Janko Polić Kamov – Lacerba, 1913

In the 15th June 1913 issue of the Italian literary journal ‘Lacerba’ there appeared a page of maxims entitled ‘Accenni’ attributed to one ‘Gian Paolo’.

‘Lacerba’ was published in Florence from 1913-1915, edited by Giovanni Papini and was associated with the emerging Futurist movement. This particular issue amongst others also featured pieces by leading figures such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Ardengo Soffici, Max Jacob and even an illustration by Pablo Picasso.

Kamov’s text appeared alongside the works of Pablo Picasso, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Ardengo Soffici.

Vladimir Čerina, an exponent of Kamov, was also a contributer. It was most likely under his auspices that these fragments of Kamov’s maxims were included under the pseudonym of ‘Gian Paolo’, in ‘Lacerba’ in 1913 three years after his death. Čerina had alluded to their publication in his study of Kamov published earlier in the same year, although they were not properly authenticated until the mid-1980s by Tonko Maroević and Dragutin Tadijanović.

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Gian Paolo – Accenni

translated by Martin Mayhew from the Croatian translations of Tonko Maroević

A good way to forgive someone who is angry at us because of some non-existent insult is to really insult them.

If a man just wants to grow old and remain permanently healthy there is no more useful exercise nor better exposure to the fresh air than begging.

The greatest number of fatherly and nitpicker’s advice resembles the sign on certain entrances: “Closed”, and which cannot be read when the door is open and the doorframe is up against the wall.

Within human contradictions there already exists man’s belief that there are none.

I was infuriated by of the noises that people were making below my window and I only fell asleep again when I found out that they were horses.

On one foot life wears a cothurnus, whilst on the other a clown’s slipper.

The one who is carrying the lamp will stumble sooner than the one who is following him.

The wheel of fortune transports the upright but breaks the bones of the recumbent.

I cannot imagine anything more insane than our life, our Earth, our people and our comprehension of this insanity.

The ancient, incurable cancer of philosophy: contrary to the misconception of ordinary people who believe that they understand something just because they see it, it, however, assumes that it sees something just by thinking about it.

At the moment of death there is no more extravagance because death is the ultimate extravagance.

Dying one doesn’t recognise the present only the future and the past.

In their most sublime notions philosophers always describe a single circular line; I however happily note their arrangements as architects mark the lavatories on the ground plan of some building, it’s like a circle with a dash… Each one has a dash which serves as a handle.

I (perceived empirically) detest myself (perceived absolutely), the dreadful demagogue who resides inside me.

If decapitation did not deprive life, nobody would worry about it.

Man’s eternal hunger, the insatiableness of his heart, does not seek more abundant food but more varied, in other words, it wants a meal instead of just grazing.

To a dumb animal the world represents a unique impression, and in the absence of two it doesn’t even know to count to one.

Spiritual beings are similar to the physical who, according to the opinion of ancient Romans, had to touch the Earth in order to learn how to speak.

It is easier to sacrifice oneself for people than to love them.

Clothes are a weapon which beauties fight with; and, like soldiers, they discard them as soon as they are defeated.

Great spirits begin to despise themselves first of all.

Rather than his duty man does more than his duty.

The greatest blessing of philosophy is not that it makes us happy when we are in distress but when we are happy.

If Miss Robinson Crusoe found herself on a deserted island with no one else but her own reflection in the water, she would nevertheless make and wear the latest fashionable clothes every day.

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Translation – all rights reserved © Martin Mayhew

Note: The 15th June 1913 issue of ‘Lacerba’ can be found for sale on the Internet and I have only come across the front page and not the page featuring Kamov’s ‘Accenni’. If a copy is available I would very much like to see it in order to compare and back translate the Italian versions with the Croatian, and therefore improve my English versions.

