For my E-Lit example, I chose Flight Paths by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph. As in the Kafka story Calvino mentions, Yacub’s privation leads to a flight to another world. In this case, it is a literal flight: Yacub stows away onto a cargo plane to escape his miserable life in Dubai. By contrast, Harriet’s life seems mundane: we first meet her as she’s driving to the grocery store to shop for her family. The lightness comes in when the two characters’ storylines converge.
Calvino says that lightness is a way of looking at the world, and the parallel perspectives in the fourth episode of the story illustrate two completely different viewpoints. Yacub, falling from the sky, feels light and free. Rather that be alarmed, he reflects rather poetically, “I am flying.” Harriet, however, sees that Yacub is clearly falling to his death. Nothing could be more fatal than smashing into a car roof after falling from a plane, yet surprisingly, Yacub does not die. Through the power of the story, Yacub is able to transcend mortality and survive the fall. Even more amazingly, he and Harriet bypass all language barriers and can communicate perfectly in English. She is surprised by this, but Yacub immediately announces he is hungry, and the two go off in search of food. leaving little time for us readers to be incredulous.
The lightness of the story allows Yacub to overcome the laws of physics. It also allows us, like Harriet, to suspend our disbelief and accept Yacub’s survival. Since this is a work of literature, we can read his flight and escape from poverty as a metaphor rather than an actual event. In any case, the lightness in Flight Paths surprises us because it interrupts our normal patterns of thinking and allows us to exercise our imaginations.