Till it was nothing but a bright spark; an aspiration; a concentration; a symbol

Astor Place (The Woman’s Thoughts Then Venture Elsewhere, The Narrator Leaves Her Mind) ©MAIERMOUL
Astor Place (The Woman’s Thoughts Then Venture Elsewhere, The Narrator Leaves Her Mind) ©MAIERMOUL

Virginia Woolf, as is Juan Rulfo in Spanish, is a master of simultaneity. They are able to break the laws of time and space completely, and seamlessly.

I have always tried to copy that from them and have always failed. One of my favorite moments of this type of simultaneity is from Mrs. Dalloway. An airplane appears in the sky when, in Regent’s Park, an elderly woman is observing a younger woman. The narrator enters this elderly woman’s mind as she thinks about the younger one, taking note of her gestures and demeanor, until the airplane interrupts her thoughts—and the reader can almost see the airplane gliding across the page, its trajectory punctuated by an “it” sprinkled here and there. The woman’s thoughts then venture elsewhere, the narrator leaves her mind, follows the airplane up on the sky. Then, suddenly, the narrator, after just a semi colon, is no longer looking at the airplane, but at London from the airplane, and at the countryside beyond London, where there is a forest, where there is a snail. And Woolf continues in this way, weaving a kind of ultimate tapestry of landscape and human thought, intertwined. The final part of the scene is just astonishing:

Away and away aeroplane shot, till it was nothing but a bright spark; an aspiration; a concentration; a symbol (so it seemed to Mr. Bentley, vigorously rolling his strip of turf at Greenwich) of man’s soul; of his determination, thought Mr. Bentley, sweeping round cedar tree, to get outside his body, beyond his house, by means of thought, Einstein, speculation, mathematics, Mendelian theory—away aeroplane shot.

– Valeria Luiselli, A Writer is a Social Climber, LitHub interview