By David Pascoe
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Ineluctably, Alfred Agostinelli became Albertine Simone; and consequently, the type of aviation facility Proust frequently visited with his young employee, in order to watch the planes, and from which Agostinelli took off to his death, assumes a pivotal function in his sequence of novels. In La Prisonnière, for instance, the narrator recalls days spent with Albertine at the aerodrome at Buc: As there had recently been established round Paris a number of aerodromes, [‘des hangars d’aviation’] which are for aeroplanes what harbours [‘les ports’] are for ships … I often chose to end our 39 day’s excursion – with the ready approval of Albertine, an enthusiast of every form of sport – at one of these aerodromes [‘ces aérodromes’].
Indeed, the longer Kafka spent at the airport, the more uncomfortable he became. Gazing across its wide expanse, he saw nothing but an ‘artificial wasteland’ [‘eine künstliche Einöde’] in an ‘almost tropical land’ [‘in einem fast tropischen Lande’]; the Italian nobility, fine Parisian women and all those other people in the grandstands were gathered here ‘in order to spend several hours, staring with narrowed eyes across this sunny desert’ [‘diese sonnige Einöde’]. Given the fact that this was a sporting meeting, the few scattered objects to be seen on the field seemed scant compensation for what they replaced; Kafka missed ‘the lovely hurdles of racecourses, the white lines of tennis courts, the fresh turf of soccer matches, the stony furrows of automobile and cycle tracks’.
In typically skewed fashion, Ballard celebrates an amenity from whose glazed areas the gazer can observe the machines orbiting within airspace, or, like Vaughan in Crash, watch the stars passing through. 35 solitary expanses Marcel Plantevignes, one of a series of young men whom Marcel Proust had befriended during summers spent on the Normandy coast, later recalled an evening spent in the writer’s rooms at the Grand Hotel in Cabourg. ’16 What this meant for the past emerged periodically in Proust’s life’s work especially when he considered familiar places of transition, such as ports and harbours.
Airspaces by David Pascoe