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Flight to Arras by Antoine de…
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Flight to Arras (original 1942; edition 1969)

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Lewis Galantiere

Series: Airman's Odyssey (3)

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8112021,832 (3.76)40
The story of Saint-Exupery's dramatic reconnaissance mission from Orly over Nazi occupied France to Arras in 1940.
Member:Generica
Title:Flight to Arras
Authors:Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Other authors:Lewis Galantiere
Info:Mariner Books (1969), Paperback, 168 pages
Collections:Your library
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Flight to Arras by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Author) (1942)

  1. 40
    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (teknochik)
    teknochik: NObody seems to know this fabulous book. It is a reflective memoire by St Expery as he was piloting a reconnaissance mission over Germany in WW2. It is a beautiful commentary on war and what it does to humanity. Possibly one of the most hidden and understated gems of the 20th century. When I read this book, I suddenly understood "The Little Prince" with far more depth.… (more)
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English (15)  Catalan (2)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (20)
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I am not sure how to categorize this work--war diary, anti-war protest, military history, philosophy about the nature of man? I have not read de Sainte-Exupery before, but my previous reads about the French defeat in 1940 invited me to delve into this very personal account of a day in the unfolding disaster.

Antoine de Sainte-Exupery was a noted French aviator and writer who had performed some military service before embarking on a journey of self-discovery, where he eventually settled on the risks of a commercial and record-setting aviation during the interwar period. A flyer seasoned by a number of acclaimed flights (and crashes) before World War II, de Sainte-Exupery rejoined France's Armee de l'Air at the beginning of the new war with a commission as a captain. He became a pilot of either the Potez 63.11 or a Bloch M.B. 174 (my internet research did not reveal a definitive answer) in Groupe de Reconnaissance II/33. Both aircraft were three seat twin-engined reconnaissance bombers, tasked with deep penetration missions. Both aircraft possessed fairly high speed, but they normally flew their missions alone, and with German control over French skies early in their invasion, deep reconnaissance missions were very dangerous affairs indeed.

This is a short book, a mere 124 pages long. There are 24 numbered chapters with no titles. The English title to this work is "Flight to Arras, Arras being a city in north central France that stood right in the middle of the German "drive to the sea" that took place in mid-May 1940. The book's original French title was "Pilote de Guerre" (roughly translated as combat pilot depending on your translation skills). The overall structure to the book is chronological; however, de Sainte-Exupery introduces elements of stream of conscious, similar (at least in my experience) to the style of James Joyce. Like "Ulysses", "Flight to Arras" spans a single day in the lives of de Sainte-Exupery and his fellow flyers.

The story is set in late May 1940. It is clear from the context of the book that the Germans are winning this campaign, driving French units across the countryside in vain efforts to stop or slow down the German advance. The main characters are de Sainte-Exupery himself (The Captain), the pilot of the aircraft, Lieutenant Dutertre, The Observer, and a nameless man known simply as The Gunner--one gets the impression that Armee de l'Air officers and enlisted men did not engage in fraternization even under the stress of combat. There is also Major Alias, the commandant of GR II/33, of whom de Sainte-Exupery will think much in the pages of this book.

As Captain Sainte-Ex (his nickname in the Groupe) proceeds through his day, he goes through his routine to prepare for the mission assigned by Major Alias, which includes an intelligence briefing that does much to cause the author to doubt his safe return. It's a two-part mission--first a high altitude photographic run that will take the aircraft up past 30,000 feet altitude, a risky endeavor even in peacetime. Second the crew will descend below 5,000 feet for a high-speed visual reconnaissance of Arras and vicinity. Both parts have their hazards--Luftwaffe fighters (in reality the Messerschmitt Bf-109E for the high altitude run and intense antiaircraft fire for the Arras run.

In terms of text, only a small part of the book actually speaks to the mission and title. The rest of the book capture de Sainte-Exupery's thoughts on his childhood, the people he has met, the nature of man, and the state of the nation that sent him and his crew on what they consider a suicide mission. So if you are looking to this book to find out about flying for the French in the 1940 campaign, you won't find much here. Ther are no Tom Clancy-style details on the aircraft, the Germans, or the mission itself. What you will find is an impressionist-styled account about why men risk their lives in war, the price that those men pay, and the cost to a nation when war takes place on home soil. The final chapters of the book, after his return from the mission, de Sainte-Exupery makes a number of reflections on his day, his view of the troubled French nation, and life in general. These musings I take with a grain of salt--de Sainte-Exupery essentially withdrew from France and the war when he penned these pages in 1941 and 1942. He had moved to New York with his wife to continue his writing. Only later, in 1943, did the author retuen to the fight for Free France, despite his seeming indifference towards deGaullist France and Vichy France. Upon his return he was assigned to the same unit he served in during the 1940 campaign, this time flying Lockheed F-5B Lightning photo reconnaissance aircraft. It was in the cockpit of one of those Lightnings that de Sainte-Exupery would make that sacrifice of which he spoke so much in "Flight to Arras" in July 1944.

