I read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince in French in high school. Four years of French, five if you count a year of it in college, and I think my highest achievement (before forgetting nearly all of it it seems now) was reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his original language. Not a feat I could pull off again anytime soon I'm sorry to say. I haven't read The Little Prince in ages, but I recall it being a charming little story, a fable, ostensibly for children, but appreciated even more by adults.
I sort of knew he had written more books, most published posthumously after Saint-Exupéry's, or Saint-Ex's as he is apparently known, disappearance in 1944 during a reconnaissance mission, but I had never bothered to look at any of them. As so often happens with me, I started out looking at diaries, moved on to Anne Morrow Lindbergh's diaries, and then saw Saint-Exupéry's name and was hooked. What I think I'd really like to do is reread The Little Prince (in English this time, of course) again, but my curiosity was very much piqued by Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre des hommes), too.
Wind, Sand and Stars won France's Grand Prix du Roman, and The National Book Award in the U.S. in 1940. It also was listed as one of (No. 3 actually) the one hundred all-time best adventure stories by National Geographic magazine and No. 1 of the top twenty-five of the same type of book by Outside magazine. Not too shabby at all it seems, and he probably doesn't need rescuing by me from the library shelves, but he certainly merits mentioning and seems deserving of a read/reread. I don't see him mentioned much in the blogosphere, though I bet a lot of you have read him, too, right?
Wind, Sand and Stars is an autobiographical work about a plane crash in the Sahara Desert, where he himself crashed in 1935. He had been working as an airmail carrier for Aéropostale at the time and both he and his copilot barely survived the crash. More than a simple adventure story, though it's that, too, this is a philosophical work about how one should live one's life.
I seem to be attracted to a lot of thoughtful, introspective books lately. Maybe it's just the time of year? This one begins:
"In 1926 I was enrolled as a student airline pilot by the Latécoère Company, the predecessors of Aéropostale (now Air France) in the operation of the line between Toulouse, in southwestern France, and Dakar, in French West Africa. I was learning the craft, undergoing an apprenticeship served by all young pilots before they were allowed to carry the mails. We took ships up on trial spins, made meek little hops between Toulouse and Perpignan, and had dreary lessons in meteorology in a freezing hangar. We lived in fear of the mountains over Spain, over which we had to fly, and in awe of our elders."
This seems to be a story to snuggle down with on a cold winter afternoon with a cup of hot chocolate while Saint-Ex's words take you far, far away.