Count Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry was one of the pioneers of international postal flights, an aviator in the days when aircraft had few instruments and flying was done "by the seat of the pants". Later he complained that those who flew the more advanced aircraft were more like accountants than pilots.
He first worked on the Aéropostale between Toulouse, France and Dakar, Senegal, while writing his first book, L'Aviateur (The Aviator). In 1928, he published Courrier-Sud and flew the route between Casablanca and Dakar. In 1931, Vol de Nuit (Night Flight), which received the Prix Femina, was published. He kept writing and flying (in Africa and South America) until the beginning of the war.
During World War II, he would escape to City of New York, but would soon come back to fight with the Allied forces, in a squadron based in the Mediterranean area. At 43 years old, he was about to quit flying, but his F-5 reconnaissance aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean Sea on what should have been his last mission. In 1998, a silver chain bracelet was found near the reported site of the crash, off the coast of Marseille, and identified as being Saint-Exupéry's: It was engraved with the name of his wife and of his publishers, Reynal & Hitchcock, and tangled in a piece of fabric from the pilot's flight suit.
If not always autobiographical, Saint-Exupéry's work is greatly inspired by his experience as a pilot on the postal flights. An exception is Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), his most famous book, a poetic illustrated tale in which he imagined himself to be stranded in the desert where he met The Little Prince, a young boy from a tiny asteroid. In many ways The Little Prince is a philosophical story, with emphasis on criticising society and the adult world. Saint-Exupéry had a new asteroid (#2578) named after him in 1975, in recognition of his worldwide fame.
In 1931, Saint-Exupéry married Consuelo Suncin Sandoval de Gómez (died 1979), a twice-widowed Salvadoran artist and writer who was the model for the temperamental Rose in "Le Petit Prince." The couple was portrayed by Bruno Ganz and Miranda Richardson in the 1997 British film "Saint-Ex." And in 2001, Countess de Saint-Exupéry's memoir of their marriage, "The Tale of the Rose," was published by Random House.
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