Although I gave this book only 3 1/2 stars, my rating had nothing to do with the author's writing style and content. This book is up there when compared with the works of other writer-philospher-warriors. I think this book's weakness lies in its translation, a problem I have noted in other reviews I have done. If the translator is not familiar with technical or military terms or context used in the original work, then the English language reader misses the nuance intended by the author. My reading of this book tells me that a pilot of de Sainte-Exupery's experience would have phrased passages of the book differently, and this translation misses his intent. ( )
  Adakian | Nov 27, 2021 |
I decided to give this book a try after a friend whose opinion I greatly respect urged it on me as one of the best books he’d ever read. Sometimes it’s good to listen to your friends.
In this memoir, Saint-Exupéry compresses his experience as a reconnaissance pilot while France crumbles in the face of the relentless onslaught of the Wehrmacht into the account of one flight, a suicidal mission. In the course of it, he creates an extended meditation on the romance of flight, the futility of war, the inevitability of death and the meaning of life, written in a manner at once elegant and brutally honest. In the process, he deconstructs the twin, opposing ideologies of collectivism and individualism, feeling his way toward to a humanism founded on the Christian tradition of charity.
So many of the sentences are finely cast that I finally gave up copying the pearls in a notebook. Even without doing so, the images — a puppet cut loose yet someone continues pulling the strings, or the sexton who has lost the love of God but retained the love of lighting candles — remain in the mind, as does the author’s resolve to value the pile of stones while envisioning the cathedral to be created from them over the comfort of sitting in the finished building.
This is the book of an intellectual who values spirit over intellect. Highly recommended. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Een boek dat open bloeit als een krokus op een februariochtend. 70 jaar oud, maar het bulkt nog van relevantie.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - ja, die kent u van het bloedmooie "De kleine prins" - was naast journalist en auteur ook piloot en actief bij de Franse luchtmacht in de Tweede Wereldoorlog.

In Oorlogsvlieger is de rode draad een verkenningsvlucht boven vijandelijke stelling die moet uitgevoerd worden. De oorlog is op dat moment voor de Fransen al zo goed als een verloren zaak waardoor de vlucht niet alleen zo goed als zelfmoord lijkt, maar ook nog eens compleet zinloos is.
Wat van dit boek een pareltje maakt, is dat de auteur het verloop van de vlucht als kapstok gebruikt om de twijfels, visie en gedachtes van de soldaat/piloot/mens uit te werken en weer te geven.

Daar komt de kracht van zijn schrijverschap en nog meer van zijn denken naar voren. Tijdens de vlucht probeert de Saint-Exupéry zichzelf een plaats in het geheel te geven. Hij ontdekt dat de angst bij de verwachting hoort, want eens hij zijn opdracht aan het uitvoeren is, handelt hij efficiënt, doelgericht en is er voor de angst geen ruimte meer.
Als hij met zijn boordschutter en navigator dan toch levend lijkt terug te keren uit de beschietingen met luchtafweer en ontmoeting met vijandige jagers, vallen bij de piloot/auteur de schellen van de ogen. Op heldere en uitmuntende wijze geeft de Saint-Exupéry zijn plaats in het geheel mee en schrijft hij een filosofisch betoog over de rol en verantwoordelijkheid van het individu in het geheel (de samenleving) maar evenzeer over de verplichtingen van die samenleving ten opzichte van dat individu heeft en waarom dat dreigt mis te lopen. Het draait er om dat we ons gelijk moeten kunnen voelen in iets dat ons overstijgt. Het is zinloos dat ik dat probeer te verhelderen, maar wat dacht je van:

"De aanhangers van de nieuwe godsdienst zulle er niet mee akkoord gaan dat een aantal mijnwerkers voor de redding van één enkele bedolven mijnwerker het leven waagt. (...) Het welzijn van de Gemeenschap bekijken ze in getallen - en de getallen zullen hen beheersen. Op die manier zullen ze het vermogen verliezen zichzelf te overstijgen. En daardoor zullen ze verafschuwen wat van hen verschilt, omdat ze niets hebben, boven het ik uit, om mee samen te vallen. Iedere gewoonte, ieder ras, iedere denkwijze die hun vreemd is, zullen ze onvermijdelijk als krenkend zien."

of

"Ik geloof dat de cultus van het Universele de particuliere rijkdommen verheft en verbindt - en de enige mogelijke orde gestalte geeft, namelijk die van het leven. In een boom heerst orde, ondanks de wortels die verschillen van de takken."

en zo zou ik er nog ettelijke kunnen noteren. Goed gedaan, Antoine.

Confronterend ook dit boek te lezen met in het achterhoofd de wetenschap dat de Saint-Exupéry van een soortgelijke vlucht - boven Duitsland als voorbereiding op het eindoffensief van de geallieerden - op 31 juli 1944 nooit meer terugkeerde.

(hmm, zou ik toch 5 sterren geven?) ( )
  GertDeBie | Mar 22, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Flight to Arras is a memoir by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Written in 1942, it recounts his role in the Armée de l'Air as pilot of a reconnaissance plane during the Battle of France in 1940.
The book condenses months of flights into a single terrifying mission over the town of Arras. Saint-Exupéry survived the French defeat but refused to join the Royal Air Force over political differences with de Gaulle and in late 1940 went to New York where he accepted the National Book Award for Wind, Sand and Stars.
  MasseyLibrary | Mar 6, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine deAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
D'Achille, GinoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montfort, FritzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viruly, A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The story of Saint-Exupery's dramatic reconnaissance mission from Orly over Nazi occupied France to Arras in 1940.

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Penguin Australia

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