Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“If you please--draw me a sheep!”
Whether or not you recognize Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s name, chances are you’re familiar with the extraterrestrial protagonist of his classic children’s picture book “The Little Prince.” The diminutive royal appears before the astonished narrator--a pilot stranded in the North African desert--and tells him of his interplanetary travels, his prickly but beloved rose back home, and why he's so particular about the details of the requested sheep drawing.
The philosophical, imaginative story and delicate watercolor illustrations have tugged heartstrings of all ages since the book’s publication in 1943, yet many American readers are unfamiliar with Saint-Exupéry beyond the adventures of his tiny traveller and might be surprised to learn that the author’s life was as colorful and rich as that of any of his creations.
For instance, did you know that Saint-Exupéry...
- was born Antoine Jean Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry on June 29, 1900, in Lyons, France?
- fell in love with flying at an early age and may have intentionally failed his naval academy exams so he could go straight into the military’s aviation program?
- wrote critically and publically admired essays and autobiographical works as well as award-winning adventure novels celebrating the romance of flight?
- covered the Spanish Civil War as a foreign correspondent?
- was awarded the French Legion of Honor Award in 1929 for diplomacy while managing an airport in Juby, Morocco?
- nearly drowned in a crash while test-piloting hydroplanes in the Mediterranean?
- flew long-distance air-mail routes across Europe and Africa and established a new route from Brazil to Patagonia in South America?
- was rescued by Bedouins three days after he and his mechanic crashed in the Libyan desert while attempting to break the record flight-time from Paris to Saigon in 1936?
- had a tumultuous relationship with his wife, Consuelo, who was the inspiration for the Little Prince’s temperamental rose?
- served as a French Army Air Force pilot throughout the 1920s and again during World War II, insisting on volunteering for missions even after he was over the official age limit?
- was reported missing in action and presumed killed while on a reconnaissance mission on July 31, 1944, a theory reinforced many decades later by the discovery of a bracelet and pieces of what may be his plane in the Mediterranean and the confession of a German Luftwaffe pilot who believed he unknowingly shot down his idol?
To learn more about the vibrant life, untimely death, and thoughtful works of this twentieth-century writer-pilot, check out these and other resources from The Library’s collection.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (book)
Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (memoir)
Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (novel / DVD)
"Antoine de Saint-Exupéry"* (biographical article)
"Antoine (Jean Baptiste Marie Roger) de Saint-Exupéry"* (biographical article)
"Clues to the Mystery of a Writer-Pilot Who Disappeared"* (article)
"Before He Fell to Earth, 'The Little Prince' Was Born in New York"* (article with audio)
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