Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Wind, Sand, and Stars recounts a decade in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s life from 1926, when he enrolled as a pilot trainee with an airmail company, through 1936, when he traveled to Spain to observe the civil war. The book is not organized chronologically, however, but topically into chapters with headings such as “The Craft,” “The Men,” and “Prisoner of the Sands.” This organization reflects Saint-Exupéry’s interests. His memoirs are not an inventory of the facts about ten years of flying but a reflection upon the emotions stirred by encounters with the elements of nature and a variety of brave individuals. His emotions ripen into ideas, and his ideas mature into an eclectic but hopeful philosophy of life.

What distinguishes Saint-Exupéry from virtually every other aviation writer is his language. He creates a poetic prose that is graceful and rich in imagery, and he believes that one individual’s experience has implications for understanding the larger issues of fate and destiny. He embodies poet William Blake’s principle that the creative mind can see “a World in a Grain of Sand// and Eternity in an hour.” Thus the pace of Wind, Sand, and Stars is leisurely. It is not to be read at a single sitting but one chapter at a time, with a lapse between readings to recall and reflect upon the writer’s words and thoughts.

As a pilot, Saint-Exupéry had a view of nature that earlier poets could only...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Airplane. After training as a pilot in the mid-1920’s, the author carries mail and passengers over oceans and continents. During his first years as a pilot, he flies a small, single-engine craft whose guidance system is mainly his own eyes and ears. In this plane, he is always acutely aware of the engine and of the possibility that if it fails, he may plunge to his death. Piloting gives him an exhilarating feeling of power and motion. In his comparatively primitive plane, the pilot senses his interactions with its controls more powerfully than he does later in his career—after engineering advances automate many piloting functions. Meanwhile, he cannot take for granted the reliability of his plane’s instrumentation. Within his cockpit, he experiences the violence of nature in new ways, for aloft there is no shelter from tornadoes, cyclones, and other extremes of weather, and even ordinary winds can be dangerous.

In compensation for the danger he faces in his plane, he enjoys new perspectives on the earth from vantage points thousands of feet above the planet’s surface and rediscovers nature. In this way, mechanical advances can promote spiritual advances, as from his aircraft the pilot appreciates natural places that he may never see on the surface of the earth.


*Sahara. Immense desert that extends across the entire width of northern Africa that provides the setting for much of the book. At least twice, aircraft malfunctions force the pilot down in the desert—once in Spanish colonial Africa on the western coast and once in the Libyan desert. His mishaps land him on a plateau with sides so steep as to make it inaccessible from the ground, leaving the pilot to suppose that he is the first person ever to stand on that location....

(The entire section is 741 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In 1939, Wind, Sand and Stars was proposed by the French Academy for the Grand Prix du Roman. The decision was disapproved by several...

(The entire section is 542 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The fairy-tale quality of Wind, Sand and Stars, as in The Little Prince, echoes Hans Christian Andersen, Saint-Exupery's...

(The entire section is 112 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Cate, Curtis. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. New York: Putnam, 1970. Contains many informative details and is well written. Portrays Saint-Exupéry as an eccentric figure. This voluminous work serves as an excellent starting place.

Galantière, Lewis. “Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.” Atlantic Monthly 179, no. 4 (April, 1947): 133-141. Galantière, who translated Wind, Sand, and Stars, discusses such aesthetic aspects of Saint-Exupéry’s writing as his philosophy of art and the influences on his development.

Migeo, Marcel. Saint-Exupéry. Paris: Flammarion, 1958. An interesting, reliable account of Saint-Exupéry’s life by someone who knew Saint-Exupéry during his military service. Migeo is mainly concerned with Saint-Exupéry’s personal life, but he also examines the role the author’s experiences as a pilot in the French military played in forming his theories of art.

Peyre, Henre. “The French Novel at Mid-century.” New Republic 129, no. 6 (September 7, 1953): 16-17. Useful for a literary analysis of Saint-Exupéry’s work. Provides a critical evaluation of Saint-Exupéry’s novels and places the author in the tradition of contemporary French novels.

Robinson, Joy D. Marie. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Boston: Twayne, 1984. Explores the philosophies and themes that underlie all Saint-Exupéry’s works. The study is enriched by the extensive use of biographical material. Includes a chronology and a selected bibliography of English and French sources. Essential for any literary discussion of Saint-Exupéry.