Antoine de Saint-Exupery is the author of my favorite book, The Little Prince, and my favorite quote on love:
“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
So when my friend Catherine lent me this biography I was very excited. I knew a little about him, some of which came from memoirs of his widow (The Tale of the Rose), and it did not paint him in the best light as a husband (to say the least). This fascinated me given the thoughts expressed in The Little Prince and my favorite quote.
This biography was full of information, and the author had clearly gone through mountains of Saint-Ex’s writings from his life. The details were the strength of this book, but in some ways its downfall. Sometimes the details stretched to the periphery. Aviation was a very important part of Saint-Exupery’s life, and while I appreciated the attention paid to it, it was tedious learning about the airlines and planes when I wanted to be learning about the man himself.
My only other complaint of this book, was the author’s adoration of Saint-Exupery. Saint-Exupery lived a life surrounded by people that adored him, and clearly endulged him frequently. His behavior was often selfish and inconsiderate. He woke his friends at all hours, demanding they listen to him or read his works. He whined and complained consistently about his life and health, and his emotions were up and down more than the stock market. His biographer portrays all of this as part of his charm, which perhaps it was. He had an extremely tumultuous relationship with his wife, Conseulo. It’s clear from the writings (especially combined with the view point of her memoirs) that both Mr. and Mrs. Saint-Exupery were responsible for this. Neither were faithful to each other, and they both desperately needed to be the center of attention. In the end, the telling of his life was not as good as it could have been if the author could have been less enamored with her subject.
As for my take-away from the reading… there is a part of me that wishes I didn’t know about Saint-Exupery the human, and that he could go on living in my imagination as this insightful speaker of the heart. But maybe that is the lesson, we are not this and we are not that. We are both this and that, and that is what makes us human.
Overall, I give it a B+ or maybe even an A- because I, like the author, also adore the subject in spite of it all.