Wind, Sand and Stars

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Hardcover, 1992

Call number




Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1992), Edition: 1, 240 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. From the author of the beloved classic The Little Prince and a winner of the Grand Prix of the Acad�mie Fran�aise, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying. Translated by Lewis Galanti�re.

Media reviews

Saint Exupéry pilotava aviões nos tempos heróicos da aviação comercial - tempo em que os aviões voavam a mil, dois mil metros e, nos dias de céu limpo, podia-se admirar a paisagem lá em baixo. Foi ele um dos primeiros pilotos da Air France a estabelecer a rota do correio aéreo para a
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África e a América Latina, enfrentando, com instrumentos rudimentares, as travessias do oceano, Sahara, Patagônia e Cordilheira dos Andes. Pilotando os pequenos aviões na quietude de noites estreladas ou sobrevoando durante horas de um dia interminável a imensidão de desertos e de planícies despovoadas, Saint Exupéry perscrutava agudamente a alma humana. Surge dessa reflexão uma proposta humanista muito peculiar, que entusiasmou muita gente nos anos que se seguiram à Segunda Guerra Mundial. Panes eram comuns nos tempos heróicos da aviação comercial e nem sempre tinham conseqüências fatais. Os aviões eram menores, menos velozes e planavam com facilidade. Porém, escapando da morte na queda do avião, pilotos e mecânicos tinham de lutar pela vida na caminhada em busca de socorro. Terra dos Homens narra vários desses episódios nos quais foram os valores morais que levaram esses homens a fazer enormes sacrifícios e a encontrar insuspeitadas reservas de energia para vencer desertos, neves eternas, hostilidades de beduinos sublevados. Não se trata, porém, de livro de aventuras ou de explorações. Terra dos Homens é, na verdade, uma amorosa meditação sobre o senso de responsabilidade; o valor do coleguismo, o prazer de uma conversa solta numa roda alegre após um dia duro de trabalho; a emoção de ver o sol se pôr na imensidão do mar, a alegria do aceno da menina aos pilotos que, na rota para o Chile, sobrevoavam um rincão perdido da Patagônia - episódios de um poema em prosa que celebra a natureza, o sentido da vida, a dignidade do trabalhador.
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We have here not only a poet who sings of the witchery of flying and of the crystal delight of gazing down upon the "virginity of a soil which no step of man or beast had sullied," but a seer who understands the menace to the human spirit that lies in our maladjustment to the machine age. It is in
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this understanding that he makes one of his biggest contributions . . . .

This book is drenched clean of all the petty cloying values of the earth. It is a beautiful book, and a brave book, and a book that should be read against the confusion of this world, if only that we may retain our pride in humanity and our excitement in this modern age.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member JHemlock
The Human spirit. What is it? What is made of and what makes it flourish? In this short volume those questions are answered by the author. Our desire to be, live and strive. A read that is well worth it, takes us across the skies, through the sand and at times other places none of us ever want to
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be. I read a translation of the novel from the French and it kind of sticks in my craw. The author describes in vivid detail the life of a pilot in the French Mail service…the good, the bad and the very ugly. To know and feel not only his experience (which is harrowing) but to know that he devoted so many of his thoughts to those around him whose suffering and bedraggled lives did as well. I guess the icing on the cake of this novel is knowing how the author met his fate after describing the manner in which several of his peers met theirs. In a sense you get the feeling that he knows it is just a matter of time until he falls from the sky only to vanish forever. Inspirational and uplifting. Well worth the read. I do suggest that if one is drawn to books like this… The Worst Journey in the World… About the Ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. A longer and punchier book but a credit to the genre as well.
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LibraryThing member Steve55
This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

You may perhaps be familiar with Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s work through the book The Little Prince which has become a classic for children and adults alike. This book reveals some of the inspiration Saint Exupéry drew upon.

Antoine de
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Saint Exupéry was a pioneering French pilot opening up the routes between France and Africa at a time when such journeys taxed the capabilities of aircraft and pilots to their limits. In this book he blends a collection of wonderful tales of the period with insights from his life, writing with the hand of a poet from the heart of a philosopher.

