Wind, Sand and Stars
Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Académie Française, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying. Translated by Lewis Galantière.
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A memoir is a type of literary non-fiction. It is written by a real-life person who wants to share his reflections on a specific time in his life. This is different from an autobiography, which is a story about a person's entire life up to that point. To learn more about this genre of writing, watch the video clip below. (This annotation contains a video)
I. The Craft
Don't be confused with Saint-Exupery's use of the word 'ship.' In this case, ship is interchangeable with airplane.
The image below features the line of the mail route of Aeropostale. Toulouse and Dakar (in present day Senegal) are points along the route. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the effect of the elders upon the student pilots?
Henri Guillaumet was a French aviator who was considered to be one of the greatest of his time. He established many new routes in his time with Aeropostale and eventually became the director of Air France. He died in 1940 when his plane was shot down by Italian troops. (This annotation contains an image)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery uses a lot of figurative language in his writing. This gives his writing a lyrical quality to it. Different types of figurative language that you will encounter in this text include: simile, metaphor, personification, imagery, and hyperbole. To learn more about figurative language, watch the video clip below. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the effect of the metaphor in the highlighted section?
Why is Guillaumet giving Saint-Exupery such a detailed lesson about the land?
Watch the following video on symbolism. As you read, think about the objects, events and people that Saint-Exupery includes in his memoir. For example, the last page or so has mentioned an omnibus (which in this case is actually a bus). What events and important information occur in the bus? What might the bus symbolize? (This annotation contains a video)
Which pair of words from the text best set the tone of this section?
Saint-Exupery uses a lot of poetic language in this text. Here, he is relating to his readers that he has gone through his first flight, his initiation into the group of courageous and adventurous men who are the Aeropostale.
Saint-Expupery's descriptions of nature throughout this text portray a sense of authority and power. Pay attention to these descriptions as you read. Why do you think the author viewed nature this way? (This annotation contains an image)
Saint-Exupery writes of a few occasions in which pilots feel they have slipped into another world or an alternative reality. Explain how he uses figurative language to develop this perspective.
Saint-Exupery's reaction to the disciplinary note reveals that he ________________.
Saint-Exupery mentions Sagittarius and the Great Bear because these are constellations that pilots could use to navigate the skies. These references serve to closer associate the work of pilots to the heavens and the stars. (This annotation contains an image)
Because Saint-Exupery begins this memoir from a specific time in his past and then skips back and forth in time, the plot line may be different from what you have experienced in other literature. In order to keep yourself on track, provide a brief summary of the first chapter here. Be sure to highlight the basics of the exposition: who, what, when, where, and why.
II. The Men
The Moors were Medieval Muslim people from the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta. Moors, in this case is being used as a way to refer to any Muslim or North African tribes-people. The painting below depicts Othello and Desdemona from Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello. Othello was referred to as a Moor. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the author describe Mermoz's task?
The theme is the overall message that the author wants to convey to the reader. You can identify the theme by paying attention to how the characters interact with each other or change throughout the text. The characters' reactions to certain events is also important in identifying the theme. Click the link below to read about the most common literary themes. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain Saint-Exupery's use of a metaphor to develop an important theme. Be sure to comment on the effectiveness of the metaphor as well as to name the theme that is present.
This painting by Phillipe Mischke depicts Mermoz and another pilot from the time period. How does the author use this chapter to explore the nature of friendship? (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video below to learn more about structure. As you continue reading, consider what structural choices the author has made, and what effect they have on your reading of this memoir. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following literary devices does the author use in the highlighted selection?
Saint-Exupery describes Guillaumet's injuries as the loss of "the beautiful tools of your work." Guillaumet's hands and feet have been badly damaged by frostbite. Guillaumet's injuries are not just tragic because of the pain, but because they might prohibit him from flying again.
Which of the following best identifies the characteristic that helped Guillaumet survive?
Which literary device does Guillaumet use to express his "pride in [his] honest tool"?
