Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry (sahn-tayg-zew-pay-REE) was born on June 29, 1900, in Lyon, France, the third of five children in an aristocratic family. His father died of a stroke when Saint-Exupéry was only three, and his mother moved the family to Le Mans. Saint-Exupéry, known as Saint-Ex, led a happy childhood. He was surrounded by many relatives and often spent his summer vacations with his family at their chateau in Saint-Maurice-de-Remens.
Saint-Exupéry went to Jesuit schools and to a Catholic boarding school in Switzerland. His dream was to become an officer in the navy, and from 1917 to 1919 he attended the naval preparatory schools École Bossuet and Lycée Saint-Louis. After failing his final exam, he went on to attend the École des Beaux-Arts to study architecture. The year 1921 was a turning point in his life as he started his military service in the Second Regiment of Chasseurs and went to Strasbourg to train as a pilot. He earned his license in a year, and though he was offered a position in the air force, he turned it down because of the objections of his fiancé’s family. Eventually, the engagement was broken off, and he started writing and holding several jobs, including that of a bookkeeper and an automobile salesman.
His first publication was a short story, “L’Aviateur” (the aviator), which appeared in the magazine Le Navire d’Argent in 1926. Thus began many of Saint-Exupéry’s writings on flying—a merging of two of his greatest passions in life. At the time, aviation was relatively new and still very dangerous. The technology was basic, and many pilots relied on intuition. Saint-Exupéry, however, was drawn to the adventure and beauty of flight, which he depicted in many of his works.
Saint-Exupéry became a frontiersman of the sky. He reveled in flying open-cockpit planes and loved the freedom and solitude of being in the air. For three years, he worked as a pilot for Aéropostale, a French commercial airline that flew mail. He traveled between Toulouse and Dakar, helping to establish air routes across the African desert. He became the director of Cape Juby airfield in Rio de Oro in the Sahara. He had many accidents, encountering near death experiences in the desert. It was the isolation of the Sahara that inspired his later depictions of the desert in such works as Le Petit Prince...
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