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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French aviator and author whose works are the unique testimony of a pilot and a warrior who looked at adventure and danger with a poet’s eyes. His adventures as a pilot would supply the inspiration for all of his literary endeavors, which culminated with the 1943 publication of the classic The Little Prince.
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Key Facts & Information
- Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger de Saint-Exupéry was born in Lyon, France in 1900 into a family with long-established roots in the French aristocracy.
- His father was the Viscount Jean de Saint Exupéry, an insurance executive who suffered a fatal stroke in 1904. His mother, Marie de Fonscolombe, was, according to her son, a beautiful, intelligent, and caring woman.
- After the Viscount died, Marie moved with her five children to the Castle of Saint-Maurice-de-Remens, northeast of Lyon, owned by one of her aunts, the Countess de Tricaud.
- While growing up there, the children lived a fairly carefree life, listening to their mother’s inventive stories, playing in the countryside, and staging plays and musicals.
- In 1909, the family moved to the home of Antoine’s paternal grandfather in Le Mans, in central France. While there, Saint-Exupéry attended a Jesuit school called Notre Dame de Sainte Croix. During the summer of 1912, he enjoyed his first airplane ride with the French aviation pioneer Gabriel Wroblewski.
- Life quickly became more complicated for the young man as war broke out between Austria-Hungary and Serbia in June 1914. World War I began in earnest on August 1, when Germany declared war on Russia.
- In spite of the conflicts, Saint-Exupéry and his younger brother, Francois, continued studying at the Jesuit school of Notre Dame de Montgré at Villafranca, near Lyon. In November 1915, as the war grew worse, the two brothers moved to the Villa Saint-Jean school in Fribourg, Switzerland.
- In the spring of 1917, Saint-Exupéry passed his baccalaureate examination. About the same time, his brother, Francois, died of rheumatic fever.
- In the fall of that year, Saint-Exupéry moved to Paris and attended classes at the Lycée Saint-Louis, a leading college preparatory school.
- He then sought to enter the French Naval Academy in Brest, however, he failed the oral entrance exam in June 1918 and instead entered the School of Fine Arts in Paris and studied architecture for 15 months.
The Aviator turned Author
- Despite his disappointing rejection from the naval academy, in 1921 Saint-Exupéry was given the opportunity to realize his dreams of flying during his compulsory service in the military.
- Initially working as a mechanic in the army, he learned how to fly and Saint-Exupéry thus became a pilot in the air force the following year and was deployed to North Africa.
- His engagement to a Louise de Vilmorin resulted in Saint-Exupéry leaving the air force in 1922, but when their relationship failed shortly thereafter, he returned to his first love, flying, and developed a new passion as well: writing.
- While working various jobs, Saint-Exupéry began to write stories inspired by his experiences as a pilot. He published his first work, L’Aviateur, in 1926, the same year that he returned to flying as a mail pilot with the aviation company Aéropostale in Toulouse, covering routes between France, Spain, and North Africa.
- The remainder of Saint-Exupéry’s life would be defined by the intertwining of his dual occupations as aviator and author, with the former providing the inspiration for his literary work.
- In 1927, Saint-Exupéry was placed in charge of an airfield in the Sahara. His experiences there informed his first novel, Southern Mail, which celebrated the courage of pilots and was published in 1929.
- His similarly themed Night Flight was published in 1931 after he returned from a two-year posting in Argentina, where he had helped to establish an air mail system.
- Night Flight would become his first true literary success, receiving the Prix Femina literary prize and later being adapted into a 1933 Hollywood film starring John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, and Clark Gable.
- In 1931, Saint-Exupéry also married for the first time, to Salvadoran writer and artist Consuelo Suncin. Though they would remain together, by all accounts their marriage was a troubled one due to Saint-Exupéry’s infidelities and frequent absences.
- Among the most eventful of these sojourns was his 1935 attempt to break the air-speed record between Paris and Saigon. En route, his plane crashed in the Sahara, and he and his copilot wandered the desert for days, nearly dying of sun exposure and dehydration before being rescued by a wandering Bedouin.
- In 1939, Saint-Exupéry’s memoir Wind, Sand and Stars, which includes an account of the events, surpassed the success of his earlier works, winning the prestigious Grand Prize for Novel Writing from the Académie Française and the National Book Award in the United States.
The Little Prince
- But neither Saint-Exupéry’s growing literary success nor the disabilities resulting from several plane crashes could tear him away from his calling as a pilot. When World War II erupted, he became a military reconnaissance pilot until the German occupation forced him to flee France. Relocating to New York City, he lobbied the U.S. government to intervene in the conflict and also continued to document his adventures, publishing Flight to Arras in 1942 and Letter to a Hostage in 1943.
- However, from a literary perspective, his most important work during this period was the children’s fable for adults, Le Petit Prince.
- The poetic and mystical tale of a pilot stranded in the desert and his conversation with a young prince from another planet, it was written and illustrated by Saint-Exupéry and published in both French and English in the United States in 1943, and later in more than 200 other languages.
- It is considered one of the greatest books in the 20th century and is one of the bestselling books of all time after the Bible and Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, becoming the subject of numerous adaptations, including a Grammy Winning children’s album featuring Richard Burton and a 1974 musical film featuring.
- In 2015, a new testament to the staying power of Saint-Exupéry’s cherished tale came in the form of a new 3D-animation adaptation with a star-studded cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, and Paul Giamatti.
- Never one to rest on his laurels, in 1943 Saint-Exupéry returned to France and rejoined his squadron, insisting on flying despite his age and infirmities.
- On July 31, 1944, he left for a reconnaissance mission over occupied France. He never returned, and when neither he nor his plane was found, his squadron declared him officially missing on September 8.
- Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance made international news and was the cause of much speculation until 2000, when a scuba diver exploring the Mediterranean Sea near Marseilles discovered the wreckage of a plane that was later raised and identified as Saint-Exupéry’s. Though evidence indicated that he had likely been shot down, the true cause of his death remains unknown.
- In the days and weeks that followed, various parties speculated that Saint-Exupéry was shot down over the Mediterranean, had a flight accident, or even committed suicide.
- The latter theory grew out of the fact that the flyer had felt isolated from his squadron and was pessimistic about the future. On a previous mission, however, he’d had trouble with his oxygen mask and almost passed out.
- At his death, Saint Exupéry left behind an unfinished book that eventually appeared in France as La Citadelle. In 1948, after Saint Exupery’s American publisher Curtice Hitchcock died, Eugene Reynal merged their publisher firm into Harcourt Brace and published La Citadelle in English under the title “The Wisdom of the Sands” in 1950.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Antoine de Saint-Exupéry worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who was a French aviator and author whose works are the unique testimony of a pilot and a warrior who looked at adventure and danger with a poet’s eyes. His adventures as a pilot would supply the inspiration for all of his literary endeavors, which culminated with the 1943 publication of the classic The Little Prince.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Lost in Translations
- Silly Ssstory
- Antoine Takes Flight
- A Lack of Color
- Chasing Sunsets
- Limitless Ladies
- A Letter to the Rose
- Very Important Person
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