Review of Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars)


What was it about?

Terre des Hommes is a memoir by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry about his career working as a pilot for the airmail carrier Aéropostale. The longest story in the memoir recounts his 1935 plane crash in the Sahara. Antoine and his navigator André Prévot survived for days in the desert without food and water. Terre des Hommes is dedicated to the author’s friend Henri Guillaumet, whose plane crash in the Andes mountains of Argentina is also recounted in the book. Like Courrier Sud (Southern Mail)Terre des Hommes describes the beautiful but often melancholic and dangerous life of a pilot in the early years of flight.

What did I think of it?

As you may know, my favorite book of all time is Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), so naturally I begin all of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s other works with very high expectations. Nevertheless, I have never been disappointed by anything written by this author. His prose is ridiculously gorgeous and his philosophy on life is much-needed today. Since reading Terre des Hommes, I have started noticing the connection between details in the author’s personal life and events in Le Petit Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry loved being a pilot, but he suffered a lot. He was stranded without food and water in the desert, lost friends to flight, suffered from alcoholism and depression, and finally died in the Mediterranean sea during a reconnaissance mission in 1944. Parts of his plane were finally discovered in 2000. Terre des Hommes only tells us a part of his story, but in just over two hundred pages Antoine de Saint-Exupéry captures the magic of flight and reveals the desires of the human heart.

Favorite Quote

“Être homme, c’est précisément être responsable. C’est connaître la honte en face d’une misère qui ne semblait pas dépendre de soi. C’est être fier d’une victoire que les camarades ont remportée. C’est sentir, en posant sa pierre, que l’on contribue à bâtir le monde.”

[To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.]

 

Review of Courrier Sud (Southern Mail)

What was it about?

Courrier Sud by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry follows an aviator named Bernis along a flight route spanning half the world. This lyrical narrative is centered on Bernis’ disappearance in the Saharan Desert. An unidentified narrator attempts to describe the young man’s experience of being a pilot for the French airmail service. Along the way, Bernis meets and romances a married woman who has heartaches of her own. Courrier Sud is  a semi-autobiographical story about the joys and sorrows of flight.

What did I think of it?

I am currently reading through the writings of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Courrier Sud, published in 1929, was the author’s first novel. Through elegant and powerful prose, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry describes the life of a pilot as being at once calm and turbulent. While a pilot constantly dreams of traveling, he doesn’t really have a home. He only has the sun and the clouds to keep him company. Just as the pilot arrives at his destination, he is sent away on another mission. He is a nomad of the skies.

Courrier Sud is a wonderful introduction to Saint-Exupéry’s writings as it contains themes that are also explored in his later works. It is clear that the author has a keen ear for language. In contrast to the flights his characters go on, the sentences flow very smoothly. If you enjoy reading literary fiction, you will almost certainly appreciate Courrier Sud.

Favorite Quote

Déjà s’était dénouée en lui toute sa ferveur. Il se disait : « Tu ne peux rien me donner de ce que je désire. » Et pourtant son isolement était si cruel qu’il eut besoin d’elle. 

[My translation]: Already, in him, all passion had come undone. [Bernis] said to himself, “You cannot give me anything I desire.” And yet his solitude was so agonizing that he needed her.