Book Extract: Will by Barbara Adair – Airport Observations, Or Flight Of Fancy

August 16, 2020

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Will: The Passenger Delaying Flight by Barbara Adair, published by Modjaji Books, is available now. This excerpt is published by permission.


Volker walks slowly, and sometimes he walks fast, across the airport concourse, his speed, and the way he moves, depends upon the speed of the other people who also walk there, some walk fast, they almost run, as if they have somewhere to be, others meander, wander, as if they have no purpose, no reason, do we all have no reason, I am born and I die and the reason for being in this airport is that I am alive, I am alive so I may as well be in this airport, walking. Volker has just arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport after a short flight, the journey from Frankfurt to Paris takes one hour and fifteen minutes. Now he walks, sometimes as if he has a purpose, other times as if he does not. He remembers.

I am alone. [1]

The airline is Lufthansa, it is German. [2] Streamlined, almost perfect for Germany can never not be perfect though her history is so bad, does this mean that I am bad, evil, does evil exist without good? Where does Goethe fit into all of this, or Schiller, for that matter, maybe the Ride of the Valkyrie [3] will allow us into a heaven, Thor’s heaven. The C-class section of the Boeing 747 is elongated, semi-dark, it stretches in front of Volker, the aisle is so long I can barely see the end of it, a Boeing is a measurement of the end of the world, I see the end of the world, I am so small, a miniature version of a man, an ant, a velveteen rabbit, [4] I can never be real. On either side of him are seats, there are two sets of seats, one to the right and one to the left, three seats in each set, in each set the seats are joined together at the armrests. On the cloth cover of the armrest that is next to him but for one seat, there is a hole, it is a burn, the edges are black, a cigarette burned the material some time ago when smoking was still permitted on aeroplanes, the edges are frayed. Remember the movie Henry and June, the cigarette smoke that curls from the sides of Uma Thurman’s lips, June’s mouth is sexy, Henry’s too, but June’s? Remember when Anaïs watched the two women have sex; they looked like her and June. Why were cigarettes banned on aeroplanes? I am breathing, breathing in air and I do not care for air. Volker wants to smoke, the burned patch, smoke-filled aeroplanes and scratchy eyes when the flight is a long flight, some East German insomniac chain smokers drinking whiskey. A sign, ON then OFF … SMOKING/NO SMOKING; where is that f***ing sign? [5] Volker sits on the fourth seat at the end of the row of seats, he is close to the window.


[1] All good writers borrow; all remarkable writers steal. Some of these words and lines are stolen from others. The others that come to mind here are Will Self, Paul Bowles, Jane Bowles, Alexander Trocchi, Stewart Home, Peter Beard, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, U2, Michel Butor, Ann Quin and Alain Robbe-Grillet. ‘I am alone’ is from the book The Erasers (or is it In the Labyrinth?) by Robbe-Grillet. This text, however, does not form part of novels known as the New Novel, the Nouveau Roman. This is a modernist novel, the subjective that does not try to be objective.

[2] Flying is a metaphor for ecstasy. Flying is unempirical, so in a society of empiricism flying is not flying for it is referred to only in aeronautical terms (unless you are Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). Lufthansa, the German national carrier, does fly, but not ecstatically; it flies aerodynamically and profitably. It is German. Everything about it is grounded in reality. There is only the empirical and the pragmatic.

  1. Lufthansa is the world’s fourth-largest airline in terms of passenger numbers.
  2. These passengers travel to a variety of destinations in that the airline operates services to 18 domestic destinations, that is, destinations in Germany, and 203 international destinations spread over 78 countries. These countries cross continents: Africa, North and South America, Asia and Europe.
  3. Lufthansa, together with myriad partners, services around 410 destinations.
  4. The airline owns over 710 aircraft, including the Boeing 747 that Volker is in, and, when combined with its subsidiaries, it has the second-largest passenger airline fleet in the world.
  5. Lufthansa’s registered office and corporate headquarters are in Deutz.
  6. The main traffic centre is in Frankfurt, with a second hub in Munich.
  7. Lufthansa flies to Windhoek as Namibia is a favourite tourist destination for hungry German hunters.

Should you want to read anything further about this airline log in to Wikipedia.

[3] Goethe, a German writer, and Schiller, a German philosopher, are famous. Goethe loved the more famous Wagner, a German composer, who wrote the four operas that make up Der Ring des Nibelungen. The Ride of the Valkyries is in the second of these four operas and was featured in the movie Apocalypse Now as the Americans napalmed a small village in Vietnam.

[4] The Velveteen Rabbit, also entitled How Toys Become Real, is a children’s novel written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson. The book is about a toy rabbit made of velveteen that is given as a Christmas present to a young boy, but then is neglected by him for better, more exciting toys. The velveteen rabbit is told how he can become real by the wisest toy in the nursery. To become real a toy must be adored and loved by the child who owns him (love and ownership go hand in hand). The velveteen rabbit is overwhelmed by this; however, he is also sad as his chances of achieving reality are minimal. One night, after the young boy has lost his treasured china dog, he is made to feel better by the velveteen rabbit. The young boy then comes down with scarlet fever. In order that he recover fully he is sent on a trip to the coast. He is unhappy and does not want to go; he wants to remain in his home. He is soothed when he is given a stuffed rabbit that is of a better quality than the velveteen rabbit; the velveteen rabbit is replaced, and must be burned with all of the other toys that harbour the dangerous scarlet fever virus. Then the velveteen rabbit is magically transformed into a living rabbit by a fairy so as to spare him from this fiery fate. He became the young boy’s best and most adored toy after all. So the velveteen rabbit achieved real greatness.

[5] Paul Bowles wrote: I used to think that life was a thing that kept gaining impetus. It would get richer and deeper each year. I keep learning, getting wiser, going further into the truth. And now I know that it’s not like that. It’s more like smoking a cigarette. The first few puffs, it tastes wonderful and I never think of it ever being used up. Then I begin to take it for granted. And suddenly I realise that it is almost burnt down to the end, my fingers burn. And then I am conscious of a bitter taste. And I think that if I am always conscious of this unpleasant disagreeable bitter taste I should give up smoking. And then I realise that living is a habit, like smoking. I always say I am going to give it up, but I just go right on living.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]