The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sís ★★★★
Source: Municipal InterLibrary Loan
Edition: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 48 pages
Original publication date: 2014
I guess you could say I’m somewhat of a Peter Sís enthusiast by now, having read over a dozen books he’s contributed to in one way or another, either solely as illustrator or as both writer and illustrator, and it’s safe to say he’s evolved a signature style when it comes to biographical subjects (his graphic novels Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei and The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin immediately spring to mind here), telling the stories with words and pictures, and pictures within pictures that give the impression at first glance of complex tapestries that you can stare at for a long time to discover endless fascinating detail. For this reason, I find I can never take in his books in one short sitting, no matter how slender the volumes are, as they are intellectually stimulating and pack a lot of information.
Here the subject is the author of that iconic children’s book The Little Prince (which I happened to grow up on and venerate), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Sís introduces us to Saint-Exupéry from his birth in 1900 onward to what seems to have been a fascinating and adventure-packed life, most of it having been devoted to flying and writing in more or less equal measures. Unbeknownst to me, he had made a name for himself as a hero for his flying adventures on the one hand and as a successful author on the other well before his iconic little book about the prince from another planet was published, with his books based on his flying adventures, one of which became an international bestseller in 1931 and won him the Fémina Prize and which inspired the venerable French perfume house Guerlain to issue a perfume named after that novel two years later, Vol de Nuit, (known as Night Fligh to English readers). Sadly, he disappeared during a flying mission on July 31, 1944, when he took off in an unarmed P-38 on his ninth reconnaissance mission from an airbase on Corsica and vanished without a trace. His legend lives on.
A gorgeous book, much recommended to lovers of Sís and/or Saint-Exupéry. I was already interested in reading more work by the legendary author/adventurer, but I think I’ll seek out his other books more actively now.
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