The Little Prince : Biography
Antoine Jean-Baptiste Marie Roger de Saint-Exupéry was born in Lyon, France, on June 29, 1900, to Marie de Fonscolombe and Viscount Jean de Saint Exupéry. He was the third of five children; his father was from an impoverished noble family and became an insurance broker but died before Antoine was four.
Saint-Exupéry failed his exams for a preparatory school and so entered the École des Beaux-Arts to study architecture. Longing for adventure, he wanted to become a naval officer, but when refused admission to the French Naval Academy, he joined the French Air Force in 1921 and learned to fly planes. He refused a career in the Air Force to please the family of his fiancée—the future novelist Louise Leveque de Vilmorin—and took office jobs in Paris. The engagement was broken off, and by 1926, Saint-Exupéry was flying as a postal pilot in North Africa. It was extremely dangerous because early planes had few instruments and an open cockpit. His route on the Aéropostale went from Toulouse to Dakar. He became a manager at Cape Juby airfield, in South Morocco, in the Sahara desert. In 1929, Saint-Exupéry moved to Argentina, becoming director of the Aeroposta Argentina Company, a pioneer of South American airmail routes.
Saint-Exupéry's first story, “L'Aviateur” (“The Aviator”), was published in 1926. In 1929, he published his first book, Courrier Sud (Southern Mail). Vol de Nuit (Night Flight), about his experience with the Aéropostale, was published in 1931, the first of his major works and winner of the Prix Femina. In 1931 he also married Consuelo Suncin, a widowed Salvadoran writer and artist.
Trying to set a record flight from Paris to Saigon in 1935, Saint-Exupéry, along with his navigator, crashed in the Libyan Sahara desert, as does the narrator of The Little Prince. The whole episode is told in his 1939 memoir, Terre des hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars), for which he won the American National Book Award.
In the early days of World War II he flew reconnaissance missions with the French Air Force. Some of this experience is recounted in Pilote de guerre, or Flight to Arras (1942). When France surrendered to Germany in 1940, he went to the United States. In a rented mansion (The Bevin House) on Long Island’s north shore the author wrote The Little Prince, published first in English in New York in 1943, then in French a few days later.
Just as the book was published, Saint-Exupéry returned to Europe to fly with the Free French Forces and fight with the Allies to liberate France. He disappeared on a reconnaissance mission. He died doing what he believed in and became a French and international hero. Other works include Letter to a Hostage (1944), the posthumously published Citadelle (1948), Wartime Writings 1939-1944 (1982), Manon, danseuse (2007), Lettres à l'inconnue (2008). The Little Prince was his own favorite and remains the best known of his works, a world classic.