Janko Polić Kamov – Beneath the aeroplane


BENEATH THE AEROPLANE

(impressions)
Translated by Martin Mayhew

Italy is flying: in Turin, Milan, Verona, Naples, Bologna and – on page three of the newspapers. Horse, automobile and cycling races (all of these are a daily occurrence, and the cycling one has been annoying the whole peninsula for a week, or two) are interesting, but they aren’t thrilling. The ground is dust, when it isn’t muddy, even if it is asphalted. Humanity, symbolised as a reptile, is now looking for a symbol in the bird, and the 20th century is beginning to spread its energies into the air, as the 19th had spread them on the ground and beneath it.

Bleriot’s monoplane

On seeing the first aeroplane, Blériot’s elegant, light and I would say slender monoplane, which passed over the top of my head with the racket of an automobile and the ease of a white bird with spread wings – I had the impression of simplicity, harmony and naïveté. And an impression of piousness. I did not flinch not even for an instant: it would fall on my head; as I believed, when it rushed past, white, on the green grass, to take off. Faith is great, because it is young, as in those who were watching the Assumption, as the old painters particularly the mighty Titian show us. Even the scene is the same.

That man, dressed from head to foot like a diver who dives into space, gives the impression of a captain, of the greatest absolutist and a solitary autocrat on board and at sea. When he climbs into his aeroplane, the whole audience fixate their eyes on him, wondering: ‘Would we do it? Wouldn’t we? Is it the right time? Isn’t it?’ When this one man flies, everyone around flies. His ‘passion for space’, his craving now for height, for the caper, for speed, for the battle with the wind – the throng also senses it, in the eyes that are rising. And this throng of aristocrats to plebeians, of old men to little boys – is just a single child in front of the same wonder with the same emotion. And if the aeroplane cannot take off, the throng suffers just like the aviator; to us it seems: ‘we’re not able to fly – the machine has broken down and we are denied a joy’. And when the machine is damaged, everyone cries inside…

Frenchman Louis Paulhan.

It is not like that at the circus: a chilling sensation, curiosity and astonishment. In front of the birdman the audience is a child; our spirit senses the height, the clouds, space; we are elated, not irritated; something cools us down, like a midnight breeze, when we watch the stars; we are sad and glad, like when we lie on our backs, with our eyes immersed in the deep blueness: and above all: we sense the bliss of a smile, innocence, freedom.

Maybe it is because, that by looking at the aeroplane, we are looking at the sky? That because of it we have begun to observe the unspoilt beauty of space, where not even the birds leave a trace? That inside us it awakens stories about transparent fairies that emerged from the mist of Slavic fields, like a Greek goddess from the foam of the sea? Or even because it reminds us of an eagle’s flight, envied by the captive of Sarajevo, the worldly spirit Silvije Kranjčević?… Or because the aeroplane is a white traveller in the heights, like a cloud, which returns to the earth? And like a cloud it can be likened to a sigh, and sighs fly either in the sky or its reflection – the sea…

A gondola endures the most intense embrace and kiss; an automobile, as well as a train, is irritating like an animal with its rough friction, contact and throwing about; but in an aeroplane lovers will probably only have the grasp of hands, the most sublime, deepest and finest expression of love. Yet the kisses are an illusion, the embrace a moment, like lust, and eyes the more deceptive, the more beautiful they are.

II

Aerial navigation (and flight is navigation!) has spread nationwide, since international contests have been more frequent.

Today the automobile is just a servant to the aeroplane and actually performs the duty of a lackey, a male nurse, an assistant. And look, after just a few years it has become the public ‘omnibus’, vulgarised and democratised. Le Matin newspaper, which had initiated that Peking-Paris trip, will now initiate one across France, but – by aeroplane. A year or two ago the Itala and Barzini’s automobile travelogue thrilled us, but now – we’ve already forgotten about them. Centuries are becoming years and we live by the second.

Luigi Barzini and Scipione Borghese won the 1907 Peking-Paris race in an Itala automobile.

