Perhaps Antoine de St. Exupery is best known for his novel Le Petit Prince. Far from a typical children’s book, Le Petit Prince closely examines matters of the heart, and in my opinion is best suited for adults. Or, for French V students as when I read it en francais for the first time at seventeen.
But, he also wrote Vol de Nuit (Night Flight), a novel published in 1931. This slim volume of only 87 pages is exceptional. Its subject matter is the mail flights which went to Patagonia, Chile, and Buenos Aires in the middle of the night so that the mail could be there in the morning. Its subject is the courage of the pilots who not only thrilled to the dangers of their job, but fought the fear inherent to its very nature. Its subject is Riviere, the leader of those men in aviation who challenges them to live up to honor and integrity, and Fabien, the pilot who encounters a storm during one treacherous night which is the central plot in this novel.
Antoine de St. Exupery’s writing is a masterpiece. Practically every page has a phrase to reread, or a description to ponder:
Somewhere, too, the planes were fighting forward; the night flights went on and on like a persistent malady, and on them watch must be kept. Help must be given to these men who with hands and knees and breast to breast were wrestling with the darkness, who knew and only knew an unseen world of shifting things, whence they must struggle out, as from an ocean. And the things they said about it afterwards were–terrible! “I turned the light on to my hands so as to see them.” Velvet of hands bathed in a dim red dark-room glow; last fragment, that must be saved, of a lost world. (p. 38-39)
St. Exupery himself surely knew of which he wrote, for “In 1944 he flew his plane over the Mediterranean on a World War II reconnaissance mission from which he never returned.”
Here is a close up of my bottle of the fragrance by the same name. It is a scent lovely beyond compare. “Vol de Nuit (1933) derives its name from the novel by Antoine de Saint Exupery, which relates the drama and excitement of the early years of aviation. In the novel, a pilot, newly wed, loses control of his aircraft, while his wife in the control tower waits feverishly for a sign of life. Vol de Nuit is a vibrant homage to this moving love story and to women who know how to live with danger.” Neiman Marcus