Saturday, 2 August 2014


“Pay no attention to that old man behind the curtain!”
The Wizard of Oz


Shortly before film director Stanley Kubrick died, he was at work on his final movie when he gave an interview to film and television journalists. One television listings magazine ran Kubrick’s comments, including his explanation of the source for his last work, Eyes Wide Shut. The film, Kubrick explained, was inspired by a German novel written in 1926 by an Austrian, Arthur Schnitzler, and titled, apparently, Traumaville.

Schnitzler’s book is usually translated into English as ‘Dream Story’, and this is the accepted translation of the German ‘Traumnovelle’, which is what Kubrick had actually said but which had been misheard either live or via a recording as ‘Traumaville’. It is perfect; a very modern mistake and a place, a location, is born.

Traumaville is where we all live now. A hybrid of Plato’s Republic and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, a combination of Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and a department store catalogue, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon ghost-written by a PR team launching a new fashion line. A strange mix of the real, the unreal, and the surreal, Traumaville feels increasingly like home, if not quite as secure.

In Traumaville, an increasingly desperate political class is trying to hold on to power by a combination of deception and selective truth-telling. A powerful media class struggles to maintain a Potemkin village of culture and social cohesion. The inhabitants of Traumaville are fed just enough distractions to keep them away from the sanctum sanctorum of the ruling classes but, like little Toto uncovering the Wizard of Oz operating gears and levers at the back of his machinery, those inhabitants are slowly beginning to understand both that Traumaville is not what it seems, and that it is about to change into somewhere considerably more dangerous. The political class and its media courtiers will continue to deny, like the wizard, that there is anything of significance to see.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” is what the old man says in the film after Toto’s unveiling. But there is something to see, and the simple folk of Traumaville are beginning, in their twos and threes and notably online – Burke’s ‘little platoons’, perhaps, in virtual form - to become more inquisitive.

The classic, jokey English postcard used to read ‘Wish you were here’. You already are, whether or not you live in rainy, gorgeous, fading old England. You live in Traumaville, and these essays, each with a 1,000-word limit, are postcards from Traumaville, short notes from a troubled town.

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