Orlando as “Imaginary Portrait”

  • Anne Herrmann


Princess Löwenstein-Wertheim flew as a passenger on the first attempted westbound transatlantic flight (accomplished by a German crew in April 1928 and by Beryl Markham as the first woman in 1936) that took off from Salisbury for Ottawa in a Fokker monoplane, sighted the same evening 800 miles off the coast of Ireland, and then never again. Woolf imagines the final scene of an unsuccessful transatlantic flight as a theatrical one, in which each person plays a part—complete with costume—but no one hears the words. Woolf s role is that of author, who because she isn’t there, imagines a sequence of events. Because there are no witnesses, she invents what people say. By putting into words the end of someone else’s life, she lays to rest a phantom, a public rather than a private memory. For the author, it is not the life but the death of the aviator, that can only be made to “die out” by making it up as a scene. The problem is not that the airplane crash is a new form of death where the body leaves no trace, but that even when the body has disappeared, the mind cannot be laid to rest. What is shocking is not that it happens, but that while it happens one is asleep or dining with friends.


Literary History Sexual Ambi Private Memory Dead Matter Female Artist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Anne Herrmann 2000

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  • Anne Herrmann

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