The book, written some seventy years ago, is clearly placed in its time whilst also being timeless, blending images of times past with lessons and insights that are immensely relevant to today. It spans his early adventures pioneering the mail service to Africa and onto the opening up of South America, through to his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, each with their life threatening dangers.

The experiences are wonderfully described but it is his reaction to them, the response of his heart and soul that give the book the power to move the reader’s soul.

In a book that has much description of life and survival in the desert, my favourite chapter is titled ‘Oasis’. Saint Exupéry leads the reader not into the oasis amidst the sand, but the oases that fill all of our lives, beautifully describing the experience of being taken into a family home in Paraguay.

I often promise to return to re-read books, but this book and this chapter in particular has been read several times over.

One of my favourite quotations of his is ‘.
“Each man carries within him the soul of a poet who died young”
Sadly Antoine de Saint Exupéry was killed whilst flying in 1944 at the age of 44.

I commend this book to you so you may see the poet he was and find the poet you are.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
This is one of a number of books I picked up years ago at a Readings warehouse sale in the first few weeks I moved to Melbourne, back in the days when I happily accumulated books much faster than I could read them. I stopped and did a tally at the end of 2012 and realised I had more than enough
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books to last me until the end of 2013, when I theoretically might not be in Melbourne anymore, so I stopped buying them and am now racing against the clock to see if I can finish my stockpile before I get transferred to London. I’d love to own a nice old house one day and start building an endless library, but unfortunately I’m still in my early 20s and need to keep my possessions to a minimum because I’m still at a stage in my life when I’m travelling and wandering about. First world problems.

Anyway. Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a French writer and aviator of the 1920s and 1930s mostly famous in the English-speaking world for his children’s book The Little Prince, which I haven’t read. Wind, Sand and Stars is a memoir of his time as a mail pilot in the 1920s and 1930s, flying from France to the colonies in West Africa and South America.

I was hoping this book would be like Roald Dahl’s awesome 1930s adventure memoir Going Solo, but it’s apples and oranges. Exupery’s writing style is lyrical (sometimes verging on purple prose), and he’s something of a philosopher, deeply wrapped up in the questions of what it means to be alive, what it is to be human, etc. There are a number of dull interludes, especially in the first half of the book, where he’s waffling on through deep layers of metaphor, trying to establish exactly how it feels to be caught up in a certain situation. I didn’t find it particularly readable.

The book is much more compelling in the second half, particularly in the chapter ‘Prisoner of the Sand,’ which details his crash in the Sahara Desert during an air race from Paris to Saigon. Exupery and his co-pilot were stranded in the desert for four days and were close to death when they were miraculously rescued by a Bedouin. This fifty-page segment is brilliantly told, charting the decay of Exupery’s optimism, the agony of dehydration, and the slow unravelling of his mind – particularly, the misery of continually hallucinating rescue only to have his hopes dashed. This segment is followed up by his experience in the Spanish Civil War – as a journalist, I think – which is the only thing I’ve read about that war apart from Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, and like the desert crash it was much more interesting than the first half of the book.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad memoir at all if you’re prepared to put up with some heavy Latin lyricism and the occasional boring philosophical aside.
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LibraryThing member Muscogulus
A memoir of flying in the 1930s by the French author of "The Little Prince." Fans of that book will notice some incidents in Saint-Exupéry’s life that were recast for the story, such as his marking up of a map of Spain to show where there are dangerous trees, a flock of sheep, or a farming
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couple who will look after wayward fliers. It's a small leap of imagination from here to the geographer's asteroid.

