Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince

There is continuous poetry from the sky to the mind to the heart. And this poetry, often times unspoken but felt, was what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry manifested into words and passages in his luminous book, The Little Prince.

A child of wealthy parents, Antoine’s father passed away when he was four and he, with his four siblings, was raised by his unconditionally loving mother. Antoine spent a majority of his early lives living in a chateau—a French castle—where he would build “his secret kingdom…with interior of roses and fairies.” Though his neighbors and close family considered Antoine’s siblings unruly (perhaps due to the dotting mother), Antoine was he most amenable of all.

He’d grow up reading Hans Christian Andersen and Jules Verne, composing poetries then pulling his siblings out of sleep at 3 AM to hear his reading, and attempted to build airborne bicycles at twelve. When various experiments with flying really took off, Antoine’s fascination towards aircraft, too, began to take off. Despite his endless creative endeavors, Antoine wasn’t a distinguished student at school at all. He failed to join the navy then had to borrow money from mommy for living expenses.

But in 1921, France was at the forefront of militarized flights in the world, and Antoine couldn’t resist the chance to ascend to the sky. Antoine was awarded the pilot’s license in 1922 to fly a commercial aircraft. In the next few years, as the world war took hold in France, he was given the chance to fly above the desolate Sahara desert where the wide spaces and deep silence transformed his mind to a secret kingdom where he would compose poetries and romances.

 “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things. ”

Many of Antoine’s assigned flights in the next few decades were solo flights across a great expanse. For years he was a mail courier, flying cargo across countries. With his odd sleeping regime, he’d often fly his plane in the evening—his battle with the stars—and one time even refusing to land until he finished a reading a novel. He’s infatuated with the long lonely flights and enjoyed the long trips across Buenos Aires and Patagonia and flying low between mountain passages in the Andes.

Antoine was firstly a pilot, then a writer. His books were an evocative exploration of solitude; a look into the quiet mind that stretches beyond the horizon. And throughout his lives, he had always been writing about humanity from above—literally and metaphorically.

Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of the trees.

For all his life, Antoine lived in this ethereal space of solitude with a keen bird-eye view on human’s deserted inner lives. He’s someone who never grew up. Literally, throwing tamper tantrums at times even as adults and even waking up a friend at 3 AM to hear his reading, just like when he was a kid. But it’s also through this enigmatic space that we’re invited to see ourselves from the distant above.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his wife in Paris.
Photograph by Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty

P.S. I write children’s story for adults about the moon. See it here. Or email me to purchase.

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