As you continue reading, consider Saint-Exupery's definition of what it means to be a man. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American author, remarked in an essay called Self-Reliance that "whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." Does this fall in line with Saint-Exupery's definition of a man? (This annotation contains an image)
This chapter has been about the characteristics of the men who fly for the Aeropostale. By relating the story of Mermoz's flight through uncharted territory, Saint-Exupery is showing his readers just how impressive his flight teachers were.
III. The Tool
Point of view, as a structural choice, refers to the author's use of names and pronouns (also called 'person'). It is most common to write from 1st and 3rd person point of view. First person would be from the narrator's own perspective and uses pronouns such as "I". Third person includes pronouns such as "he," "she" and "they" as well as the use of character names. Less common is the use of the second person pronoun "you" in a direct address to the reader. This is precisely what Saint-Exupery does in the opening section of this chapter. Consider the effect this has on you as a reader. Continue to look for point of view as you read and think about how it impacts the tone of the text.
Saint-Exupery has compared the constant whirring of a motor to the beating of the human heart. Explain the use of this comparison in the memoir so far. Specifically, comment on the importance of this line: "Thus, precisely because it is perfect the machine dissembles its own existence instead of forcing itself upon our notice."
Saint-Exupery's use of language here reveals his Euro-Centric perspective and experience. Famous for its conquering and colonization of Africa, the "New World" (the Americas) and even parts of Asia, the big European powers (Great Britain, Spain, France, Denmark) often developed perspectives of themselves as bringing light to the dark spaces of the world. The author's comment that "The time has now come when we must be colonists, must make this house habitable which is still without character," reveals his perspective and privileged point of view.
Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian author, was quoted in The Paris Review as saying "I believe in the complexity of the human story, and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, ‘this is it.’ Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing … this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told: from many different perspectives.” You are now reading a memoir from the perspective of one man, a French aviator. Choose one of Saint-Exupery's statements from the text and explain how his unique point of view has impacted his experience of the world. Be sure to use evidence from the text in your analysis.
IV. The Elements
What is the effect of the simile in the highlighted sentence?
A longeron, or stringer, is a thin strip of metal that is used to control aerodynamics of the plane. Longerons are located in the wings and the cockpit. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the "monstrous cough" that the author mentions?
The Southern Andes are a dramatic mountain range and include some of the world's highest peaks. (This annotation contains an image)
Saint-Exupery's description of the loss of feeling in his hands seems perhaps more long and drawn out than it needs to be. Think about the focus on his hands and the choice to write so much about them. What might they have symbolized to the narrator? (This annotation contains an image)
Consider the stories of both Guillaumet's and Saint-Exupery's close calls with death while flying. How do the two men's stories compare? What do you learn about each man based on his reaction to the near-death experience?
Section One Quiz
V. The Plane and the Planet
How does Saint-Exupery describe Earth?
The Straits of Magellan cut through the Southern tips of Argentina and Chile. The author is explaining that from the air, Earth seems a bit more insignificant than it does to those on the ground. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the meaning of the word truncated as it is used in the highlighted sentence?
In the highlighted section, Saint-Exupery builds upon his already established perspective as a conqueror and explorer. Consider the language he chooses to use and how it exposes his point of view.
At this point, Saint-Exupery describes a dream that he remembers having after waking up in the Sahara atop a dune. The dream has to do with sleep itself and the safe memory of his old housekeeper mending sheets and listening to his adventure stories. Why did the author include this dream at this point in his memoir? What does it reveal about him?
How does Saint Exupery characterize his old housekeeper?
The title of this chapter is "Oasis". An oasis is a place in a desert that has water and provides a respite from the heat and dryness. An oasis is typically a paradise, but this oasis is a bit run-down. What are the characteristics that make this place an oasis?
How does the setting of this chapter contribute to the mood or tone? Be sure to describe the mood and to provide examples in your analysis.
Dreams have been a prominent feature of this memoir. Though memoirs are considered non-fiction and are accounts of one's own experiences, Saint-Exupery often blurs the line between memory, dream and reality. What effect does this knowledge have on your understanding of the memoir and the reliability of memories?
