What happened to Little Prince and who he really was are two questions all who read little prince have asked at least once. Little Prince is a book full of mysteries and in order to understand them better, we should take a look at the writer’s life.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was born in Lyon on July 29th, 1900. He was one of five kids in a catholic aristocratic family whose roots could be traced several centuries earlier. However, the linage of the Exupery family goes much more into the past and can be ultimately traced to the 5th century and the bishop Saint Exuperius.
His father Jean de Saint-Exupery was a viscount who worked as an executive of the insurance brokerage company “The Sun.” Little before Antoine’s fourth birthday he died from a stroke while in a Lyon’s train station. From that point on the status of Exupery’s family turned into impoverished aristocrats. The burden of raising five kids fell on the back of viscountess Marie de Fonscolombe.
Saint Exupery had three sisters and a younger blond-haired brother Francois who died at the age of 15 from rheumatic fever. Antoine was 17 at the time. They were all distraught but Antoine quickly put himself together and took the role of protector of the family.
Antoine attempted to get on French naval academy twice. But both of the times he didn’t pass the exams. Due to his failures, he went to studying architecture for 15 months which he didn’t graduate as well. After the architecture, he went to the army.
He started as a basic-rank soldier in the light cavalry. During his private time, he was taking flight lessons. After he learned to fly a plane he was offered a transfer from the French Army to the French Air Force. He was posted in the 37th fighting regiment in Casablanca, Morocco where he got his pilot wings.
Later, he was reposted on the 34th aviation regiment on the outskirts of Paris where he experienced the first of many plane crashes. From this, many objections of his fiance’s family ensued and he left the air force for the regular job in the office. However, the engagement was eventually broken. By 1926 Exupery was flying again. It was the year in which Saint Exupery also published his first novella The Aviator.
Since aviation was completely new he even managed to become one of the pioneers of international postal flying. During his first days of flight, aircrafts had only a few things and were much less sophisticated than is the case today. However, technology was advancing fast. Antoine didn’t like it. He said that over-sophisticated aircraft are taking the magic from the flight and making being a pilot very similar to other routine jobs like an accountant.
He eventually became the stopover manager for Cape Juby airfield positioned in the Spanish zone of South Morocco within Sahara desert. Negotiations were in the scope of his work. When downed fliers would be taken hostages by Saharan tribes Antoine had to negotiate their release. It is how he got his first legion of honor from the French government.
In 1929 Antoine published his first book – Sothern Mail. But it was in 1931 when Saint-Exupery put foundations to becoming a star with his famous novel The Night Flight.
Crashing in Desert
On December 30, 1935, Antoine and his mechanic-navigator Andre Prevot were flying across the desert in the attempt to win the Paris-to-Saigon air race and win the prize of 150 000 francis. At exactly 2:45 am, after 19 hours and 44 minutes in the air they crashed and remain trapped in the Libyan desert close to the Nile Delta. While they survived the crash Antoine and Andre had to face dehydration, heat, lack of supplies, and their inability to establish where they are since their maps were both primitive and ambiguous. Soon, both of them started hallucinating. Luckily for them, on the fourth day, a Bedouin stumbled upon them and provided them with liquids and food.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery During War
It was a little less than a year after the Second World War started and France was already signing an armistice with Germany. On 22 June France surrendered to the Nazis. Before the surrender, Antoine de Saint-Exupery was flying Bloch MB.174. It was a reconnaissance bomber French invented just before the start of World War Two. However, after the defeat of his home country, he could do it no more. It is why he escaped through Portugal to North America.
He arrived in New York on December 31, 1940. His intention was to get permission from the U.S. to enter the conflict against Nazi Germany as soon as he could. However, it did not go so easily. Long before he flew again Antoine wrote another book – the Little Prince. But first, on January 14th, 1941 he was given a national book award for Wind, Sand, and Stars. He won this prize a year earlier while he was occupied in France. His wife Salvadorian wife Consuelo who inspired the rose soon joined him in New York. Between January 1941 and April 1943, the Saint-Exupérys lived in New York. During the second world war, Saint Exupery became the pilot of P-38 Lightning.
During the spring of 1942, Antoine went to Quebec. He was there for several weeks that were featured with his illness and stress. When he came back to America, the French wife of one of his publishers managed to persuade him to write a book for children. She hoped it was going to calm his nerves but she also wanted to produce a competition for Merry Poppins stories by P.L. Travers. Saint-Exupery both wrote and Illustrated the book by himself. The book was published in both English and French in the United States in early 1943. However, in France, the ban on Antoine’s work had been lifted only after World War II ended and the writer never lived to see it.
Returning to Flying and Disappearance
In April 1943, Antoine departed with an American military convoy going for Algeria so he could fight with Free French Air Force and fight with Allias in a Mediterranean-based squadron. As 43-year-old-men soon to be promoted to Major, he was much older than other men in the unit. He was eight years above the limit but has kept writing petitions to be allowed as an exception until general Dwight Eisenhower approved it. He was allowed to pilot despite the fact that, due to his many injuries, he couldn’t even dress his pilot jacket or turn his head over the left shoulder to check for enemy aircraft. He also got a new plane to fly – P38 Lightning. It was a much more sophisticated plane the one he got used to. Antoine had to go over 7 weeks of stringent training in order to fly his new aircraft. After wrecking P38 because of engine failure on his second mission, he was grounded for eight months.
After returning to his duty with his squadron in North Africa, Vichy Regime unilaterally promoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery for one of its members. Subsequently, a French general and a future French president Charles de Gaulle slandered Antoine’s name with his claims that the writer is collaborating with Nazis. This led to the writer’s increased drinking and depression.
On July 31st, 1944 Antoine flew in unarmed P38 Lightning to a reconnaissance mission to collect intelligence on German troops in Rhone valley. He never came back.
Some claim he was shot others think he lost control over the aircraft he wasn’t used to while the third believe he committed suicide.