When A Pilot Found His Words: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint Exupéry is most notable for his novel The Little Prince. But, before he was an author, he was a pilot.

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a man of many talents spanning between pilot, author, and poet. His love of flying and taste for the clouds began at the age of 12 following his first plane ride. From then on, he was hooked. And whilst he was a flight, his legacy was that of his writings, novels like The Aviator, Wind, Sand and Stars and The Little Prince taking inspiration from his aviation career.


Pilot, Author, Soldier

His love for flying pushed him to apply for the Naval Academy, but when he failed his examinations, he opted to attend École des Beaux-Arts and study architecture. But, in 1922, he gained the opportunity to be a pilot and received his wings via his compulsory military service during World War I. But just as quickly as he started flying in the air force, he left as he was engaged. He began writing, and Saint-Exupéry’s first work, The Aviator, was published in 1926 as he returned to service as a mail pilot on a route across the Eastern hemisphere.

His first novel pulled inspiration from his experience as a pilot, as short as it may have been at the time. But as he began flying more for Aéropostale, the more experience he could write about and reference in his future literary ventures. His second novel,Wind, Sand and Stars, was published in 1939 following his stranding in the Sahara desert with his co-pilot. He and his partner were nearing death when they found them wandering. This novel proved to be a turn-around point in his career as it received the Grand Prize for Novel Writing from the Académie Française and the National Book Award in the United States.


Alas, in 1943, Saint-Exupéry published the “culmination of his literary endeavors,” The Little Prince. The children’s fairytale for adults was written and illustrated by him and was considered his greatest literary success and recognized as one of the greatest books of the 20th century. A novel about a pilot’s conversation with a prince from another planet, it was the book that ensured his legacy as a writer. The book was later adapted into a movie featuring a star-studded cast and released in the United States in 2016.


The Final Flight

But despite the fame he had achieved, Saint-Exupéry did not rest. In 1944, he went on one last flight, a simple reconnaissance, but never returned. The wreckage was not found nor identified until 2000, when a scuba diver found it in the Mediterranean. And while there is evidence of this plane being shot down, the cause of his death remains unknown.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry died doing what he loved, and throughout his lifetime, he managed to balance both of his passions and remain successful. He achieved more than many can even come close to attesting for, and his works will continue to tell the story of the pilot author for decades to come.

If you’re looking to learn more about the celebrated author, keep reading here.