Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is as well known for his talent as a writer as for his tragic fate as an aviator.

Literature and adventures : the two engines of its existence.

Humanist, idealist, the work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is an invitation to surpass oneself, a requirement that he puts into practice in his own life. Son of Jean de Saint-Exupéry and Marie de Fonscolombe, he is the third child in a family of five. Musician, poet, and painter, Marie takes care of their five children, three girls and two boys. But in 1904, Jean died of a stroke on a station platform. Antoine is only 4 years old. Without resources, Marie can count on the solidarity of their family. The Saint-Exupérys find refuge in Saint Maurice-de-Rémens where he locates the fabulous universe of his childhood, that of games and discoveries, that of the first scientific experiments too: he imagines a watering system with steam and with help of the village carpenter builds a “flying bicycle“.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A first invention at 8

Since childhood, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has had a passion: trains, engines and flying machines. He was 8 years old when he perfected his first invention: a flying motorized bicycle. The young boy has positioned sails on his bike and recycled a gasoline engine. Smart! Unfortunately, the device exploded and his little brother, François, 6 years old, was injured in the brow bone. Consumed by guilt, the eldest puts an end – temporarily – to his experiments. At the request of their grandfather Fernand de Saint-Exupéry, who wished to have his grandchildren close to him, in 1909 Antoine and his brother François left the world of their early childhood to continue their studies at the Jesuit college of Notre Dame de Sainte-Croix in Le Mans. Suffice to say that holidays at the Château de Saint-Maurice are a godsend. Especially since a few kilometers away is an airfield where manufacturers from Lyon are testing their airplanes. Antoine enjoys the tracks and in the hangars where he is fascinated by the engines. Letting believe that he had his mother’s authorization, in July 1912 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry convinced one of these airmen to take him aboard his plane, a Berthaud-Wroblewski.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The death of his brother

In 1914 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a boarder at Villefranche-sur-Saône and then at the Villa Saint-Jean in Fribourg. It was during this period when he read a lot that he discovered Balzac, Dostoyevsky and Baudelaire among others. Despite good appreciations in physics, philosophy and music, Antoine is among the bottom of the class. In 1917 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry suffered an ordeal that marked him deeply: his brother François died of articular rheumatism with heart complications. François names Antoine his executor. Twenty years later he noted in a poignant text what he had felt at the death of his brother: “He would entrust me with his tower to build. If he were a father, he would entrust me with sons to teach. If he were a military pilot, he would entrust me with his ship’s papers. But he is only a child. He entrusts only a steam engine, a bicycle and a rifle. »

Disappeared at sea

In 1915, Paris is bombarded by the German armies which are nearby. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry manages to deceive the vigilance of the supervisors who take them to a shelter and climbs to the roof of the school from where he admires the spectacle of planes dropping bombs, the firing of anti-aircraft artillery, the explosions. The show seems “magical” to him. When the Second World War broke out, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was mobilized by the Air Force to carry out reconnaissance flights. After several missions, he obtained the Croix de guerre and was demobilized on August 5, 1940. He went into exile for a few years in the United States and Canada. During a stay in Quebec in 1942, he published “Pilote de guerre“. In 1943, he joined the Free French forces south of the Mediterranean to carry out new reconnaissance missions. On June 17, 1944, he took off from Corsica for a scouting mission and disappeared at sea.

The Little Prince

Officially reported missing, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was declared “Dead for France” in 1948. The discovery in 1998 of the bracelet he was wearing at the time of his death has shed light on the circumstances of his death. His plane was shot down by a German aircraft. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry In 1943, just before going back to battle, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry published in New York a poetic and philosophical tale which would have a resounding worldwide success, “The Little Prince”. This book depicts an aviator who meets a strange little prince from a very small planet, asteroid B 612. The latter tells the aviator about his encounters on the different planets he visited after to have left his. The book is accompanied by watercolors made by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry himself. “The Little Prince” was published in France two years after his death, in 1946.

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