on June 16, 2004
An absolutely brilliant work. Keep in mind that many of the bad reviews here were for a different version/translation of this book. This one is almost twice as long and sticks far better to the author's orginal work.
This collection of stories is the perfect bedtime reading. You can finish off each story in an hour or so and drift to sleep with dreams of adventure and travel. The author relates the early days of air travel, when the pilots were quite often taking their lives in their own hands each time they took flight. Crash landings in the Sahara were part of job, and rather commonplace for those daring pilots that dared to carry mail and supplies over the great desert.
The author writes in a simple and magical prose that carries all readers to the co-pilot seat on these amazing true adventures.
It is rare to find an individual who lived such an amazing life as Saint-Exupery, and rarer still to find one who could write about their experiences with such clarity, beauty and detail.
Highly recommended. A great treasure of literature.
on March 17, 2002
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was one of the most interesting figures of 20th century literature. He wrote The Little Prince, a children's book that sold 200,000 copies in the U.S. alone in one year several years ago, and was also the author of several novels and memoirs, all relating to flying, of which this is one. The author was MIA over his beloved France while flying for the Free French Air Force in 1944 (after having to argue to be allowed to fly in combat; he was considered a national treasure). It appears the site of the wreck was discovered in the water just off the Riviera a couple of years ago, though no one's certain.
Wind, Sand and Stars is a recounting of several episodes in Saint-Exupery's life as a pilot, told to illustrate his view of the world, and especially his opinions of what makes life worth living, and who we are or should be. He was a wonderfully insightful individual, and his prose and ideas are the sort of thing you'll carry with you for years. I would highly recommend this book.
on January 23, 2002
I lulled over Wind Sand and Stars for a long time, savoring each word to the last drop! Intensely reflective, philosophical and insightful, I felt like I was right in the desert with Saint Exupery, vicariously reaching for that experience of living away from most frivolities of modern civilization in search of that true place and relationship with the sands, the seas, space ... The flight adventures are marvelously described with just enough detail to inform the nonpilots without becoming tedious. The experiences in solitude of the Sahara are vividly portrayed - you definitely can feel you are a part of the landscape. In addition to St-Ex's hallmarked "idealism" and childlike perspective, his thoughts on the importance of duty are equally compelling. St-Ex did seem to lecture a bit excessively close to the end as far as his rampant musings on war and man and such, but all in all this was a fabulous read.
on September 30, 2000
What is truely remarkable about this book are two things :
(a) It provides a vision for mankind which reconciles our need for progress with our (recent!) roots of self sufficiency, community and coexistence with nature. It is a vision desperately in need of voice in these doomed decades of the twighlight of the industrial age. The vision is one of courage to challenge the limits of our secure but meaningless lives and our tamed ambitions. The strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity, when we DARE to challenge ourselves to truely live our lives.
Two passages stick out in my mind to illustrate this underlying theme. In the introduction to the text, Exupery recalls flying over the empty landscape of Argentina; each of the lights of the houses, he recalls, clung to the fragile earth, is a "miracle of consciousness". In the second, he describes his comrades' desperate five day walk to safety after crashing in the wilderness of Patagonia. On reaching safety he said, "no animal would have gone through what I have have been through" (paraphrase). A sentence which returned things to their true heirarchy, adds Exupery.
A vision of man's ascendancy of the beast; a challenge to man to not live as caged animal in robot cities.
(b) The other thing, of course, and more important perhaps, is the beauty of the prose. Full of pronouncements and insights (unlike any other book!) it still flows as a story, full of emotion. In particular in the desert scenes, each sentence transports you in time and space and impacts upon your every feeling. For sections of the book, page after page, each and every sentence has a resonance which brings waves euphoria and despair. To drink water, after reading the desert chapters, is to experience the joy of life!
on July 14, 1998
The essays and anecdotes in this volume are true gems to be enjoyed slowly, recalled fondly and shared often.
Despite the relative infancy of the aviation industry at the time he composed them, Saint-Ex clearly understood that flying - especially the type of long and dangerous kind that he was engaged in - was both a metaphor and a brilliant illumination into the nature of the human condition.
Like flying into uncharted territory, our journey through life is fraught with perils, faced mostly alone and with few witnesses to our acts of courage or cowardice. However, instead of facing up to this fact, Saint-Ex points out how "modern" culture consists of ever more elaborate denials of this basic fact: we have been indoctrinated with the goal of spending our lives working solely to achieve the most comfortable, painless, risk-free existence possible. And we continue to do so, much to our detriment.
These essays are skillful and evocative arguments that! ! only when we face up to, and acknowledge our tenuous and perilous existence, can we truly appreciate what it means to be alive. Saint-Ex does a wonderful job in writing about what has become important to him: experiencing the majestic beauty and power of the earth and nature, what the existentialists would call "being authentic", and the friendship and cameraderie of the pilots and people he has met on his journeys.
