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Book Review: Terre Des Hommes (English Translation: Wind, Sand and Stars)

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The book: “Terre des hommes”, or “Wind, sand and stars” in the English translation of the title, is the author’s personal account of numerous adventures during his service, mostly as a commercial airplane pilot, while the last chapter of the boo

In the words of the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, nothing is more futile than being a bullfighter. What he did not like in a “matador de toros”, was his attitude toward risk, although the author himself was in one of the riskiest jobs of his time: he was an air pilot in the early days of aviation, a real pioneer in the dawn of a new era of networking the globe through air traffic routes.

The reader of the book would expect a rigid and impassionate narrative of the technical details associated with flying an airplane, in the course of various events in the writer’s flying career, mostly due to the fact that pilots are highly technically orientated professionals. They are also individuals with a strong sense of focus on their purpose and aim. Undoubtedly, aviation is the main point of reference in their lives; most of the time they are restricted in everything that is related to flying an airplane.

Yet, Antoine de Saint-Exupery manages to illustrate a fine skill to look underneath the surface of real-life episodes and avoid banality in his illustration of incidents. If it wasn’t so, his writing would be suitable only for news headlines.

Of course, nobody would argue against the fact that the loss of a pilot’s life on the Andes mountain range during a mission is a sad event.

However, in his attempt to come to terms with that, Saint-Exupery, apart from expressing his personal feelings, goes further, taking this opportunity to make a parallelism to man’s continuous and eternal fight against the nature’s forces. And what’s more, he makes one more step forwards, in regards to this age-long process, and states the point that this is in fact, a combat against our own weaknesses and bad habits as human beings.

Saint-Exupery was the exact opposite of being a person who was hiding behind the safety and security of his office desk, following the same schedule, day-in day-out, throughout his working life, just like a well-lubricated axle in the dominant bureaucratic structure we often call “the System”; not at all. He strongly believed that the human race had to be liberated from any form of material and spiritual constraints that may keep us back from progressing into more knowledgeable and self-contained beings, reaching a little more every time, to higher levels of existence.

On top of endless courage and the willingness to lead an active and meaningful life, an unlimited, genuine and not based purely on personal interest attitude, towards learning better and getting closer to other humans and the nature itself, would be best our alliances in this effort, towards reaching a higher level in the sky, just like an airplane pilot.

Wind, sand and stars (Terre des hommes)

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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