159 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2002
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was one of the most interesting figures of 20th century literature. He wrote The Little Prince, a children's book that sold 200,000 copies in the U.S. alone in one year several years ago, and was also the author of several novels and memoirs, all relating to flying, of which this is one. The author was MIA over his beloved France while flying for the Free French Air Force in 1944 (after having to argue to be allowed to fly in combat; he was considered a national treasure). It appears the site of the wreck was discovered in the water just off the Riviera a couple of years ago, though no one's certain.
Wind, Sand and Stars is a recounting of several episodes in Saint-Exupery's life as a pilot, told to illustrate his view of the world, and especially his opinions of what makes life worth living, and who we are or should be. He was a wonderfully insightful individual, and his prose and ideas are the sort of thing you'll carry with you for years. I would highly recommend this book.
85 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 1998
Saint-Exupery disappeared in North Africa in 1943 while flying reconnaissance flights for the American forces. After reading Wind, Sand and Stars one has a sense that this writer/philosopher, who is probably most well known for his fable The Little Prince, was well prepared for his life to end in this way.
In the opening lines of the original French version Saint-Exupery writes:
"The earth teaches us more about ourselves than all the books.
Because it resists us. Man discovers himself when he measures
himself against the obstacle"
Wind, Sand and Stars is intensely autobiographical as it tells us of this man's adventures from his beginnings as a pilot with the air mail service over France, Spain and North Africa before World War I, through to his musings as an observer of the Spanish Civil War. But far more than an adventurer, Saint-Exupery writes like a poet and has the heart of a philosopher. This wonderful book (a credit to the translator from the original French) has incredibly rich descriptive passages in which he lays out for the reader the details observed in the natural world and the response that these evoke in his mind, heart and soul.
In one section of the book (which a reader familiar with The Little Prince cannot help but conclude was inspirational for that work) Saint-Exupery describes at length his near-death experience after crashing in the Libyan desert, and wandering for days without water or hope:
"Apart from your suffering, I have no regrets. All in all, it has been
a good life. If I got free of this I should start right in again. A man
cannot live a decent life in cities, and I need to feel myself live. I
am not thinking of aviation. The aeroplane is a means, not an end.
One doesn't risk one's life for a plane any more than a farmer ploughs
for the sake of the plough. But the aeroplane is a means of getting
away from towns and their book-keeping and coming to grips with
Wind, Sand and Stars is not an easy read. But for those with patience and an interest (in a phrase from The Little Prince) in "listening with the heart", here is an insight to one man's struggle to understand and articulate the sacredness and greatness of human life.
104 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 1998
The essays and anecdotes in this volume are true gems to be enjoyed slowly, recalled fondly and shared often.
Despite the relative infancy of the aviation industry at the time he composed them, Saint-Ex clearly understood that flying - especially the type of long and dangerous kind that he was engaged in - was both a metaphor and a brilliant illumination into the nature of the human condition.
Like flying into uncharted territory, our journey through life is fraught with perils, faced mostly alone and with few witnesses to our acts of courage or cowardice. However, instead of facing up to this fact, Saint-Ex points out how "modern" culture consists of ever more elaborate denials of this basic fact: we have been indoctrinated with the goal of spending our lives working solely to achieve the most comfortable, painless, risk-free existence possible. And we continue to do so, much to our detriment.
These essays are skillful and evocative arguments that! ! only when we face up to, and acknowledge our tenuous and perilous existence, can we truly appreciate what it means to be alive. Saint-Ex does a wonderful job in writing about what has become important to him: experiencing the majestic beauty and power of the earth and nature, what the existentialists would call "being authentic", and the friendship and cameraderie of the pilots and people he has met on his journeys.
"Men travel side by side for years - each locked up in his own silence... till danger comes. Then they stand shoulder to shoulder. Then they discover they belong to the same family....
Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in this warmth of human relations...
Each man must look to himself to learn the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something molded. These prison walls that the age of trade has built around us, we can break down. We can still run free, call to our comrades, and marvel to hear once more! ! , in response to our call, the chant of the human voice.&qu! ot;
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2000
I loved The Little Prince, and thought that I would give Wind, Sand and Stars a try. Lucky for me that I did! A different kind of book than the children's-tale quality of The Little Prince, Wind, Sand and Stars is nevertheless magical in its own way. St-Exupery's ability to blend philosophy with his fairy-tale renditions of the life of a pilot are inspiring to more than one kind of person who seeks to reach the stars. Well worth reading, this book is a delight for anyone who seeks beauty in the written word.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2000
What is truely remarkable about this book are two things :
(a) It provides a vision for mankind which reconciles our need for progress with our (recent!) roots of self sufficiency, community and coexistence with nature. It is a vision desperately in need of voice in these doomed decades of the twighlight of the industrial age. The vision is one of courage to challenge the limits of our secure but meaningless lives and our tamed ambitions. The strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity, when we DARE to challenge ourselves to truely live our lives.