"Men travel side by side for years - each locked up in his own silence... till danger comes. Then they stand shoulder to shoulder. Then they discover they belong to the same family....
Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in this warmth of human relations...
Each man must look to himself to learn the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something molded. These prison walls that the age of trade has built around us, we can break down. We can still run free, call to our comrades, and marvel to hear once more! ! , in response to our call, the chant of the human voice.&qu! ot;
on April 22, 1998
Saint-Exupery disappeared in North Africa in 1943 while flying reconnaissance flights for the American forces. After reading Wind, Sand and Stars one has a sense that this writer/philosopher, who is probably most well known for his fable The Little Prince, was well prepared for his life to end in this way.
In the opening lines of the original French version Saint-Exupery writes:
"The earth teaches us more about ourselves than all the books.
Because it resists us. Man discovers himself when he measures
himself against the obstacle"
Wind, Sand and Stars is intensely autobiographical as it tells us of this man's adventures from his beginnings as a pilot with the air mail service over France, Spain and North Africa before World War I, through to his musings as an observer of the Spanish Civil War. But far more than an adventurer, Saint-Exupery writes like a poet and has the heart of a philosopher. This wonderful book (a credit to the translator from the original French) has incredibly rich descriptive passages in which he lays out for the reader the details observed in the natural world and the response that these evoke in his mind, heart and soul.
In one section of the book (which a reader familiar with The Little Prince cannot help but conclude was inspirational for that work) Saint-Exupery describes at length his near-death experience after crashing in the Libyan desert, and wandering for days without water or hope:
"Apart from your suffering, I have no regrets. All in all, it has been
a good life. If I got free of this I should start right in again. A man
cannot live a decent life in cities, and I need to feel myself live. I
am not thinking of aviation. The aeroplane is a means, not an end.
One doesn't risk one's life for a plane any more than a farmer ploughs
for the sake of the plough. But the aeroplane is a means of getting
away from towns and their book-keeping and coming to grips with
Wind, Sand and Stars is not an easy read. But for those with patience and an interest (in a phrase from The Little Prince) in "listening with the heart", here is an insight to one man's struggle to understand and articulate the sacredness and greatness of human life.
on April 9, 1998
We usually assume that in order to appreciate literature we must read it in the original, but somehow St. Exupery translates as genuine poetry. This book, written in 1941, shortly before his disappearance, is an essential background text for both *The Little Prince* and *Night Flight.* St.Exupery is to the air what Joseph Conrad is to the sea: an explicator for a world that most of us never enter. As a pioneer aviator, St. Exupery experienced the "man confronts the elements" of nascent aviation; as a writer, he makes a gift those experiences, processed through the blender of his own intelligence and sensitivity, to the reader. *Wind, Sand and Stars* is not only about aviation; it's about life. "There are two hundred million men in Europe whose existence has no meaning and who yearn to come alive," St.Exupery writes. "Industry has torn them from the idiom of their peasant lineage and has locked them in those enormous ghettos that are like railway yards heaped with blackened trucks. Out of the depths of their slums these men yearn to be awakened." Are we so different today? The philosophy of *Wind, Sand and Stars* is as applicable now as it was then and, because it is philosophical, because the author not only perceives a different world but delves, analyzes it and divulges its meaning, the book remains a classic for the foreseeable future.
on April 4, 1998
"The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth," writes Saint-Exupery; this book unveils for the reader the true face of man. The grim heat of the desert, the stench of diesel, the surreal terror of night and storms, and the elation of flight: his prose evokes all of these with shimmering fluidity.
Just as the most rudimentary of charcoal sketches often manage to capture the very essence of its subject in a few deft strokes, so too do the struggles and joys of pilots in North Africa and South America manage to capture the essence of man, of his relationship with machine, with nature, and with himself in this taut narrative..
Non-pilots will feel that they have been inducted into a world vibrantly unique yet achingly familiar, pilots will recall afresh the sensations of defying gravity with steel, wires, and bravery; all readers, however, will find themselves murmuring "yes, that's it exactly."
on April 11, 2000
I loved The Little Prince, and thought that I would give Wind, Sand and Stars a try. Lucky for me that I did! A different kind of book than the children's-tale quality of The Little Prince, Wind, Sand and Stars is nevertheless magical in its own way. St-Exupery's ability to blend philosophy with his fairy-tale renditions of the life of a pilot are inspiring to more than one kind of person who seeks to reach the stars. Well worth reading, this book is a delight for anyone who seeks beauty in the written word.
on February 23, 2003
It was sometimes slow, sometimes pretentious and not a very long book at all. I don't really know what I liked about it...
It's just one of those warm fuzzy feeling books i guess.
A view of the world from an author who loved life and felt pity for those who couldn't. He was a good story teller. He had a childish romantic view of the world which is part of the charm.
I think if you can't identify with him, then you won't like the story.