Book review: Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Wind, Sand and StarsWind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From BBC Radio 4 – Afternoon Drama:
The autobiographical tale of Antoine de Exupery’s plane crash in the Libyan desert in 1935 and his miraculous survival.

Exupery ….. Paul Rhys
Prevot ….. Adeel Akhtar
Bedouin ….. Sean Baker

Director: David Hunter

When Antoine de Saint-Exupery and his co-pilot Prevot crash in the Libyan Desert while attempting to break the record for the Paris-Saigon flight in 1935 the odds are stacked against them. Miraculously they survive the impact – and while the plane doesn’t catch fire or explode the fuel and water tanks are ruptured and supplies are only minimal. With only half a litre of coffee, a little white wine, a few grapes and an orange they only know they are stranded somewhere in a square of inhospitable desert whose sides measure 400km.

The days are scorching and the nights freezing. Their signal fires go unnoticed. Their forays to find help are fruitless and increasingly desperate. Physically weak, they become prone to hallucinations. Mirages appear on their horizons. Life is tested to its limits and the increasingly debilitated dialogue between Exupery and Prevot is accompanied by Exupery’s inner thoughts and meditations on their situation. This not only describes their physical journey but, in Exupery’s characteristic fashion, takes us on a journey that deals with previous flying expeditions and his very detailed view of the insights flying, particularly in the very basic sort of aircraft he flew, gives to our perception of our relationship with the planet. Although written 70 years ago the story still has relevant messages for us today in the context of our increased awareness of globalisation and climate change.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a larger-than-life character. Born into an aristocratic French family in 1900, flying and writing were his two passions. In 1926 he joined the airline Latecoere, later to become Aeropostale, as one of its pioneering aviators, charged with opening mail routes to remote African colonies and to South America with primitive planes and in dangerous conditions. His career was punctuated by scrapes and near-fatal crashes – WIND, SAND AND STARS charting one of these.

Exiled to America after the French surrender in 1940 he wrote the classic children’s tale THE LITTLE PRINCE and the novel FLIGHT TO ARRAS, the latter charting his war experiences as a reconnaissance pilot and which headed the US best seller list for 6 months in 1942. Having persuaded Allied Commanders to let him fly again he disappeared over the Mediterranean in July 1944 presumed shot down by a German fighter.

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