By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry • Read by Nicholas Boulton

“‘At the heart of mystery'”

In the 1930s and 40s Saint-Exupery was in the French Airforce flying flimsy unreliable little planes across frequently treacherous airmail routes over the oceans and Africa and South America. Land of Men (a direct translation of the original title Terre des hommes) is his account of his 1930s experiences, but not so much the narrative of them, as an extended meditation on ‘the heart of mystery’ which he finds whilst alone in the cockpit at the ‘whim of the winds’, the ‘something vast’ he sees in the corridors of moonlight beyond this flawed, earthly life.

There are tales and dramas as well, such as the account of his near-death in the Sahara after his plane came down. After days existing on only sandy dew, of tantalising mirages and with his rasping throat almost closed, he is saved by a Bedouin on a camel, an ‘aureole of charity’ shimmering in the desert sand, who gives him water. He arranges to buy a black slave and ensures that he is returned to his family in Agadir, and he laments the loss of pilots, his comrades which nothing can ever replace. At a local dwelling the lively daughters of the place tell him not to worry about the strange movements under the table – it is only the adders which live in the house walls! Saint-Exupery is also an acute observer of creatures and birds, like the desert fox which carefully removes only one nut from each branch.

That Land of Men was Saint-Exupery’s original title suggests the importance he placed on his universal message. From the perspective of his plane buffeted by the turbulent winds, he could see people as crushed by modern life and their pursuit of money. He wanted a better life for them, closer to the ‘invisible riches’ and serenity which he had found amongst the stars.

Nicholas Boulton presents Saint-Exupery’s musings beautifully, his depth of tone reflecting the depth of the author’s thoughts and feelings. Ukemi Audiobooks has saved another classic for posterity!

– Rachel Redford, Audible