The least appealing feature of the book is the author’s zeal for his country and its empire, which leads him to disparage the Arabs and Berbers (“the refractory tribes of the Sahara”) who were enduring French colonial rule. He makes some willfully ignorant remarks about them.
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LibraryThing member hellbent
Good survival guide and backdrop for le Petit Prince.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
This book is all about war-time flying, but it also is shrouded in mystery. Five years after writing Wind, Sand and Stars (originally published in French as Terre de Hommes) Saint-Exupery went missing after a mission over southern France. He was never heard from again. Where did he go? Another
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tantilizing mystery is whether Wind, Sand and Stars is fiction or nonfiction. Part philosophy, part action adventure, all in the first person it is impossible to tell. Could it be semi-biographical in the sense that some of the events are real but names and places have been changed to protect the innocent? I wasn't able to extract fact from fiction.
Another interesting fact about Wind, Sand and Stars was the fact that once the book was published in France in 1939 Saint-Exupery rushed off to the United States to write two extra chapters. It was if he could never be satisfied with the finished product and wanted to keep writing and writing.
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LibraryThing member michaelm42071
Saint Exupéry writes one of the three or four greatest flying books. He became a mails pilot in 1926, flying mail and passengers for Latécoère, which became Aéropostale, flying from Toulouse into Spain and across to French West Africa and later flying in South America. He writes about the
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feeling of being detached from the earth and in another realm when flying. He writes about the heroic exploits of his friends Mermoz and Guillaumet, and it is the existential hero he describes: “He knew that he was responsible for himself, for the mails, for the fulfillment of the hopes of his comrades. He was holding in his hands their sorrow and their joy. He was responsible for that new element which the living were constructing and in which he was a participant. Responsible, in as much as his work contributed to it, for the fate of those men.”
In “The Tool” S-E makes a couple of points about airplanes: 1) their evolving design is a matter of carving away complications to reach simplicity, and 2) they are tools to help reduce the distance between people.
“The Elements” describes his flight through a “cyclone” on the slopes of the Andes. The point of “The Plane and the Planet” is that when we get up in the air, we see a far more desolate and barren landscape than we see from roads.
In “The Oasis” S-E describes being taken in by a charming family when he was forced down near Concordia in the Argentine. The daughters practice on him a variant of the game he remembers his sisters playing, assessing guests and giving them a rating while they sit at table. Here the test is how he reacts to the snakes he hears hissing and slithering under the table in the dilapidated but genteel house. He does not try to show off being a pilot, “for it is extremely dangerous to clamber up to the topmost branches of a plane-tree simply to see if the nestlings are doing well or to say good morning to one’s friends.”
In “Men of the Desert” he notes “I shall never be able to express clearly whence comes this pleasure men take from aridity, but always and everywhere I have seen men attach themselves more stubbornly to barren lands than to any other. Men will die for a calcined, leafless, stony mountain. The nomads will defend to the death their great store of sand as if it were a treasure of gold dust.”
S-E says he “succumbed to the desert as soon as I saw it” in 1926, when he first began flying. A passage that must have rung true with Langewiesche when he read it:
When the night is very fine and you are at the stick of your ship, you half forget yourself and bit by bit the plane begins to tilt on the left. Pretty soon, while you still imagine yourself in plumb, you see the lights of a village under your right wing. There are no villages in the desert. A fishing-fleet in mid-ocean, then? There are no fishing-fleets in mid-Sahara. What¬¬¬¬----? Of course! You smile at the way your mind has wandered and you bring the ship back to plumb again. The village slips into place. You have hooked that particular constellation back in the panoply out of which it had fallen. Village? Yes, village of stars.
S-E describes the Moors who are unable to conceive of things they have not seen: waterfalls, the size of Paris, trees. He tells about Mohammed from Marrakech, a slave of the Arabs and like all slaves called Bark, whose freedom the airmen eventually buy.
The penultimate section is a long self-contained narrative, “Prisoner of the Sand,” about an end-of-December 1935 Paris-Saigon flight S-E attempts with his mechanic, Prévot, in a Caudron Simoun, one of the fastest planes of the time. They lost landmarks in cumulus and adverse winds in Libya. They crash at full speed onto a gentle slope covered with “round black pebbles which had rolled over and over like ball-bearings beneath us.” Their water tank is pierced and they survive for days on a couple of oranges and a tiny amount of water, hiking away from the plane by day and building signal fires near it by night. Eventually they are rescued by a Bedouin caravan, and next day they are in Cairo.
The last section, “Barcelona and Madrid (1936), concerns S-E’s experiences in those towns during the Spanish Civil War. He ponders the question why these people kill each other over political differences that hardly seem deadly. Some of the descriptions remind me of Goya etchings and Black paintings.
S-E compares his own calling to those fighting for various causes, and concludes that “What all of us want is to be set free.” He ends by asking his “comrades of the air,” “When have we felt ourselves happy men?” There is a nice section about making common cause with other men: “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
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LibraryThing member delphica
I'm not really sure how this came up, but I attended a lecture a few months ago about Antoine de Saint-Exupery and the Little Prince, and it reminded me that I had never read this French classic. I loved it. If, like me, you're the kind of person who jots down memorable quotes, you need to be
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careful with this because every other sentence reads like something you want to remember for the future. I think the main reason that I hadn't picked it up previously is that I'm not very interested in aviation, or deserts, but really and truly you don't need to be to enjoy this book.

