Wind, sand and stars

Footsteps in sand with wind ripples

I may have been somewhat unconvinced of the greatness of The Little Prince but Wind, sand and stars, also by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, more than made up for it.

The author was a pilot in the early days of air traffic and the memoir contains thrilling descriptions of these pioneering aviators and the dangers facing them. I would have loved this book for the flight scenes alone but it contains much more. Written as a collection of loosely connected essays it is partly a memoir of the early days of flying, partly a celebration of life and humanity.  In the end there is also a chapter about a visit in Spain during the civil war. It should feel disjointed but somehow the language and the love of life ties it together.

In the memoir he carefully describes the pilots, their air-crafts and the lofty world they inhabit. I especially enjoyed his description of the world below, written at a time when few people had been in a plane I imagine it must have sounded a bit like the astronauts’ descriptions of the world from space does to us.

It was written during the 1930s and his descriptions of the people he met during his time in Sahara are sometimes uncomfortable. However, unlike many of his contemporaries he had the advantage of writing about people he had interacted with and to some degree clearly respected. The result may not be a fair description of the people of Sahara but it’s probably a true portrait of how they would have appeared to a Frenchman at the time. As such I found it very interesting. I also appreciated his obvious love for Sahara, where he lived a few years, and which I felt resembled my own love for the Arctic.

All in all I greatly enjoyed this memoir and found it both thought-provoking and beautiful. I may not agree with all of his views but I found it a very worth-while read and am glad that the Classics club challenge made me discover it.

The full list of classics I have read or plan to read in the Classics Club challenge can be found here. In addition I count it as my 20th century classic for the Back to the classics reading challenge. Two other reviews of this book can be found here and here.



27 thoughts on “Wind, sand and stars

    1. It’s very different from The Little Prince but as you could tell I really liked it. The fact that I have a soft spot for early aviation (too much Biggles…) helped but I believe it would have been interesting anyway.

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  1. “I especially enjoyed his description of the world below, written at a time when few people had been in a plane I imagine it must have sounded a bit like the astronauts’ descriptions of the world from space does to us” – this blew my mind. It’s so weird but I’ve never thought about this! For someone who’s studied history in college, I should have. But I just take the experience of flying for granted. I feel like even for people who’ve never flown, there’s a general awareness of it because of novels, comics, films, and TV. But equating it to space travel is a wonderful slice of perspective.

    As to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, I’ll be honest. ‘The Little Prince’ didn’t grab me the first time I read it. I adore Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ and a friend recommended it to me as being in the same spirit. But nothing is really the same as Coelho for me, you know? I did eventually return to ‘The Little Prince’ and appreciate it more but I still get where you’re coming from.

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    1. Thank you! In addition to flying I also use air photos a bit so watching the world from above is very normal to me, it was so fascinating to read what it was like for some of the first people to do so.

      I don’t know about Coelho, I was never really convinced by The Alchemist, but I can say that Wind, Sand and Stars is not at all like it.

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      1. For whatever reason, I love ‘The Alchemist.’ Maybe I picked it up at the right time, I don’t know. But I read it at least once a year and I think I’ve read all his stuff – at least all that’s been translated into English. The texts vary in their complexity but I’ve always appreciated his mix of the spiritual and mystical.

        However, ‘Wind, Sand, and Stars’ not being in the same vein doesn’t dissuade me from reading it :). On the air photos thing, it’s interesting to think what people 500 years from now will look back on with the same sort of casual acceptance we look at flying with. I love playing with those sort of future historical what-could-bes in my mind :).

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      2. I fear the combination of spiritual and mystical was what scared me away, I can handle each of them on their own but together it is too much 🙂

        Considering how much the world has changed in just the last few decades I wonder what the world will look like in just 50 years time. Hopefully I’ll get the answer to that question in my lifetime…

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      3. I know! I think about that a lot in regard to technology and our advancement. I mean, when I was a kid our phone still connected to the wall of the house! Now I’ve got a computer in my pocket. And that’s just one example! It is staggering to see how quickly we move sometimes.

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      4. Yeah, me too. I’ll find myself looking at it when I’m standing in line somewhere or waiting for someone as opposed to watching LIFE happening all around me. And I do miss being able to leave and no one being able to get a hold of me until I’m home. The idea of coming home to messages is more and more appealing the more connected we become.

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      5. Haha, yep, I prefer an actual computer for that too. The only social media I have on my phone is Twitter. So sometimes I’m distracted in public because I’m on that and sometimes it’s replying to texts or checking movie listings or things like that.

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  2. I love this! Most people seem to have read only The Little Prince, so it’s nice to see a review of another work! I admit I loved The Little Prince when I read it for the first time this year. But, of course, that means I’d be willing to try another of the author’s works!

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