“Remote Projection,” Guillaime Apollinaire, 1910 — The newspapers are atwitter with the news that a man named Aldavid appears to be the Jewish messiah. The man is “ubiquitous,” appearing to preach in multiple cities at once. The protagonist immediately thinks of his friend, Baron d’Ormesan, who would be greatly interested in this affair. But the Baron hasn’t been in contact with him for two years.
Everyone, including the protagonist, hopes to get a glimpse of Aldavid. The Jewish community in Paris stands for days by the synagogue in Rue de la Victoire and adjacent streets. When Aldavid appears, the protagonist can’t get past the police barricades and mounted police who try to keep order.
Soon after, the Baron appears in the protagonist’s room in his apartment in Paris. He explains that he’s been in various places, including Australia–in fact, that is one of the places where he is right now. The Baron takes a moment to describe himself as a man who delights in “artistic crimes,” which are the joy of his life, and to boast of his knowledge of languages and cultures. All of them are useful to him now, he hints ominously. He explains his absence from Paris: He came into a sudden windfall and used the money to purchase scientific experiments to carry out research in wireless telegraphy, the transmission of photographs, color photography, and photography in relief, cinematography, the phonograph, and so on. In the course of his experiments, he became interested in “remote projection.” He came to learn a means by which the body can be transmitted whilst retaining its faculties, as well as the means to simultaneously duplicate his body. Eventually, the protagonist realizes that he cannot allow the Baron (an early “mad scientist”) to continue masquerading as a messiah, and he shoots one version of the Baron, killing them all.
Comments: The story first appeared in L’hérésiarque et Cie (1910). L’hérésiarque et Cie was received well and was the runner-up to Colette’s La Vagabondia for the Prix Goncourt. This story was later published as The Wandering Jew and Other Stories (Rupert Hart-Davis) in England. Read here in English in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which provides an introduction by sf historian Sam Moskowitz.
In Apollinaire, Moskowitz sees one of the pioneers of “matter transmission and duplication,” and in this story, a new perspective on the theme. Moskowitz notes that while Apollinaire was recognized as a “champion of the avant garde in art,” he was also very interested in the avant garde in literature. Interested in stylistic innovation, he produced brilliant, satirical, sexy tales of cruelty, the macabre, and surrealism. Writing in 1968, he credits Apollinaire as a figure that should inspire those experimenting in style “today.” He speculates on Apollinaire’s knowledge of and interest in the Jewish culture, wondering aloud if there was “kinship in bloodlines.” He mentions Apollinaire’s other sf piece, “The Disappearance of Honoré Subrac,” “which concerns a man who can blend…into any solid object,” and asks if this story could have influenced Marcel Aymé, the author of “The Man Who Walked Through Walls.”
Author: Wikipedia: “Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, known as Guillaume Apollinaire (French pronunciation: [ɡijom apɔliˈnɛʁ]; Rome, 26 August 1880 – 9 November 1918, Paris) was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother.”
For a recent book on Apollinaire’s contributions to “the foundations of the modernist movement,” see Peter Read’s Picasso and Apollinaire: The Persistence of Memory.