SAINT-EXUPERY is a sensitive and readable biography of the author of WIND, SAND, AND STARS (1939) and THE LITTLE PRINCE (1943). Stacy Schiff’s first book is an excellent re- creation of the French aviator and his times.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, born in 1900, was the scion of an aristocratic family. His father died when he was three, leaving the family in financial difficulties. Although he began writing plays and poems as a child, he was an indifferent student. He failed to obtain a commission in the French navy, failed at selling trucks, failed in his first and most of his subsequent romantic endeavors. Nevertheless, he developed a passion for airplanes as a young boy and learned to fly while in the military. In 1926, he joined the foremost French airmail service, first in North Africa and then in South America.
Using his flying experiences, Saint-Exupery blended brilliant writing with tales of adventure, courage, and perseverance in several highly acclaimed works: SOUTHERN MAIL (1933), NIGHT FLIGHT (1932), WIND, SAND, AND STARS, FLIGHT TO ARRAS (1942), and most lastingly for his fame, THE LITTLE PRINCE, his story of lost childhood. He seemingly knew everyone from Andre Gide to Charles Lindbergh, was a popular companion, enjoyed food, wine, women, song, and performing card tricks, but Schiff’s Saint-Ex, as he was sometimes called, remained partially at odds with adult life.
Finding it difficult to take sides in the polarized ideological world of the 1930’s, with the outbreak of World War II Saint-Exupery alienated both the appeasers from Vichy and Charles de Gaulle’s resistance movement. While flying a reconnaissance mission in July of 1944, he was reported missing in action. His body was never found. Schiff has written a fascinating account of this complex man, a brave and often foolhardy pilot and a writer of great style and substance, who never entirely abandoned his childhood.
Sources for Further Study
Air and Space/Smithsonian. IX, October, 1994, p. 94.
Boston Globe. December 11, 1994, p. 38.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. November 6, 1994, p. 2.
The New York Times Book Review. C, January 8, 1995, p. 33.
The New Yorker. LXX, December 5, 1994, p. 141.
The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, November 27, 1994, p. 4.