Flight, Saint-Exupéry And Friends:The Prince of the Skies by Antonio Iturbe

French writer/aviator Comte (Count) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote a novel posthumously published in the late 1940s that captivated audiences across planet earth and has remained among the top five bestsellers of all time in that world. You might be familiar with it: Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince).

When you see the book for the first time, you’d assume it’s been written for children. It has whimsical illustrations that might have been drawn by a child. Most likely, adults do buy them for their children. And yet, if you become curious enough to read it for yourself, it won’t fail to captivate you. That is, if you continue to listen to the child that’s in you, in all of us.

I’ve always wondered what kind of a man would write such a fantastic (literally, figuratively) story that plucks a deep and neglected (or forgotten) chord in rational adults. A chord that, for me, is full of wonder and wistful nostalgia. So, when I came across an audiobook in our local library about Comte de Saint-Exupéry and a couple of his aviator friends, I couldn’t resist it.

Several chapters into the audiobook—The Prince of the Skies by Antonio Iturbe—translated from the original Spanish version, A Cielo Abierto, I found myself on amazon.com buying the ebook version. Why? For one. I love well-turned prose and this book—in addition to that sought-after attribute—contains some of the best original metaphors you’d encounter in a book. I had to have a copy I could easily access and reread. The last time I gushed over image-rich prose in a piece of written art was in All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Iturbe’s novel beguiled me just as much.

The more compelling reason for me, though, resides in this passage on p. 359 of the Kindle Edition.:

“How is it possible to be both a pilot and a writer?”
Antoine replies with a shrug: “What’s the difference?”

This passage illustrates how the author can capture the essence of a big story in a few words.

For Antoine, writing, like flying, allows you to soar, to fly to untrodden reaches of your imagination. I’m one of those people who stiffen with anxiety every time the plane I’m in climbs to its flying altitude or shudders from strong winds. After reading Iturbe’s book, I regret my fear of flying and wish that I was more capable of being enchanted by its weightless thrill and surprises. But, maybe, you have to be the sort of extraordinary individual that Antoine and his friends Jean Mermoz and Henri Gillaumet were. They were as flawed as you and I, but as pioneers in a budding profession full of possibilities, they shine above you and me. In the beginning, they flew open planes of wood through clear blue as well as dense grey skies; through howling winds, tempests, and snowstorms that left them drenched and freezing. In our high-tech world, such scenarios and experiences are unimaginable.

They had life-threatening mishaps and, eventually, all three gave their lives up to flying. We would never have known what it was like for this daring triumvirate, for whom flight was life, were it not for the written legacy of Comte de Saint-Exupéry. And were it not for Antonio Iturbe’s wonderful book.


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