Vol de Nuit by Antoine de St. Exupery. And Guerlain.

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

I read this novel for Paris in July II hosted by Tamara and Karen; I highly recommend it.

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19 thoughts on “Vol de Nuit by Antoine de St. Exupery. And Guerlain.”

  1. Bermudaonion, you can hardly imagine the courage of these men…and when I consider what we have today that they did not have in terms of technology I'm amazed anyone made it safely at all.

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  2. I've never been attracted to this book, but I love Le Petit Prince. It is probably the book I've reread and offered the most. My grand mother used to read it to me when I was a kid. I actually think it should be compulsory to read it evey ten years.

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  3. This book and Antoine de St. Exupery are close to my heart, my dad flew reconnaissance missions during WWII, my dad was also French.I did not know there was a Paris challenge, going to check it out.Thank-you Meredith for your beautiful post :)The planes where a little more sturdy then on the pic 🙂 on the pic it is a WWI plane…would be nice if we had no wars…

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  4. Col, it's hard to find. I had to order my edition from amazon.com because of course our library doesn't have it. Hopefully, you'll have better luck!

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  5. Em, I love the image of your grandmother reading it to you. My mother read it to me as well, but I didn't really understand it until I was much older. One of the things I often thing about though is the beginning when he gives such an accurate, but jaded, view of adults. Only concerned with how much the house costs, etc.

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  6. Madeleine, I never knew that your father flew reconnaissance in WWII! You, and your mother, must have been terrified! Proud of him, certainly, but also so worried. I wish that we had no wars, as well. Human nature can't seem to stop them, somehow, probably due to the greed and selfishness, or pride, which can never quite be conquered.

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  7. Rachel, I love international novels, too. Perhaps you'd like to join in for the last week and a half of Paris in July II? Click on the link in my post to learn more about it from our hostesses.

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  8. How romantic (and terrifying!) I didn't know about this novel (or perfume – how French!) although I have often wondered why St Exupery was so loved in France as I've only read The Little Prince.

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  9. Sakura, his picture was on the twenty franc bill before France succumbed to the euro. He had a huge impact on his country which I don't think we fully know here in America.

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  10. This sounds good. My parents bought me a copy of The Little Prince when I was in elementary school, although I can't actually remember if I've read the entire thing. Something for the list…

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  11. Beautiful review, Bellezza! I have read 'The Little Prince' and loved it. I want to read 'Vol de nuit' now. It is wonderful that there is a fragrance named in honour of this book.

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