Wind, Sand and Stars
[Reynal and Hitchcock, $2.75]
THE list of distinguished books by aviators is not a long one. Only a few of the pioneers have had enough life and eloquence to tell the great story of the upper exploration. Fifty years from nowsome editor, if he knows his business, will bring together from newspapers, old magazines, and private files a Hakluyt’s ’Voyages of the Air.’ Meantime we bibliophiles will make his job the easier by refreshing the interest in those books that blazed the way. I think of High Adventure, by James Norman Hall, Colonel Lindbergh’s We, Falcons of France by Nordhoff and Hall, the little-known Winged Victory by Victor M. Yeates, and the two superb chronicles by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. North to the Orient and Listen! the Wind. Here is the nucleus of anew library, and I am sure there must be two or three equally good books in German and Italian worthy of being added to the shelf. France has its best spokesman in Antoine de Saint Exupéry, who was awarded the Prix Vie Femina in recognition of his novel Night Flight, and who has lately been given the Grand Prix Academic Française for his new book, Terre des Hommes, now published in America under the title Wind, Sand and Stars.
Saint Exupéry is one of France’s most distinguished experimental fliers, with a lifetime of experience m North Africa and South America, Europe and Asia. His initiation to flying was in French Morocco, where he flew the mails in the days when the Moors were in revolt and when a forced landing carried with it the threat of bullet or thirst, even if one survived the hump. For eight years he piloted the French mail planes. He was forced down on the Sahara and the Libyan deserts. and rescued. He embarked on many a longdistance flight (Paris to Saïgon was one of them); he fought his way back to earth out of dense fog. hail, and dry hurricane. Having stood up to death a dozen times, lie felt himself irresistibly drawn to the Barcelona and Madrid fronts. The proofs of Wind, Sand and Stars were delayed six months, owing to the author’s crash at Guatemala City when, outward-bound for South America, his plane was carelessly overloaded. The plane was a total wreck and the pilot was unconscious for eight days in the hospital. ‘Saint Exupéry,’ writes André Gide, ‘in all he tells us speaks as one who “has been through it.” His personal contact with ever-recurrent danger seasons his book with an authentic and inimitable tang. We have had many stories of the War or of imaginary adventures which, if they showed the author as a man of nimble wit, brought smiles to the faces of such old soldiers or genuine adventurers as read them. I admire his work not only oil its literary merits but for its value as a record of realities.’ . . .
‘I know now why a bird sings,’wrote Jim Hall on the completion of his first solo flight, and the phrase unlocked for him, as it did for his friends, a realm of almost indescribable beauty. Wind, Sand and Stars is much more than a book of adventure and near death. In it Saint Exupéry has drawn up ‘the balance sheet of the hours in my life that have truly counted.’ His narrative has depth as well as height, beauty of language as well as the zest for speed. In form it is an essay, or rather a collection of essays, a medium perfectly adapted to the contrasting moods of loneliness and human warmth, of exhilaration and the merciless exposure of nerves and sanity. To read it is to forget that we are earth-bound.