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Flight to Arras Paperback – October 22, 1969
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Text: English, French (translation)
About the Author
ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY, the "Winged Poet," was born in Lyon, France, in 1900. A pilot at twenty-six, he was a pioneer of commercial aviation and flew in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. His writings include The Little Prince, Wind, Sand and Stars, Night Flight, Southern Mail, and Airman's Odyssey. In 1944, while flying a reconnaissance mission for his French air squadron, he disappeared over the Mediterranean.
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Top Customer Reviews
After detailing for two-thirds of the book the reasons why France was defeated by the Germans, Saint-Exupéry writes the most profound expression of solidarity with his native country I have ever read, accepting responsibility for her flaws and fools.
Yet this book was banned in his beloved France--by Vichy France because it scented within its pages praise of a Jew, and by Free France because de Gaulle resented that Saint-Exupéry could not trust him not to become dictatorial. Then the dictator circulated rumors that Saint-Exupéry was a German sympathizer.
No greater refutation of this was possible than when Saint-Exupéry returned to France, after being fêted in America for his writings, and pushed his aging, injury-riddled body back into a cockpit, to fly against the Nazis in 1944.
It was on an unarmed reconnaissance flight, not unlike the flight to Arras, that he was shot down and died that death of "flame and ice" for love of France.
If there will someday be a nation of hearts and minds, instead of geographic borders, I would seek out the land of Saint-Exupéry and declare my solidarity to it.
Antoine de Saint Exupery in 'Flight to Arras' (1942) explains much more than the
forlorn excuses of generals and politicians.
It's the story of a reconnaissance mission by the then 40-year-old Saint Exupery that
he, his squadron commander and everyone else knew would produce no useful information
and might be fatal. At 33,000 feet, his aircraft controls froze solid; survival meant
diving slowly enough to thaw the controls before crashing. No one cared enough to fix
the design problems of the aircraft.
Likewise for France. Villages emptied in panic; people fled for reasons such as the
village baker leaving, which meant without a baker they would have no bread. Military
units were blocked by fleeing civilians, commanders had no idea where Fremch or German
units were located, headed or what they were doing. In contrast to Germans, the French
had no emergency systems of command.
"I have aged so much that all that I was is left behind me. I stare out through the
great glittering plate of my windscreen. Below me are men. Infusoria writhing under a
microscope. Who can work up interest in a family of infusoria?" the 40-year-old St.
It wasn't cut and run for the French. Squadron commander Major Alias, " . . . knew
absolutely they were the same men, as those who, somewhere else in France, at that
very moment, were accepting the fact that they must die. In two short weeks one
hundred and fifty thousand of them accepted the fact that they must die. But some men
are stubborn and insist upon a reason why they should die.
"It is hard to find a reason.
"It's damned awkward. But the General Staff want it done. They very much want it
done. . . . And that's that."
By then, 17 of the 23 squadrons were lost. St. Exupery and his crew saluted, obeyed,
flew to Arras, took pictures the General Staff wanted and returned. He escaped the
fall of France and, in writing this book, presents an eloquent rumination on glory and
duty in the face of illogic and disaster. Before returning to the war, he wrote 'The
Little Prince' by which he is now most rememberd.
'Night Flight' and 'Wind, Sand and Stars' are other gems of St. Exupery who, in the
1920s and 1930s, was a pioneer of commercial aviation. This book, published in 1942 in
the U.S., may be his best. He was killed in 1944 while flying a reconnaissance mission
prior to the Allied invasion of southern France.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
are rivetting - .All his books are must-reads. Highly recommend.Read more