This chapter analyses Minck’s 2003 film Im Anfang war der Blick as a surreal and densely intertextual exploration of Austria’s landscapes, which it reads as allegories of the country’s history. The chapter explores the film’s focus on the importance of the Styrian Erzberg, the site of Nazi atrocities and now a key tourist attraction, and on Salzburg and its musical traditions and their relations to Austria’s Nazi history.
This chapter reads a selection of Birgit Jürgenssen’s works of the early 1970s, including her Hausfrau drawings and her Schuhwerk pieces, as responses to key moments in Austria’s history of Nazi complicity and specifically the roles played by women in this history. It closes with an analysis of her 1973 drawing Mit der Bahn in eine bessere Zukunft, which it relates to specific wartime events in Austria.
The Introduction frames the book’s argument in relation to the development of Surrealism as a response to historical trauma, and identifies and locates the tradition of Germanophone women artists to be addressed in subsequent chapters. It establishes the significance of the moment of Erschütterung or ‘traumatic shattering’ that will recur as a motif in subsequent chapters.
This chapter explores Oppenheim’s period of ‘artistic block’ (c.1937–55) and examines her work produced during the war years when she was resident in Switzerland. It pays particular attention to her untranslated screenplay Kaspar Hauser oder Die Goldene Freiheit (1942–43).
This chapter analyses the opera Bählamms Fest (1994–98, recorded 2003), a collaborative work by composer Olga Neuwirth and librettist Elfriede Jelinek, based on a little-known play by Leonora Carrington. Neuwirth’s Arbeitsjournal (Working Diary) provides contexts for reading the opera as a surrealist work combining reference to historical traumas and to their resurgence in contemporary (late twentieth-century) Austrian politics.
The Traumatic Surreal is the first major study to examine the ground-breaking roles played by Germanophone women artists working in surrealist traditions in responding to the traumatic events and legacies of the Second World War. Analysing works in a variety of media by leading artists and writers, the book redefines the post-war trajectories of Surrealism and recalibrates critical understanding of its relations to historical trauma. Chapters address artworks, writings, and compositions by the Swiss Meret Oppenheim, the German Unica Zürn, the Austrian Birgit Jürgenssen, the Luxembourg-Austrian Bady Minck, and the Austrian Olga Neuwirth and her collaboration with fellow Austrian Nobel-prize winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek. Locating each artist in their historical context, the book traces the development of the traumatic surreal through the wartime and post-war period.
This chapter examines the writings Unica Zürn produced in the immediate post-war years, reading them as responses to personal and national traumatic events. It analyses her anagrams and early short stories as pathographical responses to the condition of post-war Germany and then reads her narrative Das Haus der Krankheiten (1958) as an extended allegory of post-war trauma.
The second chapter addresses the demands and struggle of the labour movement during the post-war period of reconstruction. The chapter examines the tools and strategies to which the state elite resorted during critical periods to capture the labour movement. This chapter considers labour relations from 1992 – the year billed as the start of the reconstruction period – until the last wage rise in 2012. This salary increase poignantly exemplifies the total co-optation and breakdown of the labour movement. The period witnessed an active movement between 1992 and 1997, followed by fragmentation and total deactivation from the early 2000s onwards. How and why did the labour movement fall apart, and what were the implications for Lebanon’s sectarian-liberal model? The labour movement’s type of demands and actions during the post-war period was largely a continuation of the existing state of affairs before and during the war. What is often perceived as a fall after the civil war was merely exacerbated state intervention and co-optation, the influence of political parties and the effects of liberal economic policies, which had already been in place since independence. The result was a divided movement, and an overall cautious and moderate attitude and action towards the Government. The times of a supposed labour movement revival, such as the 1992–97 period, were mostly fuelled by feuds among members of the elite – one section of the elite managing to manipulate the GCWL to fight one or other of Lebanon’s elite groups.
The chapter explores the implications of a muted labour movement for the present and future struggle for change. The trials and tribulations of the labour movement in Lebanon reveal how the struggle of labour against capital deepens when governed by a sectarian power-sharing system. Labour organising is perceived as a potential vehicle for rebellion against the sectarian-liberal system of rule, which put the regime at odds with any ambitious attempts of labour organising. Instead of resorting to repression and persecution, the state co-opted the labour movement and distorted the confederation of unions into a mouthpiece for the ruling elite and bargaining tool in their feuds over the sectarian allocation of privileges and resources. Retelling the story of the labour movement in Lebanon is not about the downfall and defeat of labour. On the contrary, the history of traditional unionism reveals the fear and trepidation of the sectarian liberal system. The state elite’s continuous attempts to undermine the labour movement are evidence that a resilient and vigorous labour movement constitutes an all-important threat to the political system in place. The decline of the organised labour movement does not imply that class struggle is no longer relevant. Rather, it means that, up to now, capital and the state have been winning this struggle. While the labour movement faces enormous hurdles, contemporary forms of a workers’ struggle that appeal to class solidarity and show a different kind of unionism can provide an alternative vision and counteract the Lebanese sectarian-liberal system.
The Beirut explosion on 4 August 2020 was a poignant manifestation of a dysfunctional political system marred by high levels of corruption, incompetence and neglect. Prior to the explosion, the system’s dysfunction and resulting social and economic grievances had already culminated in social unrest in 2019, referred to as the October Revolution. The Lebanese uprising has, however, brought to the fore the conspicuous absence of Lebanon’s labour movement in political dissent. The General Confederation of Workers in Lebanon (GCWL) did not call for any strikes or demonstrations in support of the popular protests. Why was the labour movement absent from the Lebanese uprising? What does this reveal about the economic and political systems in Lebanon? How does this absence impact the uprising? The book addresses the trajectory of the workers’ movement in Lebanon by answering two questions. What are the impediments that shaped the trajectory and scope of the labour movement? And what is the impact of the state’s co-optation of the labour movement on the political and economic system in the post-war period and today’s protests against Lebanon’s sectarian-liberal model? The argument of the book grows out of extensive fieldwork in Lebanon, beginning with a three-year period between 2013 and 2016, and supplemented by follow-up fieldwork in 2019. The research design relies on the review of Arab-language archival and secondary sources plus semi-structured interviews with pivotal actors in trade-union politics.