VII. Men of the Desert
Antoine de Saint Exupery was, himself, a man of moods. Growing up in an aristocratic family, Saint-Exupery suffered the loss of his brother at a young age and failed to get into the French Navy twice. Though he enjoyed success as an author and aviator, his personal life was complex. He married Consuelo Suncin, but was known to have had a number of affairs. Saint-Exupery disappeared somewhere over the Mediterranean in 1944 near the end of WWII. He had been commissioned to collect reconnaissance on German troop movements. There are no certain answers about his death or the reason for his crash. Though artifacts have been found, his final moments remain a mystery. It is haunting that he writes here about the idea of the aging world when he himself would never live to be old. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted section contains __________.
How could you describe Saint- Exupery's relationship with nature?
Saint-Exupery and the sergeant are not really talking about cousins, but girlfriends that they visit in different locations. Though this is not stated explicitly in the text, which details in the conversation help the reader to make this inference?
Which detail best reveals the conditions of life at Port Etienne?
Saint-Exupery's description of the Moors (Muslim people) is fairly negative here. Think about the words he uses such as "forbidden," "mystery," "massacre," "slavery," and "contempt." Again, the author's experience and cultural perspective is that of the colonizer. He even mentions a desire to "tame" the Moors, as if they were animals.
One organization translates the Koran as saying: " (Know this,) so that you may not despair over whatever (good) has escaped you nor exult (unduly) over whatever (good) has come to you: for, God does not love any of those who, out of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner." (You may view other translated parts of the text here: http://www.al-islam.org/excerpts-from-the-holy-quran-an-eternal-guidance-to-mankind/man-his-nature#h... ). Explain how Saint-Exupery's position and point of view might have influenced his representation of these people. Consider this selection from the Koran as well as Saint-Exupery's memoir in your response.
Water is a powerful thing in the desert, so much so that Saint-Exupery describes the exodus (or mass movement) of people and animals in the desert to places where a recent rain might have prompted the growth of some plant life. This comparison of Port Etienne to the waterfall in Savoie reveals how geography can dictate values and experiences.
Which of the following words best describes Saint-Exupery's portrayal of Allah (the Muslim God)?
Kemal and Mouyan are planning to head into battle with Bonnafous and the next razzia so they offer their possessions to Saint-Exupery. Despite the author's negative portrayal of these "Moors," he also reveals fairly kind and sincere behaviors on their part. However, much like the story of El Mammun, there is a feeling that each interaction holds the capacity for a negative turn.
According to Saint-Exupery, what do the desires for women and war have in common?
A dromedary is a camel (also called the Arabian or Indian camel). Dromedaries have one hump, while Bactrian camels have two. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following could replace the word despoiled as it is used in the sentence?
Saint-Exupery's description of how slavery affects a man is incredibly detailed for one who has not experienced this himself. In the following clip, a recent film explores the similar (true) story of Solomon Northrup, a free American who was sold into slavery. As you watch the clip, consider which reactions and expressions mirror the description of the slave in Saint-Exupery's story. How are they different? (This annotation contains a video)
Consider the video clip you just watched as well as other memoirs or accounts of the experience of slavery. How do the author's representations of slaves and their inner thoughts or desires compare with the accounts of slaves themselves? Cite evidence from the text and video clip to support your response.
Pesetas were once the currency of Spain. In 2002, they were replaced with the Euro. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the pilots' act of charity reveal about them?
Agadir is now a major city in Morocco, a country in North Africa. (This annotation contains an image)
In the end, what did "Bark" (Mohammed) want?
Section Two Quiz
VIII. Prisoner of the Sand
The story that follows chronicles Saint-Exupery's great accident in December of 1935. He and his co-pilot, Andre Prevot, were actually trying to break the speed record in a Paris to Saigon race. As you read this chapter, consider the ways in which Saint-Exupery builds suspense and excitement even though you know the eventual outcome of the accident.
Though Simoon is the name of this plane, the word simoon means "a dusty and dry wind that sweeps across the Sahara and the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula." Explain why you think the plane was named Simoon.
A hydroplane is a plane equipped to land on the water. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following words help to develop the tone of the highlighted paragraph?
What is it that Saint-Exupery is renouncing?
Watch the following video describing alliteration. See if you can pick out which beginning sound is being repeated in the highlighted section. What is the effect of this choice? (This annotation contains a video)
This may be a reference to Saint-Exupery's most famous piece of writing. The Little Prince is a philosophical novella seen mostly as a children's book. In the story, the narrator crashes his plane in the desert where he meets a little prince from another planet. The little prince relates his life experiences to the narrator as he tries to repair his plane. Saint-Exupery based much of the novella off the experiences he relates in this section of his memoir. The novella explores themes of brotherhood, love, human nature, and imagination. (This annotation contains an image)
What thought gives Saint-Exupery a sense of safety while flying through the dark night?
Begin the video below at the 5 minute mark to learn more about flight instruments. You need only watch for about 1 minute to learn how the altimeter works. (This annotation contains a video)
Which literary devices does Saint-Exupery use in the highlighted section? What effect do they have on the overall tone of the scene?
Saint-Exupery understands that without water, the men will die of dehydration in the intense desert heat. The fact that he cannot locate a single blade of grass or other sign of life tells him that not many things can survive in this environment. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following emotions does Prevot's statement express?
A pyre is a great stack of combustible materials that are set on fire. There are many symbolic meanings to a pyre. Funeral pyres are set to burn the body and memorialize the dead. Pyres have also been used to burn dissidents at the stake and send messages through light and smoke. Considering the material being used for this desert pyre, which of the symbolic meanings is applicable? (This annotation contains an image)
What is Prevot bawling about?
The Libyan desert is very arid with minimal amounts of water. Bedouins are predominantly desert-dwelling Arabic people. In milder conditions, people can survive three days without water, but here in this intensely dry heat, Saint-Exupery reports that the time may be shorter. (This annotation contains an image)
What might the fennec symbolize to Saint-Exupery?
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves are marauders from a famous folk tale. They steal and loot all sorts of riches and wealth. This reference to Ali Baba is known as an allusion. An allusion is a reference to characters or events that exist outside of the text but add some layer of meaning when the reference is understood. What does this reference mean in the context of this memoir?
Visit the website below to read the parable of the Prodigal Son. Compare the two stories and explain why Saint-Exupery might have used this allusion here. Cite evidence from both texts to support your response.http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15%3A11-32&version=ESV
The title of this chapter is "Prisoner of the Sand." In this anecdote, Saint-Exupery reflects on the supposed feelings and thoughts going through a real prisoner's mind before execution. The story reminds the reader of the title and shows us all that prisons can take many shapes.
Which of the following could be used to replace the word keener as it is used in this sentence?
Saint-Exupery's reassurances that he is thinking clearly are reminiscent of the narrator of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart." In this short story, a mad man who has committed murder assures the reader that he is certainly not insane since he has had the wherewithal to plan and carry out the murder. How does the use of these scenes, in which the speaker is unsure of his own sanity, create suspense and tension in the story?
Which of the following statements contributes to the developing theme of imprisonment?
Whose eyes is Saint-Exupery referring to?
Here the author calls into mind the title of this memoir and reminds readers that one of the great themes he is exploring is the struggle between man and nature.
In the highlighted section, notice how Saint-Exupery explains that he has moved past hopelessness and despair and into something else. By using the metaphor "I am the desert," Saint-Exupery expresses to his reader a feeling that most have likely not experienced: a place beyond desperation.
Why does Saint-Exupery believe that even if they have been found they may not be saved?
Though Saint-Exupery has painted a somewhat negative picture of Muslims throughout his text, it is interesting that, in the end, his salvation has come at the hands of a Muslim. How does he work to reconcile this in the final section?
IX. Barcelona and Madrid (1936)
Based on your understanding of paradoxes and the examples given at the start of this chapter, which of the following is not a paradox?
What can you infer happens to the man confronted by the troops?
The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 and ended in 1939. The Fascists (known as Nationalists) were lead by the General Francisco Franco to overthrow the democratically run Spanish Republican party. Franco and the fascists were notorious for targeting and attacking civilians and for their staunchly anti-communist views. Franco was supported in his efforts by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
The image below is of a famous painting by Spanish Artist Pablo Picasso. It is a painting of the town of Guernica which was ravaged by bombs during the Spanish Civil War. Many innocent civilians were murdered. This painting has become a well-known protest against the brutality of war. As you read, consider how this abstract depiction captures or displays emotions differently than the author's words do. (This annotation contains an image)
Compare and contrast the scene of war and loss in Pablo Picasso's Guernica to the descriptions of violence that Saint-Exupery gives from his time in Spain during the Civil War. View the image in the link below if you need more time to look at it. http://www.oneonta.edu/faculty/farberas/arth/Images/110images/sl24_images/guernica_details/guernica_...
Basil Zaharoff was a powerful Greek arms dealer who is described as one of the richest men in the world. He died at the start of the Spanish Civil War. (This annotation contains an image)
What do the Anti-Fascists (Republicans or Communists) think is the marker of a Fascist?
Saint-Exupery is often criticized for his ambivalent stance on Communism and Fascism. Though he has written essays which claim he was a Socialist, his intentions and actions were questioned by some. In this excerpt, Saint-Exupery is describing his efforts and assignments to rescue targeted "Fascists" from imminent death.
Which of the following is a possible interpretation of the phrase "do his sister in the eye"?
This sense of forewarning is reminiscent of the earlier occasion when Saint-Exupery predicted the sand storm from the arrival of the dragonfly. What do these moments reveal about the writer?
What is the meaning of the word interminable?
Madrid is the capital of Spain. (This annotation contains an image)
Think of a time when tragedy has brought a community or family closer together. How does that experience support the ideas that Saint-Exupery is describing here?
Here, Saint-Exupery reveals that at the heart of a civil war lies a conflict between compatriots. These soldiers are fighting their neighbors and country men. The author's use of dialogue, both in the actual calls made from one side to the other and between the symbolic gesture of lighting a match and firing a bullet highlight this particularly tragic reality of a civil war.
What literary device does the author use to convey the way the messages were sent back and forth from one side to the other?
Watch the following video on personification. What is being personified in the highlighted section. (This annotation contains a video)
How does Saint-Exupery characterize men in the face of battle?
Clogs is another word for shoes. Saint-Exupery uses the objects that the Sergeant wears to help the reader understand more about him.
Which of the following accurately describes the sergeant?
Visit the following website to learn more about the Sargasso Sea as well as the significance of its mention in this memoir. (This annotation contains a link)
Why does Saint-Exupery include this section about the Sergeant? What theme does his story develop?
Saint-Exupery's lofty philosophical writing here tries to get to the bottom of some idea of what truth is. In the end, he ends up deciding that all truths are relative and so all truths are, in fact, true. How does this compare with your community's beliefs or ideas about truth?
How does Exupery define prison?
Exupery's philosophy here has been largely influenced by the idea of nature and the circle of life. Much like the poppy whose organs the corporal is teaching the soldiers about, we are but pieces of a larger picture (according to Exupery). Only when one recognizes one's place does he or she cease to fear death.
What belief allows Exupery to experience the death knell of the peasant woman as a "tender chant of joy"?
This painting is called The Third Class Carriage by Honore Daumier. How does this painting differ from or support Saint-Exupery's description of the riders of the third class? (This annotation contains an image)
Now that you have read Antoine de Saint Exupery's memoir, consider his final anecdote about the "mutant rose" that is the child on the train car. What beliefs and philosophies of Saint-Exupery's do you think led to this reaction to the boy with the beautiful face?
Section Three Quiz