A short work by the author of the famed "The Little Prince," its 229 small pages illustrate de Saint-Exupery's brilliance in combining his life experiences with interesting stories and soaring analogies. His own experience as a mail pilot in the '20s and '30s over the Mediterranean and French Africa form much of this work. He writes of being forced down in the desert with mechanical problems and trying to survive both the desert as well as hostile Moor tribesmen and captures how a black slave must feel in servitude. The image of a corresponding fairy tale as the plane flew in and out of cloud banks is vivid.
Later, he recounts segments from the Spanish Civil War where he writes the battle is that "your ideas are not our ideas" as a brutal war between Spanish citizens rages and "peasants are evacuated as their deserted village lay drowned in the Spanish Civil War." A young captain on one side gives a painful picture of what it's like to prepare to fight, small town by small town, and to die.
The promise of religion as a "sort of fulfillment" is captured along with descriptions of a "shabby, hearty demagogue" who whips up the population. One cannot help but harken to the current situation in the U.S. with this image of a hundred years ago. At one point near the end of the book, poor Polish folk who are exiting France on the lowest berth trains are described, and a lovely innocent new-born child on his mother's breast is described as "a new Mozart" in terms of potential, but with the reality of very limited prospects.
Saint-Exupery must have been a genius to capture the combination of the real-world along with the analogous broader scope. This short book should be on everyone's reading list.