BBC Radio 3, 26 December 2010
Presented by screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, this documentary
explored the life of pilot and writer Antoine de Exupery, whose career began and ended in the air. He made his last flight
on 31 July 1944, when his small P38 Lightning reconnaissance plane vanished over his beloved France, while he was photographing
With the help of readings from Exupery's own work (read by David Morrissey), we learned
that he was a self-willed man, with an unquenchable thirst for adventure; even in the most trying circumstances
he tried to explore "the true face of the earth." He was interested in the universe as a whole, exploring it for new
visions of humanity, even if such visions only really existed in his mind. Hence his fondness for writing fairy-tales such
as "The Little Prince," which still remains his most enduring work.
Exupery lived in a world of "strange magic," in which notions of pain and suffering
simply did not exist. He refused to remain "a prisoner of his own body," even though it became more and more fragile as a
result of numerous plane-crashes. By 1940, already ageing, and with a broken body, he flew several reconnaissance
missions as France fell to the Germans. For this he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Exupery believed it was his sworn
duty to fight Fascism in any way he could: when exiled to the United States, he wrote his famous book Wind,
Sand and Stars (adapted earlier this year on Radio 4), that depicted his experiences of discovering new frontiers and
spreading the word of democracy.
At the same time the programme suggested that Exupery had a kind of death-wish; despite
his achievements, he knew he would die young. The strains of Faure's Requiem trilled in the background, as we heard
once again about his fateful last flight, and how the wreckage of his plane lay undiscovered until 2000. But what a life it
had been; inhabiting a world equally comprised of fantasy and truth, he opened up new vistas of thinking to an astonished
audience on both sides of the Atlantic, both through his travel work and "The Little Prince."
This fascinating Radio 3 Sunday Feature was produced by Mark Burman.