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Antoine de Saint-Exupery Antoine de Saint-Exupery
by The Ovi Team
2020-06-29 08:19:31
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29th June 1900, birth of the French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), and for his books about aviation adventures, including Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars.

esperie01He was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, joining the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) on the outbreak of war, flying reconnaissance missions until the armistice with Germany. Following a spell of writing in the United States, he joined the Free French Forces. He disappeared on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in July 1944.

Saint-Exupéry's first story, "L'Aviateur" ("The Aviator"), was published in the magazine Le Navire d'Argent. In 1929, he published his first book, Courrier Sud (Southern Mail); his career as aviator was also burgeoning, and that same year he flew the Casablanca/Dakar route.

In 1931, Vol de Nuit (Night Flight) —the first of his major works and winner of the Prix Femina—was published and made his name. It covers his experiences with the Aéropostale. That same year, at Grasse, Saint-Exupéry married Consuelo Suncin (née Suncín Sandoval), a widowed Salvadoran writer and artist. It would be a stormy union, as Saint-Exupéry traveled frequently and indulged in numerous affairs, most notably with the Frenchwoman Hélène (Nelly) de Vogüé. De Vogüé became Saint-Exupéry's literary executrix after his death, and also wrote a Saint-Exupéry biography under the pseudonym Pierre Chevrier.

On 30 December 1935 at 14:45 after a flight of 19 hours and 38 minutes Saint-Exupéry, along with his navigator, André Prévot, crashed in the Libyan Sahara desert en route to Saigon. Their plane was a Caudron C-630 Simoun n°7042 (serial F-ANRY). The crash site may be the Wadi Natrun. The team was attempting to fly from Paris to Saigon faster than any previous aviators, for a prize of 150,000 francs. Both survived the landing, but were faced with the prospect of rapid dehydration in the Sahara. They had no idea of their location. According to his memoir, Wind, Sand and Stars, their sole supplies were grapes, two oranges, and a small ration of wine. What Saint-Exupéry himself told the press shortly after rescue was that the men only had a thermos of sweet coffee, chocolate, and a handful of crackers, enough to sustain them for one day. They experienced visual and auditory hallucinations; by the third day, they were so dehydrated they ceased to sweat. Finally, on the fourth day, a Bedouin on a camel discovered them, saving their lives. Saint-Exupéry's fable The Little Prince, which begins with a pilot being marooned in the desert, is in part a reference to this experience.

esperie02Saint-Exupéry continued to write and fly until the beginning of World War II. During the war, he initially flew a Bloch MB.170 with the GR II/33 reconnaissance squadron of the Armée de l'Air. After France's 1940 armistice with Germany, he traveled to the United States. The Saint-Exupérys lived in a penthouse apartment at 240 Central Park South in New York City and a rented mansion (The Bevin House) in Asharoken on Long Island's north shore between January 1941 and April 1943. They also resided in Quebec City in Canada for a time in 1942. He wrote The Little Prince in Asharoken in mid-to-late 1942; the manuscript was completed by October.

Following his nearly twenty-five months in North America, Saint-Exupéry returned to Europe to fly with the Free French Forces and fight with the Allies in a Mediterranean-based squadron. Then 43, he was older than most men assigned such duties; he also suffered pain, due to his many fractures. He was assigned with a number of other pilots to P-38 Lightnings, which an officer described as "war-weary, non-airworthy craft." After wrecking a P-38 through engine failure on his second mission, he was grounded for eight months, but was then reinstated to flight duty on the personal intervention of General Eisenhower.

Saint-Exupéry's final assignment was to collect intelligence on German troop movements in and around the Rhone Valley preceding the Allied invasion of southern France. On the evening of 31 July 1944, he left from an airbase on Corsica, and did not return. A woman reported having watched a plane crash around noon of August the first near the Bay of Carqueiranne off Toulon. An unidentifiable body wearing French colors was found several days later east of the Islands of Frioul south of Marseille and buried in Carqueiranne that September.

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