03 September 2006

Reading


Wind, Sand, and Stars, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Yes, the same writer who wrote The Little Prince. He was also a pilot for the Aeropostale (now Air France) in the nineteen-twenties, and wrote three books about his experiences. I had always kind of wondered why there were so few works of literature about flying, since I have found it to be one of the most beautiful and spiritual experiences, and would have expected it to lend itself to literary expression. But most of the books on aviation I have seen have been pretty dry, technical treatments which utterly fail to evoke the wonder and majesty of flight.

Saint-Exupery brings a beautiful, elegant prose along with a unrestrained love for the craft and art of flying together with sensitive insights and philosophy together in a work which almost reads as poetry. Add to it that he writes about a time when aviation was a dangerous trade, which lends a bit of a swashbuckling air, and it truly is a masterpiece. He even (mostly) manages to avoid that lethal trap for pilot-authors by eschewing the jargon and technical minutia of flying, depicting his aircraft more as an organism and partner, and narrating his flying as more a matter of instinct than science. But he does so without demeaning the reader or himself, and gives enough detail to let he aviation junky like myself take pleasure in understanding the inside story.

Saint-Exupery was shot down by the Luftwaffe in 1944 while flying a reconnaissance mission over the Med.

2 comments:

  1. I've never been at the controls of a plane, but I think that's going on my reading list.

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  2. I agree. I'll probably add this to the list. I love The Little Prince and have oten dabbled with the idea of reading his stuff about war and flying. I have always go the impression that there was a serious dose of philosophy in all of his written works. And I think I tend to like, or at least find interesting, his take on life.

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