8 thoughts on “Orient Air Express – Paul Morand

  1. Another sturdily luxurious and artistically designed tome that we have come to expect from this publisher. About 12 by 4 inches, I estimate, without a ruler. Over 50 pages. My copy is numbered 33/46.
    I am already reading the first chapter, and there are some examples of typos that I believe sadly beset this book. But I doubt if they will spoil my enjoyment.

  2. Pages 7 – 16

    “Do you know that it is possible to get to Romania in one hop now?”

    The exciting, almost virtual-realistic vision of derring-do, laid-back piloting of planes across the lights of Paris, when, say, depending upon a rift in the clouds just to be able land at Le Bourget after several cool pass-overs, without much petrol.
    As are delightfully observed, the social interconnections of the era down below. A witty, sophisticated charm, so far. And the characterisation of Prince Dmitri and others, to die for.

  3. Pages 17 – 22

    “‘…And mind the cathedral spire!’
    The earth seemed to fly back and hurl the travellers away like a spring.”

    If you thought the previous section was a virtual-realistic flight of what I guess to be the 1920s world, then this specific flight here from Paris to Bucharest is even more so! It is magnificent flying-machine stuff as an unmissable prose evocation. It is literally breathtaking, and I do not say that lightly. No quote can do justice to it. I do not know whom to congratulate most for this – the root author or his translator. It’s a lexophonic flight between them, I guess. Pilot and future co-pilot. Although they did not seem to have co-pilots in those days. Just the Bigglesworth in front.

  4. Pages 23 – 32

    “He had forgot what it was that he had come to do at the other end of Europe. He had travelled faster than his thoughts.”

    Apparently, Dmitri has come overnight by plane for some Romanian caviar to take straight back to Paris in the morning. But he soon remembers – and we experience hilarious scenes as he garners it in the market at midnight. Some more great characterisation and observation. The fact that Dmitri momentarily forgot his mission is nicely paralleled by a man who is followed by someone who is his ‘memory.’ A duty I once famously called that of a ‘brainwright.’ Then nicely paralleled again by a man permanently followed by someone playing a guitar. A raucous animal imitating vocalist, too, it appears! Pilot and co-pilot again, I wonder? I forgot to mention that the plane’s pilot here is accompanied by a wireless operator. A time when wireless meant a bulky wireless not WiFi.

  5. Pages 33 – 42

    “A whole world lived in this dense marshland safe from mankind, a world with its own slaves and tyrants, its fierce pecks, its soaring and gliding, its racial hatred, its agonies and triumphs.”

    I know I am getting old, but perhaps there is no excuse that I forget how Dmitri forgets his flight back, but embarks instead – almost press-ganged by subtle persuasion – on a boat’s voyage along the here artfully painted Danube towards its delta and the sea – and later, out of the occident, Trans Orient? Through where Blackwood had his Willows, and we smell the mix of fishes and sense the flight of different birds. Only one person remembering “secret orgies.” The birds soon to be exterminated? Mussolini is mentioned. And the guitarist who now depresses Dmitri. Or at least makes him uncomfortable. I forget how we got this far, and the plane journey forgotten, too. What plane journey, I ask? I more than simply suspect this is THE quintessential Ex Occidente book. More than simply transported.

  6. Pages 43 – 53

    “‘We are going into a palace of caviar,’ he said.”

    A moving climax. I now feel ashamed that I found the beginning ‘delightfully witty’ amid that Paris ambiance. Only pleased that I was taken along with Dmitri. Helped me start losing the memory of some cocky brainwright….
    Here, the virtual-realistic descriptions become those of making the caviar, the treatment of the sturgeon for occidental tastes. It is so utterly compelling and blood-mulchy, like the earlier soon-to-be-forgotten passages of journey in this book, but now more a journey to take along with the mixed emotions of a Russian guitar. A Scythian Suite. And the minor textual glitches also seemed to vanish as I went further into this book – as if they were meant to exist for such a later purpose of vanishing.
    Privileged to have been thus impelled to co-pilot this book, at least for a while. Bits coming off my brain, while reattaching themselves elsewhere.


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