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.)