Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (sah[n]-tayg-zew-pay-ree), a French pioneer of early aviation. Beginning in 1926, when he began to fly the mails across the Pyrenees, the author had many adventures. In this random novelistic account of eight years as a pilot, Saint-Exupéry tells of some of his experiences, without a trace of melodrama or pride. Planes still had open cockpits when he began to fly, and in low visibility, pilots often would thrust their heads out because they could not see through the windscreen. Without radio, becoming lost was not uncommon. Once, a thick cloud cover forced the pilot lower and lower, until he crashed at 170 miles per hour into a gentle slope at the top of a barren plateau. Miraculously, the pilot and mechanic survived the crash, but they nearly died in their 124-mile trek across a blazing desert, to be saved at last by a camel-riding Bedouin. Another time, the pilot was caught in a cyclone and was sucked down to earth at 150 miles per hour. He battled to stay airborne, 60 feet above water, against a headwind of more than 100 miles per hour. During a heroic twenty-minute struggle, he managed to advance only 100 yards. Nearly exhausted, he finally succeeded in escaping the storm. The author writes of these and other such ordeals with a grace, beauty, and sensitivity that heightens the experiences into a poetry of wisdom. In 1944, Saint-Exupéry failed to return while on a reconnaissance mission over...
(The entire section is 578 words.)