As this is a book largely about his experiences flying in French colonial Africa, there are a few bits that seem jarringly dated/uncomfortable, but I tried to roll with it as best I could. It is what it is.

Grade: A
Recommended: To just about anyone, it's a fairly quick read, and it might be especially interesting to Little Prince fans because you can pick up some threads of Saint-Exupery's thought that show up in Little Prince as well. I imagine it's spectacular if you do like the history of aviation in the first place, or adventure fiction.
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LibraryThing member davidakelly
Great book. Great descriptions of flying and thoughts about it
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
"I had thought myself lost, had touched the very bottom of despair; and then, when the spirit of renunciation had filled me, I had known peace."(p 170)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a man of action who seemed to have half a dozen different careers at once: he was a prize-winning novelist and
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professional mail pilot, an airborne adventurer and a war correspondent, a commercial test pilot and the author of a popular children's book. But whatever else he was doing, he never stopped writing. In this memoir he describes his experiences as a pilot in terms so poetic as to take your breath away. Few pilots perhaps have seen a cloud and thought of it as "a scarf of filings scraped off the surface of the earth and borne out to sea by the wind." The opening chapters form a sort of philosophical meditation on the nature of the life as a pilot as can be gleaned from the chapter titles: "The Craft", "The Men", "The Tool". There are moments and vignettes described as only someone who lived the life and imagined the experience could achieve.
Published on the eve of World War II, the book sold out quickly on both sides of the ocean, although the form baffled readers in each language. Three months after publication, the Academie Francaise awarded it the Grand Prix du Roman, naming it the best novel of 1939. American booksellers, for their part, chose Wind, Sand and Stars as "the best non-fiction book of the year." However you classify it this book is Saint-Exupery's paean to the spirit of man, to the goals that unite us, and to the optimism that was his stock in trade. Whether you agree with him or not, the book remains one that buoys the spirit and calms the heart.
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LibraryThing member J.v.d.A.
His greatest book - deserves much more attention than "The Little Prince". Beautifully written and at times very poignant.
LibraryThing member callmecayce
I absolutely adore The Little Prince and when I saw that Saint-Exupery was also a travel writer (though his books are also autobiographies), I jumped at the chance to read one of them. I picked Wind, Sand and Stars because it contains a few passages set in the desert, which served as inspiration
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for The Little Prince. I really enjoyed reading Saint-Exupery's writings, for the most part. I liked his storytelling abilities, how he made both the places he visited and the people he knew come alive.

I wanted to give this book five stars, but I found the last section, which was about war and Saint-Exupery's experiences on the front lines in Spain, to be a let down at the end of the novel. I was disappointed, because up until that point everything had been quite good. Of course, since it was war, the passages were darker, but that wasn't the problem. They just weren't as interesting. I'm not sure if it's because I don't like war stories, as it were, as much or what. But that was enough to knock the book down to four stars.