Italy has four aerial contests at the same time, and for the duration of the international exposition, as a celebration of Italian unification, there will be a flight from Turin to Rome and back. Reading the less up to date Italian newspapers, you sense, how national megalomania or patriotism is suffering, because in Verona Cattaneo (an Italian) lags behind the Frenchman Paulhan, whilst in Bologna Vivaldi is behind the Belgian Olieslagers.

French aviator Louis Paulhan

Aviator Ugolino Vivaldi was killed in an aeroplane crash in August 1910

The Italians are feverishly moving, to reach and overtake the others, and sport generally has its largest audience there today, and La Gazzetta Sportiva has the most captivated readers. Milan will even open a school for aviators, whilst – the style poets call their poems: Aeroplani. As did the young Buzzi, a follower of Marinetti’s ‘futurism’ or Bazarov’s nihilism: ‘Let’s destroy the past!’, – which has also already given a nihilistic title to one collection of poems: Revolverate

‘Aeroplani’ and ‘Revolverate’ – click on links above to read the full editions online.

So, the author of the novel Forse che sì forse che no (Gabriele D’Annunzio) who in the aeroplane saw the Latin bicep and – imperialism and described flight, having readers with the sought after phrases, in place of a harmonious, charming and graceful impression of a Latin monoplane left the impression of an unwieldy, tasteless, German Zeppelin.

‘Forse che sì forse che no’ by Gabriele D’Annunzio, published in 1910.

However, besides the entertaining aerial literature, the Italians also have an aviator periodical (L’aviatore italiano) and as everything else aerial – disappointments. I will not mention the names, although the beginnings recall the exploits of Petrica Kerempuh.

Petrica Kerempuh had, to wit, told the Zagreb burghers, that he ‘for the highest price would jump over the steeple of the cathedral.’ Pertica, having collected the ticket money, took a run-up as the crowd looked on once, twice, thrice, but didn’t go… The burghers wanted to beat him because he had deceived them, nevertheless, Petrica had nothing but ingenuity, and so said: ‘I want to – but I cannot…’

Every piece of history starts with a story; the history of inventions, however, begins with anecdotes and jokes and King and Kaiser Wilhelm, who looked at a Zeppelin through binoculars, yet what came up close to him was a common insect – the history of contemporary aerial navigation begins. From the beginning the first audience was either the one, that was afraid, or the one, that was mocking, and today as there is already a sufficient audience, which has begun to get bored, it is the clearest sign, that man is also conquering the air. In Bologna at the last contests there was the least amount of people and – enthusiasm… Nobody was injured or killed…

Italian aviator Bartolomeo Cattaneo.

Today, for example, the winners of the contest in Verona are still amazing: the young, little Paulhan, who reached the greatest altitude of 1,260 m, and who even took a bouquet of flowers in his aeroplane to the grave of the brothers killed at Solferino for the freedom of Italy; and Efimov, that herald, the aviator of the storm, as they call him, they say he resembles Gorky in that respect, because he speaks only Russian, then Cattaneo, the pride of all Italy, who is also known abroad. Whilst here in Bologna the strong and mighty Van der Born and the other Belgian Olieslagers, who left the most pleasant impression with his flights now similar to the flight of a swallow, now that of a seagull.

Mikhail Efimov

Belgian aviator Charles Van der Born

Belgian aviator Jan Olieslagers

However, in a few decades, when the aeroplane becomes a means of transport will not the aviator become a plain chauffeur, who today is not much different from a coachman? And when shopkeepers begin to fly, smelling like a shoe shop, a barber’s and sausage maker’s, – will they not reduce the flight of the eagle to the flight of the mosquito?

Behold man: he has left his dirty and tyrannical footsteps of desecration everywhere: in the forest, on the field, in the mountains, in the earth… Now a craving is driving him into the air… But there at least he will leave no trace. The azure-fair space will remain innocent, and aerial navigation ideal.

Janko Polić Kamov, Bologna, 31st May 1910

Translation – all rights reserved © Martin Mayhew
Aviator pictures source http://www.earlyaviators.com