Hari Kunzru, Transmission (2005)

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Hari Kunzru, Transmission (2005)

Describes Guy Swift, who owns a company specializing in branding, as he flies in First Class

Guy Swift, thirty-three years old, UK citizen, paper millionaire and proud holder of platinum status on three different frequent-flyer programmes. Guy Swift, twice Young British Market Visionary of the Year and holder of several Eurobrand achievement awards. Guy Swift, charter member of a Soho Club, a man genetically gifted with height, regular features, sandy-blond hair which tousled attractively, relatively inactive sweat glands and a cast-iron credit rating…

‘More champagne sir? A drink of water?’

He took a glass from the smiling female attendant, unselfconsciously bathing in the soft-porn ambience of the moment. He enjoyed the attendant’s android charm, the way this disciplined female body reminded him that it was just a tool.. He (or rather his company) was paying this machine to administer a calculated series of pleasures and sensations.

The music trickled into Guy’s brain, slowly clearing his mental space like an elderly janitor stacking up chairs. He had a sense of angelic contentment. Here he was, existent, airborne, bringing the message of himself from one point on the earth’s surface to another’.


Describes Arjun Mehta, a data programmer from India who has been living in America for one year

A figure, a walking man, trudging along the margin of a wide California highway. One foot in front of the other, each pace bringing him a little closer to the point, marked with a low concrete barrier, where the Taco Bell lot ended and the Staples lot began. Beyond Staples was a Wal-Mart and beyond that a road junction. Beyond the junction, perhaps three blocks or thirty more minutes’ walk away, was a mini-mall with a Thai take-out, a dry-cleaner and the convenience store which was the pedestrian’s intended destination.

Anyone on foot in suburban California is one of four things: poor, foreign, mentally ill or jogging. Tis person, whose thin frame was almost lost inside a grubby Oakland Raiders shirt, was moving too slowly to be a jogger. He appeared edgy, dispossessed. Defeat radiated from him like sweat. If the soccer moms zipping by in their SUVs registered him at all, it was as a blur of dark skin, a minor danger signal flashing past on their periphery. To the walking man, the soccer moms were more cosmological than human, gleaming projectiles that dopplered past him in a rush of noise and dioxins, as alien and indifferent as stars. [p.38]

So see the walking man, going to the store again. Instant coffee. Breakfast cereal. Plastic-wrapped bread, 10 per cent polystyrene, 90 per cent air. See the man trudge along the margin of a wide road, a man who suspects either that he is shrinking or that this landscape is actually expanding in front of him, stretching itself out ahead of his weary feet… He knows what lies above him, the sublime mobility of those who travel without ever touching the ground. He has glimpsed what lies below, the other mobility, the forced motion of the shopping-cart pushers, the collectors of cardboard boxes. At least in India the street people can lie down for a while before being moved on.

[words defined overleaf]

Cosmological: From outer space

Dispossessed: Deprived of belongings

Dopplered: A verb created (by Kunzru) from the Doppler-effect, a noise created by speeding objects when heard by somebody who is still.

Edgy: Anxious

Janitor: A person whose job it is to take care of a building

Pedestrian: A person who travels on foot

Periphery: The edge

Soccer moms’: American term—mothers who spend time supporting their sports-playing children

Suburban: Located at the edge of an urban area

SUV: Sport Utility Vehicle. Large family car.

Trudging: Walking slowly and clumsily

  1. Can you connect what you’ve read to the following quote?

Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (2000)

‘Speed of movement has today become a major, perhaps the paramount, factor of social stratification and the hierarchy of domination’

  1. In what ways is Transmission a postmodern novel? Does it have anything in common with these examples of postmodern art we have seen?

image result Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)
babel poster32.jpg Dir. Alejandro Inarritu, Babel (2006)

Ryan Trecartin, Any Ever (2011)

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