The Aerial Age Begins
1902-1907 1908 1909 1910 1910-1914 1932 1948
Flight in Literature
Flight in literature
Aviation captured the attention of many of the great writers of the day, who traveled to aviation exhibitions, rode in airplanes, and recorded their reactions in words.
Franz Kafka, Italian poet and novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Futurist movement founder and leader F. T. Marinetti were among the influential writers whose vision of the future was shaped by the airplane. For them, the power of flight was an irresistible theme.
Franz Kafka
In September 1909, Kafka attended an air meet at Brescia, Italy, near Milan. He wrote a rich and textured sketch of the event entitled, “The Aeroplanes at Brescia.” In the brief essay, Kafka deftly captured the excitement, symbolism, and emotional response to the airplane that swept across Europe in 1908 and 1909.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Poet F. T. Marinetti, founder and leader of the Futurist movement, also became obsessed with the airplane, but the enthusiasm of the Futurists had a darker theme. They saw the coming of a machine-driven civilization that would divorce humanity from its past with unexpected and disturbing consequences, although in their view this would ultimately lead to a desirable end.
Gabriele D. Annunzio
Among the most celebrated writers of his day, Gabriele D’Annunzio saw aviation as a messenger of a new life, a new civilization. He and others like him, saw spiritual transcendence through the conquest of the air. They believed an aerial world would revitalize culture, refashion laws and rituals, and provide an escape from the current reality of life.
Critics of the aerial age
Not all writers and intellectuals looked favorably upon the airplane. One of the sharpest critics was the Viennese journalist Karl Kraus. He believed that while people were clever enough to create sophisticated machines, they often lacked the intelligence to use them properly. Now that the air had been conquered, he feared the earth was condemned to be bombarded. His prediction would in part come true.
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Not everyone looked favorably upon the airplane. For some, the grim reaper would rule the sky.
“Is he [Blériot] going to go up in the air in this tiny thing? The first seafarers had had it easier. They could practice first in pools, then in ponds, then in streams, and not venture out to sea until much later. For this man there is only sea.”
Franz Kafka
From “The Aeroplanes at Brescia”