My favorites parts were when he talked about what it felt like to fly and the sections set in the desert. My personal favorite was the last part, in the desert, when he was trying to fly across Africa and crashed along with another man. They were stranded for several days and only just survived when a man (Saint-Exupery called him an Arab, though I do not know which nationality the man was) rescued them. The way Saint-Exupery writes about his slow descent into madness (due to lack of water) along with the efforts of Saint-Exupery and the other man (his name and position escape me, though I want to say he was a co-pilot/mechanic) to fix their plane and then try to survive were quite vivid.

In spite of ending on such a downer, with the war, I really liked this book and I may have to look for his others.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
One of my desert island books. Transcendent. Amazing. Delightful in every possible particular. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member jodihenley
A beautiful, lucid, and quietly brilliant book that smells of vast open spaces and the deep night sky.
LibraryThing member breic2
Overly sentimental story about flying. Includes some interesting passages about flying, and one adventure story about surviving a crash landing in the desert east of the Nile. It is suffocated by suffusing sentimentality. One questions all his descriptions of other people since he liberally mixes
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what he knows with his often over-the-top speculations.
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LibraryThing member Chris_El
“What torments me is not the humps nor hollows nor the ugliness. It is the sight, a little bit in all these men, of Mozart murdered.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

Saint-Exupéry tells the story of his love of flying, training to be a pilot in post WWI France and then flying
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the mail from France to Africa and then in South America. In the early days of flying crashing and other mishaps were not uncommon. And Saint-Exupéry relates several of his personal experiences trapped in the desert or on top of a plateau. He also relates how a friend and fellow aviator wrecked in the snowy mountains and everyone assumed he died until against all expectations he walked back to civilization despite the cold and terrible weather. Motivated by love of his wife, who would be left alone, he kept getting back up when he fell down, and refused to give in and die. He talks about how he and his friends purchased a slaves' freedom and flew him back home with a purse of money they collected for him to start his life anew, and how he reacted to getting his freedom back.

But, what really makes this a special book is not merely the author's experiences, interesting as they may be. But, his philosophy and expression of his heart on life and the joys of flight. Saint-Exupéry is a deeply thoughtful person and in his writing shares those thoughts about friendship, beauty, and what makes living beautiful. A thoughtful book worth pondering.
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LibraryThing member Daniel.Estes
On the surface, Wind, Sand and Stars is about flight when flying was in its infancy. To move across the Earth as the bird flies required a new kind of observational awareness. The coming decades would see this awareness more or less replaced with mechanized instruments, but early on the brunt of
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the physical and mental effort was the sole responsibility of the pilot. So, on the surface, this is what the book is about. A careful reader however will appreciate that it's about so much more.
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LibraryThing member untraveller
Horrible book. I'm not a pilot, but would never want to be if I based it only on this book. Flowery Victorian language of no import throughout. The pilots can have this....
LibraryThing member rakerman
Remarkable, poetic insights and experiences.
LibraryThing member kcshankd
I've an ancestor in Arlington National Cemetery that flew above France during WWI, having traversed the globe from his tiny Kansas horse and buggy town. I was hoping this book would bring him closer. I was blown away reading _Sagittarius Rising_ some years ago, and this is not that. It is more
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philosophical, less memoir - written by an older man looking back. There are chapters that clang against modern sensibilities, despite the wonder of the early long distance pilot. I am glad I read it to cross it off my list, but would not recommend the book to a modern reader.
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LibraryThing member viking2917
If I rated every book by the frequency with which I highlight or dogear passages, this book would surely be at or near the top. A lot of deep thinking, some amazing adventures, and some wonderful writing.

