s strength is in its non-logical nature, not illogical but just not following what we know as logical.
Do you associate ‘surrealism’ with the visual, like a Salvador Dali painting or that French silent movie where a razor blade cuts across an eye? Do you think that ‘surreal’ means just ‘more real’? But does it? I’m interested in those times in our lives when emotions are heightened. When as an adult you feel you’ve arrived somewhere and it makes you uncomfortable. You’re doing the right thing but it’s the wrong thing for you.
What if the natural order of life and death was unnatural for someone and he was trapped by the life he was in. What could he do? How do we break out of patterns that are destroying us? Do you run away in your mind or with your legs? I looked to surrealism for guidance. What if you jump out of your life, away from your wife, away from day, night, wrong, right, and let what will befall you befall you?
The surrealism you find in my novel Running Away is a device using words to explore one man’s fall from his conventional life. I wasn’t using words to describe odd or surreal events. I wanted the events to read as surreal and unsettling. So the reader wouldn’t be sure if it was happening in someone’s mind or in actuality. To my mind, it’s immaterial. My words came out as the opposite of an easy read. It’s not just words that conjure up surreal images. It’s also using words in new iconoclastic ways.
So how can a novel or parts of a novel be made into a fish just as Dali created a phone from a lobster? Or how can a portrait not contain a face, like Margritte’s? How do you write like that, so it’s not just a description of something extraordinary that’s visual?
Why not write in a way that to the reader seems like random episodes? Who is to say how we should write? Things happen chronologically or do they? Things happen one after another or do they? Can the day begin at night or can a saucer grow a furry coat? Saucers grow fur if you leave milk in them for long enough.
Time is just a concept we’ve imposed as a pattern on the universe. In the extreme north there is no night and day as we know it. ‘As we know it’ excites me. Do we all know things the same way? Experience life the same way? Is your pain like my pain?
As for someone like Max, the protagonist of my novel, he looks to other people to give him a clue, a glimmer, an insight into familiar behaviours that he could adopt or imitate to gain a sense of certainty or even peace of mind. But does it work? Can it work?
Surrealists attempt to express the unconscious and sort of mix and match this with the conscious mind. They use the familiar as a frame of reference and mess it up, turn life as we know it on its head, distort it, show us images we recoil from as they don’t follow our expectations. The visual arts work immediately, a painting of the back of Margritte’s head makes us stop in our tracks.
Writing is a different thing. I struggle to combine, to synthesise the unconscious and the conscious and weave my words between the two. I find beauty in the random, I feel it takes precedence over the pre-conceived. That’s a huge freedom, step out of the box and see what forms on the page and what meanings can be made.
(1) Beier, A. (2009) Running Away, www.counsellingkit.com