BENEATH THE AEROPLANE
(impressions – an extract)
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.
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…………..
This is an extract from the full essay that Kamov wrote in Bologna, 31st May 1910. The full text is available in the book ‘The Curse’ – the collection of Kamov’s poems which he published in 1907 as ‘Psovka’, translated into English. ‘The Curse’ is available as a paperback from Modernist nakladništvo here.
It is also available on Amazon and all other ebook channels.
Translation – all rights reserved © Martin Mayhew