"and when, an hour later, he slipped under the clouds, he came out into a fantastic kingdom.
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Great black waterspouts had reared themselves seemingly in the immobility of temple pillars. Swollen at their tops, they were supporting the squat and lowering arch of the tempest, but through the rifts in the arch there fell slabs of light and the full moon sent her radiant beams between the pillars down upon the frozen tiles of the sea. Through these uninhabited ruins Mermoz made his way, gliding slantwise from one channel of light to the next, circling round those giant pillars in which there must have rumbled the upsurge of the sea, flying for four hours through these corridors of moonlight toward the exit from the temple. And this spectacle was so overwhelming that only after he had got through the Black Hole did Mermoz awaken to the fact that he had not been afraid."
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LibraryThing member Coffeehag
There are many adventure stories in the world. Then, one runs across a narrative that reduces the lines of syntax in all other tales of adventure to the level of a boy ensuring that his stuffed animals are arranged comfortably before running off to play. This is such a book. And it is not merely a
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work of fiction, spun to entertain. It is a memoir. Saint-Exupery, while giving expression to the inexpressibility of his experiences, proceeds to express them anyway, with an unparalleled ability to evoke a picture in the mind of the reader.
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LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
In Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry describes the early years of regular powered flight as he worked with the Aéropostale (later Air France) delivering the mail. He talks of the almost-mystical manner in which pilots related to the world from their lofty perch and how they had to
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view the land beneath them both to find their way and to successfully land in case of emergency. He writes, “Flying is a man’s job and its worries are a man’s worries. A pilot’s business is with the wind, with the stars, with night, with sand, with the sea. He strives to outwit the forces of nature. He stares in expectancy for the coming of dawn the way a gardener awaits the coming of spring. He looks forward to port as to a promised land, and truth for him is what lives in the stars” (pg. 147). Beyond the short vignettes about the lives of pilots and the handling of aircraft, Saint-Exupéry spends a great deal of time discussing his experiences in what is now Algeria and Morocco, his crash in the Sahara Desert, and his experiences at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
Discussing his crash in the Sahara, Saint-Exupéry discussing following the trail of a fennec fox while he was hallucinating due to dehydration. This experience likely served as the inspiration for his later novella, Le Petit Prince (pg. 136). Further, he infuses his reminiscences with a humanist/poetic outlook, much like the musings of the fox in Le Petit Prince. Saint-Exupéry writes, “Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something moulded. These prison walls that this age of trade has built up round us, we can break down. We can still run free, call to our comrades, and marvel to hear once more, in response to our call, the pathetic chant of the human voice” (pg. 26). He continues, “When we exchange manly handshakes, compete in races, join together to save one of us who is in trouble, cry aloud for help in the hour of danger – only then do we learn that we are not alone on earth” (pg. 28). These introspective passages contribute to the generally romantic view of early pilots during the interwar years. This book, with lovely illustrations from Linda Kitson, will appeal to anyone interested in the history of aviation.
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LibraryThing member jon1lambert
The older I get the more I like the touch, feel and look of old books. A particular favourite type is the Gallimard paperback from the post war period. In an Oxfam bookshop I found a copy of Saint-Exupery’s Terre des Hommes with page browning and signs of sellotape on the front cover. It is from
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the ‘trois cent vingtieme edition’ printed in 1949, ten years after the first edition. It is so fragile that it crumbles at a turn of the page. I like the way French publishers draw attention to the various limited editions on special paper, for instance ‘L’edition originale de cet ouvrage a ete tiree a cent soixante-trois exemplaires’ before describing a breakdown of these volumes by ‘papier Whatman’, ‘velin de Hollande’ and 30 copies ‘sur velin pur fil des papeteries Lafuma Navarre’. My copy has no claim to fame in itself. The content is marvellous of course and starts with a statement that rings true however it may be applied.
‘La terre nous apprend plus long sur nous que tous les livres. Parce qu’elle nous resiste. L’homme se découvre quand il se mesure avec l’obstacle. Mais, pour l’atteindre, il lui faut un outil’ (page 9).

I encountered this challenge when my tool, my car, struck an object that burst a tire, leaving me stranded in gathering darkness miles from home. As I awaited help dusk turned to darkness and the natural environment made its presence felt through the sounds of animals, a barking fox, the bellow of cows and the soulful cry of the tawny owl. Trees, hedges and fields took on different shapes and characteristics. Long periods of silence took over and emphasised my isolation and helplessness in a rural landscape. Four lines into Terre des Homme, I am hooked.
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LibraryThing member Grace.Van.Moer
Reread. Crazy tales of early aviation in unmapped areas. Example - flying the mail over the Andes from Brazil to Peru.




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