Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Saint-Exupéry A Biography by Stacy Schiff (1994)

My Great Thanks to Max u for the Amazon Gift Card that Allowed me to Acquire this Work

Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, Comte de Saint-Exupéry

Born June 29, 1900 Lyon, France

Missing in action and presumed dead, July 31, 1944

1943, published The Little Prince, one of ten best selling books of the 20th century, translated into over 250 languages and dialects.

Antoine Saint-Exupréry and the era and milieu in which he lived is elegantly and memorably described in Saint-Exupéry A Biography by Stacey Schiff.  Last year I read her Pulitzer Price winning biography Vera Mrs Vladimir Nabokov and when I saw her name among the contemporary literary biographers admired by Richard Holmes I was happy to find on Amazon a Kindle edition of her biography of the author of The Little Prince.

Schiff initiates her work by describing the aristocratic roots of her subject.  She described him as a Nobel Man, a Count, without a great fortune.  Schiff elegantly presents a man with three great loves, his mother, piloting planes, and women.  He epitomized the image of a charming, refined ladies man often short of money until his writings relieved him of financial anxiety.  He married an odd woman, they lived apart much of the time and neither seemed to have really loved the other.

The first real commercial application of the airplane was for mail delivery.  From an early age Saint-Exupéry was obsessed with flying.  His first real job was flying the mail run between Casablanca and Daka.  His experiences were the stuff of legend, with crashes in the desert, pursuit by angry tribesmen and many a night drinking in the clubs in Casablanca (he would have been equally at home at the Elegant Rick's Cafe or the noir Blue Parrot).  Everywhere he went ladies were spell bound by his stories and captivated by his charm and good looks.

He became director of a Buenos Aires based postal airline and flew over much of South America.  His best selling book, Night Flight, published 1931, was based on these experiences.  Returning to France upon the death of his mother he began flying again all the while his concern over the build up of Germany increased.

Schiff spends a lot of time describing what it was like to fly in the mail planes of those days, many died or were badly injured.  Saint Exupéry suffered a serious back injury.  When France surrendered to Germany he and his wife made it to New York City where they lived from 1941 to 1943.  He had money from his book sales and he was working hard to bring America into the war.  We also learn a lot about the competition of De Gaule with others to be the leader of the French liberation effort. 

In 1944 he returned to Europe.  Doctors said he was not really medically fit to fly, he was also way older than most pilots.  He wanted very badly to help defeat the Germans.  He was declared missing in action on July 31, 1944 when his recognizance flight did not return.

Saint Expuréy was a heroic life loving man. He loved good food and wine, when he had money he was generous.  Sadly he never saw the huge financial rewards of the 1943 publication of The Little Prince but his widow lived like a queen on them for many years.  He had no children.  Schiff makes no ill-advised attempt to explain how he created  The Little Prince.  He probably a triffle haughty seeming to some.  There were rumors he had an affair with Anne Lindbergh, wife of Charles.  

This is a fascinating biography, rich in detail and understanding. 

Details about the authors other books and her bio data can be found at

I very highly recommend this book, as much for the aviation and social history as for the magnificent biography 

Mel u


Mudpuddle said...

lying in bed at night, hearing an airplane fly over, i sometimes imagine sitting in the pilot's chair with the blue-lit dials in front of me, ear tuned to the purring sound of the motor and the air rushing over the wings... and fall asleep... i attribute much of this to reading Night Flight... and some of his others... tx for the post and the memories...

Suko said...

This book sounds fascinating in many regards. Wonderful review!