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May 5, 2011


Surrealism is the by-product of many experiments which the writers have been making in order to explore the most appropriate modes for the expression of their experience. Its roots are, however, in realism. In literature even realism as a movement had taken many forms, owing primarily to the multiplicity of diverse opinions as to what, in truth, realism is. It is the realism of Chaucer: a personal and subjective vision of the external phenomenon, the external world of nature and man coloured by the temperament of the observer? Or is it a more objective observation of the external facts and objects with as complete a detachment as we often associate with the impersonal observation of a scientist? 

Under the growing influence of the biological sciences, man came to be regarded as a natural object constantly moulded by such forces. This extension of scientific realism came to be known as Naturalism. Zola, the most famous French novelist was its first most distinguished exponent who made systematic study of the family history and the social surroundings of his characters. His naturalism was, in a way, an inverted romanticism with its primitive humanity not certainly for the Wordsworthian search for its inmate dignity and purity of passion, but for sheer animaity of man without even a veneer of civilization, which, for Rousseau, was a loss of man’s natural freedom.

This was followed by the influence of Sigmund Freud who laid emphasis upon the inner reality of the human psyche, the subconscious and the outer to the inner world and led to the development of the extreme form of realistic technique known as Surrealism which arose out of the ashes of Dadaism, launched in Zurich by a Romanian student of philosophy and a band of young artists. The practitioners of Dadaism had launched an all-out attack of the contemporary circumstances and civilization and all the moral, social values, and to smother it with their mockery and ridicule.
All their writings and propagandas were in open rebellion against the prevailing decorum, morality, religion and culture. They welcomed horrified indignation, they enjoyed violence and especially amused themselves in puzzling and outraging the decorum and the refinement expected of the creative writers and artists. Indeed Dada becomes a joke, a hoax played upon the war-time Europe and European culture. It was against all systems and defied all logic and reason; it was full of sound and furry. Indeed it stresses the absolute significance of nothing.

This trend, however, was short-lived. Gradually, it disintegrated and by 1920 it began to assume a more constructive form as surrealism. The writings of Freud had a great impact on the development of Surrealism. It aimed at the most precise possible externalization of the primarily reality, yet expresses by art not was any attempt made to tackle it so far. Logic and rationalism were considered to be out of date and artistic discipline, rules of Grammar and syntax were found to be inadequate to fathom the deeper layers of reality, this technique witnessed the absence of all controls exercised by reason and logic, or moral preoccupations. The main inspiration came from mechanism of dream, its strange ways of associating images and discordant thoughts. Thoughts and emotions were allowed a free play traversing the diverse and the discordant chunks of experience, with no attempt made to logically link or connect them. In a way Freud was the brain behind the new technique. He was of the view that the absolute reality lay within, which must somehow to explore to be closer to the truths of life. Surrealism was thus a negation of logic and control of all conventions and systems in art.

We have Sri Sri and G.M. Mukiboth who make use of surrealism images to convey the reality as they perceive it in the world outside. We find surrealistic images being used in Ambai’s story “Squirrel” in which the distinction between reality and dream or fantasy collapses, and the narrator moves backward and forward as it she were being swayed by the great flux of the experience.

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