Two passages stick out in my mind to illustrate this underlying theme. In the introduction to the text, Exupery recalls flying over the empty landscape of Argentina; each of the lights of the houses, he recalls, clung to the fragile earth, is a "miracle of consciousness". In the second, he describes his comrades' desperate five day walk to safety after crashing in the wilderness of Patagonia. On reaching safety he said, "no animal would have gone through what I have have been through" (paraphrase). A sentence which returned things to their true heirarchy, adds Exupery.
A vision of man's ascendancy of the beast; a challenge to man to not live as caged animal in robot cities.
(b) The other thing, of course, and more important perhaps, is the beauty of the prose. Full of pronouncements and insights (unlike any other book!) it still flows as a story, full of emotion. In particular in the desert scenes, each sentence transports you in time and space and impacts upon your every feeling. For sections of the book, page after page, each and every sentence has a resonance which brings waves euphoria and despair. To drink water, after reading the desert chapters, is to experience the joy of life!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 1998
We usually assume that in order to appreciate literature we must read it in the original, but somehow St. Exupery translates as genuine poetry. This book, written in 1941, shortly before his disappearance, is an essential background text for both *The Little Prince* and *Night Flight.* St.Exupery is to the air what Joseph Conrad is to the sea: an explicator for a world that most of us never enter. As a pioneer aviator, St. Exupery experienced the "man confronts the elements" of nascent aviation; as a writer, he makes a gift those experiences, processed through the blender of his own intelligence and sensitivity, to the reader. *Wind, Sand and Stars* is not only about aviation; it's about life. "There are two hundred million men in Europe whose existence has no meaning and who yearn to come alive," St.Exupery writes. "Industry has torn them from the idiom of their peasant lineage and has locked them in those enormous ghettos that are like railway yards heaped with blackened trucks. Out of the depths of their slums these men yearn to be awakened." Are we so different today? The philosophy of *Wind, Sand and Stars* is as applicable now as it was then and, because it is philosophical, because the author not only perceives a different world but delves, analyzes it and divulges its meaning, the book remains a classic for the foreseeable future.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 1998
"The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth," writes Saint-Exupery; this book unveils for the reader the true face of man. The grim heat of the desert, the stench of diesel, the surreal terror of night and storms, and the elation of flight: his prose evokes all of these with shimmering fluidity.
Just as the most rudimentary of charcoal sketches often manage to capture the very essence of its subject in a few deft strokes, so too do the struggles and joys of pilots in North Africa and South America manage to capture the essence of man, of his relationship with machine, with nature, and with himself in this taut narrative..
Non-pilots will feel that they have been inducted into a world vibrantly unique yet achingly familiar, pilots will recall afresh the sensations of defying gravity with steel, wires, and bravery; all readers, however, will find themselves murmuring "yes, that's it exactly."
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2005
As an office worker I often find myself escaping to books of adventure and travel. Amongst such books the works of Antoine de Saint-Exupery are amongst the finest. Saint-Exupery was a pilot in the fledgling airline industry in the 1920's and 1930's flying mail routes in exotic locales such as Spain, France's African Colonies and South America and then an officer in the French and Free French Air Force during World War Two. But equally importantly Saint-Exupery was an amazing storyteller and philosopher who between tales of plane crashes and amazing escapes reflects on questions such as why do men put their life at risk, when can we say that we truly experience what it means to be alive and what is mans relationship with technology and progress.
If you are interested in the 1920's, aviation or simple want to read the thoughts of a man who led an extraordinary life, you will enjoy Wind, Sand and Stars.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2006
This is my first time reading a book from Antoine de Saint Exupery, and I am glad to say that it was a fantastic experience. I chose this book for an english assignment, and was pleased to find that it was a good choice! However, as I am a High School Junior, some aspects of the book kind of flew over my head. I chose the book looking for a good adventure novel, and the aspect of flying got me very interested. I also liked how Exupery laid out the book. By sectioning off the different ideas, it made the concepts a little more easy to grasp. As interesting as the novel was, however, it took me forever to actually get into the text. The introduction, and begining points seemed to drag on, and I was tempted to skip the begining in order to get into the action. All in all, I eventually got into the book, and started to enjoy it. After reading Wind, Sand and Stars, I am tempted to go out and read some of his other works.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2005
As one of France's premier authors of the 20th century, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "Wind, Sand, and Stars" is arguably his greatest work among the several outstanding pieces of literature that he managed to publish before losing his life during a reconnaissance mission in WWII.
Having served as a mail pilot whose routes took him across the Mediterranean to the African continent & later across the Atlantic to South America, Saint-Exupery demonstrates how aviation ---a profession that often allows for long periods of solitude and contemplation--- led him to make his most formidable discoveries of the enigma that we call "life." Here, we see through the eyes of a pilot as he remembers not only his perilous travels, but his observations about duty, courage, love, war, sacrifice, death, and other fundamental issues that we encounter during our existence on this planet.