Authors: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French novelist, short-story writer, and memoirist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Courrier sud, 1929 (Southern Mail, 1933)

Vol de nuit, 1931 (Night Flight, 1932)

Pilote de guerre, 1942 (Flight to Arras, 1942)

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Le Petit Prince, 1943 (The Little Prince, 1943)

Nonfiction:

Terre des hommes, 1939 (autobiography in novel form; Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939)

Citadelle, 1948 (philosophical observations and reflections; The Wisdom of the Sands, 1950)

Biography

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (sahn-tayg-zew-pay-ree), born in Lyons, France, on June 29, 1900, joined the French Army Air Force in 1921. After serving as a pilot, he left the Air Force in 1926 and became a commercial pilot, flying routes from France to West Africa and South America. At the same time, he began to write about flying, producing a novel, Southern Mail, in which a young French aristocrat, full of impossibly romantic notions, faces the realities of life and an unhappy love affair through the discipline of flying. In his next novel, Night Flight, Saint-Exupéry further emphasized the importance of flying by establishing a conflict between the questlike dangerous missions that characterized night flying and the sheltered comforts of home and domesticity. These novels showed his mastery of a rich, dense, powerfully poetic style well-suited to conveying his thoughts about flying and humankind.{$I[AN]9810001486}{$I[A]Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de[Saint Exupery, Antoine de]}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de[Saint Exupery, Antoine de]}{$I[tim]1900;Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de[Saint Exupery, Antoine de]}

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

(National Archives)

For several years during the mid-1930’s, Saint-Exupéry had difficulty getting a job flying. He became a foreign correspondent, covering the 1935 May Day celebration in Moscow, the 1936 start of the Spanish Civil War, for L’Intransigeant, and the 1937 siege of Madrid for Paris-Soir. These experiences deepened both his political and religious interest so that by the time he began to write Wind, Sand, and Stars he had switched from the novel to an autobiographical essay form. André Gide, who was a strong admirer of Saint-Exupéry, is believed to have suggested this change in form. Wind, Sand, and Stars is more political and religious, more thoughtful and metaphysical, than his earlier work, yet it still reflects his direct experiences, particularly his account of a plane crash in the Sahara Desert, and flying still provides both the form for the book and the necessary function for the author.

When World War II began, Saint-Exupéry returned to the Air Force. Shot down, he managed to escape through Portugal to the United States. He then wrote Flight to Arras, an account of his wartime experiences widely read in the United States as evidence that not all Frenchmen had succumbed to complacency and indifference in the face of the Nazi invasion and Vichy collaboration. He remained in the United States, writing, voicing his convictions about his responsibilities to his fellow human beings and his feelings of unity with his flight crew, his country, and all people, until he was able to rejoin the French forces. In his last days he wrote The Wisdom of the Sands, published posthumously in 1950. This book, though not always smooth or coherent, stands as the most complete account of his ideas. It is a long “prose poem” meditation on God and death and love and humanity’s fate, stressing (in a manner some critics have called Nietzschean) the human need for discipline and creativity engendered by an activity like flying.

Saint-Exupéry has been widely admired for his rich, poetic style and his insight. He received the Prix Femina-Vie Heureuse in 1931 and the Grand Prize of the French Academy in 1939. In the United States and England he was even more famous as a spirited, authentic, and articulate voice of the French Resistance, and as a writer who used creative forms to reveal a sense of purpose and discipline beneath a superficially impersonal human technology. He is perhaps best known internationally as the author and illustrator of The Little Prince, a popular children’s book that many adults have also appreciated through the years.

His death remains a mystery of the war. He was presumed shot down over southern France on July 31, 1944.

BibliographyBreaux, Adele. Saint-Exupéry in America, 1942-1943: A Memoir. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1971. A memoir covering Saint-Exuréry’s time in the United States during World War II.Capestany, Edward J. The Dialectic of “The Little Prince.” Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1982. A searching study of Saint-Exupéry’s use of myth. There is a chapter by chapter analysis, along with notes.Higgins, James E. “The Little Prince”: A Reverie of Substance. New York: Twayne, 1996. Divided into literary and historical contexts (including the book’s critical reception) and a reading (emphasizing the “eye of innocence,” “the landscape of metaphor,” explorations of the spirit and of responsibility). There is an appendix on approaches to teaching the novel, as well as notes and an annotated bibliography.Robinson, Joy D. Marie. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Boston: Twayne, 1984. Chapter 1 discusses Saint-Exupéry’s childhood, chapter 2 his student and soldier years, chapter 3 his career as an aviator, with subsequent chapters following the development of both his life and writing. Includes chronology, notes, and an annotated bibliography. This is perhaps the best book to consult for the beginning student of Saint-Exupery, since it is an unusually thorough study.Saint-Exupéry, Consuelo de. The Tale of the Rose: The Passion That Inspired “The Little Prince.” Reprint. New York: Random House, 2003. The recently discovered memoir of the aviator’s one-time wife, the possible model for the Little Prince’s coquettish flower.Schiff, Stacy. Saint-Exupéry. New York: Knopf, 1995. Contains considerable new material on Saint-Exupéry’s life and career, especially his experience as a war pilot. Drawing on extensive interviews, Schiff considers the relationship between Saint-Exupéry the aviator and writer. Includes very detailed notes and a bibliography.
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