“Where the Astronauts Meet” (short story) by Suzanna Malaval
English Publication History: Travelling Towards Epsilon (New English Library, 1977)
Original: French (unknown), 1963
Translated by Maxim Jakubowski, 1976
Synopsis: When the transient patrons of Dax’s file out in the late evening, only the lonely nostalgic astronauts from the early days of planet exploration remain on their stools and in their seats. Rather than bawdy jokes and drunken slurs, the have-been astronauts relive their glory in nostalgic speech, and one such astronaut pens his compilation of said stories spiced with his experiences in “Where the Astronauts Meet”. Dax’s tapers, patrons taper, nostalgia remains. 3 pages
Pre-analysis: “Where the Astronauts Meet” was written in 1963 when only Soviet Vostok missions and American Mercury flights had been launched in orbit around the earth, after which, incidentally, the Russians changed call-signs from Vostok to Voskhod and Soyuz while the Americans from Mercury to Gemini and Apollo. The population of earth orbital flight astronauts is limited to a very small population (533), but the number of people to have walked on the moon (1969-1972) is only twelve, eight of whom are still alive. Considering Malaval wrote “Where the Astronauts Meet” in 1963, the atmosphere of the story carries with it a reverent, nostalgic, and oddly prophetic air in regards to the limited success of space travel.
Analysis: Anywhere in the world, expatriates can be seen congregating among themselves: Americans with Americans, Brits with Brits, Myanmar with Myanmar. Even domestically, people tend to segregate themselves according to some held pride… just look at high school, look at clubs, organizations, etc. Nationality and pride are quite superficial, yet we choose who we associate with by these petty trends.
Think of a deep, symbolic facet of your life and think about how many people can share that idiosyncratic sensation with you. Let’s limit that experience to a mere dozen of people… something so unique that it penetrates your very being, that it has become who you are, that your name resonates with your accomplishment.