WAR TIME WRITINGS 1939-1944 by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


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Readers who consider Saint-ExupÉry's The Little Prince to be treacly sentiment will be surprised by this book of annotated letters from the flyer. Saint-ExupÉry was a man of grit and gumption, and in a true emergency like WW II, his courage shone. He insisted on flying missions during the war regardless of danger and his own numerous physical ailments. On the ground, too, his conduct was exemplary. He admirably opposed Hitler, reacting instinctively against a German regime he saw as a bullying enemy long before others were so convinced. A gentile, he did not abandon his Jewish friends when they became politically unpopular. In the event, his loyalty incurred the wrath of the Vichy regime. One Nazi-backed newspaper called him a ""Jewish warmonger"" because he publicly praised the courage of a Jewish friend, Jean Israel. To another Jewish friend, in fact, he dedicated The Little Prince in 1943. There are hints in this book of letters, many published here for the first time, that ""Saint-Ex"" might have had equal problems after the war, had he survived (his plane was shot down in 1944). He rebelled completely against modern mechanized life, was a staunch anti-Gaullist, and felt about France in the 20th century more discontent than anything else. He once wrote to a friend, ""It is a travesty of freedom to be free to choose between four models produced by General Motors or between three films by Zanuck, or between twelve items offered at a drugstore."" His early death may have been more a loss to French politics than to literature. In some of these private writings, the sincerity can seem as cloying as in his novels. But in real life, Saint-ExupÉry was a man of courage and backbone, as this collection demonstrates. The more placid fans of The Little Prince might be surprised to learn that its author once said, ""The future anthill appalls me and I hate the robot virtues.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1986
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich