Monthly Book Group's Reviews > Wind, Sand, and Stars

Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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's review
Jan 19, 2014

really liked it

We were agreed that the passages of storytelling were particularly powerful. In these the author recounted atmospheric tales of aviation, the desert and war in which individuals lived on the edge and found themselves through battling against the immensity and dangers of the natural world. All the episodes were intensely imagined and realised. One of the reasons the proposer of the book had been attracted to it was his experience of living in deserts, and he felt it also accurately portrayed the Arab character. One of the episodes involved a kind of "magic realism", similar to that seen in South American authors. The book was weaker in the middle section where it had a long section of meditation which was not leavened with narrative content.

More controversial were the meditative/philosophical sections, in which Saint-Exupery sought to extract the significance for life and self-realization of these extreme situations. Some felt that he identified much of great truth - for example the way in which people bond in the face of adversity. Others felt that his was a partial and upper class view, missing out the importance of male/female relationships, and patronising the masses - such as the Polish migrant workers discussed at the end, who did not have the opportunity for such heroism. We noted some influence of existentialism, for example in his discussion of what freedom meant for the freed slave. Some felt that Saint-Exupery was inconsistent in his philosophical positions, although others felt that this was irrelevant, as essentially he was writing a work of prose poetry, not of philosophy.

Some debate was caused by the use of two different translations - the original 1939 Lewis Galantiere version, authorised by Saint-Exupery himself, and the 1995 version by William Rees. A brief comparison of the translations suggested to us that the flowing and somewhat flowery language of Galantiere seemed best suited to the evocative poetic parts of the text, while the concision of Rees dealt better with the meditation....

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