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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but unforgettable
A short but searing personal account of a suicidal reconnaissance mission flown as France was collapsing before the Nazi surprise attack. From the vantage point of this short flight, Saint Exupery saw the whole tragedy: the population of the North taking to the roads south, unable to bear the repetition of the pain that they had suffered less than a quarter of a century...
Published on 4 Mar. 2005 by Christopher Chinnery

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT EVERYONE'S CUP OF TEA
I know that I'm a lone voice here but unless you are into lots of introspection and deep thoughts on the meaning of life and all that, then I venture to suggest that you'll find this one boring book and probably not the `flying' book you were expecting - least it wasn't what I thought I was getting.

As others here have said, the book is about a French airforce...
Published on 25 Mar. 2012 by A Happy Chappie


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but unforgettable, 4 Mar. 2005
By 
Christopher Chinnery (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
A short but searing personal account of a suicidal reconnaissance mission flown as France was collapsing before the Nazi surprise attack. From the vantage point of this short flight, Saint Exupery saw the whole tragedy: the population of the North taking to the roads south, unable to bear the repetition of the pain that they had suffered less than a quarter of a century earlier, and the utter impossibility of getting any help to the elderly reservists that faced the blitzkrieg.
To read this book is to understand two things: how the view of the pilot can increase his sympathy rather than his detachment, and what the collapse of France was like. How a country with rough parity of equipment and forces could be so quickly defeated by a neighbour is a matter for military historians, but as for what it was like to be on the losing side, I can not think of a better account.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flight, and life through the eyes of a superb writer-pilot, 21 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I bought this book on a wet Cornish holiday in '63 because it had a crude scrawl of an aeroplane on the cover, and I like flight. I little dreamed that by such pure chance I had picked up a masterpiece, but I had. St. Exupery was one of those superb freaks that - all too infrequently - nature can produce: a man of action with the mind of a philospher and the soul of a poet, with the ability to express them all with lucid clarity. He was said to be a terrible pilot, and intellectuals will pooh-pooh his 'metaphysics'. Forget that. When he disappeared, flying reconnaisance over the Med. during the war, we more normal mortals lost a marvellous example of how fine humans can be when given the chance, and humanity lost one of its graces. He was only forty or so, and had he lived he would have been recognised as one of the greats both of literature and of cultivated thought. As it is we have only these few little jewels of books by which we can appreciate his qualities and perhaps realise that we, too, can be so much better than we are.
'Flight to Arrass' is an account of a reconnaisance flight over occupied France, probably based on his personal experience, first at high altitude, then lethally low. In this extraordinary pilot-writer's mind, potential sudden death becomes transmuted into a magical account of memories which provide beauty, humour and wisdom, and his extraordinary ability as a writer puts you in the pilot's seat as you have never been before. You live with him the peril of being there, and you enter the wonderful world of his mentality in his detached response to terror and imminent abrupt extinction. All his books give you immediate access to a world of experiences which you otherwise will never meet, seen through eyes of unique maturity and intelligence.
Listen: in the same way that flowers are their own best advertisement, St. Ex's books are their own best recommendation. For me, 'Flight to Arrass' is one of his best... You owe yourself contact with this better example of humanity. The work of the translator in the case of St. Ex. is also as near perfection as you will find - A pleasure to read. If you have not read any of his books, then you are fortunate; this magical world as seen through his eyes is waiting all fresh for your discovery. Don't wait. Buy it now. I recommend it to you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis Galantiere x William Rees Translations, 5 Nov. 2010
By 
This review is from: Flight to Arras (Paperback)
I would like to point out that Galantiere's translation falls short in terms of the target language i.e. English, particularly if compared to William Rees' rendition, which verges on perfection. I have read both translations, Galantiere's ten years ago. I have examined it again recently, after parting with my copy of William Rees' translation on behalf of a friend. There is absolutely no going back to it after Rees'. You cannot identify Saint-Ex's voice. The flow of the narrative is faulty even to one acquainted with the French language. I think Rees' has done a wonderful job, recovering the clarity of a most gifted man's mind and helping non-speakers of the French language to recognize Flight to Arras for what it really is: a masterpiece.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating account of flying and life by a superb author, 1 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
I bought this book on a wet Cornish holiday in '63 because it had a crude scawl of an aeroplane on the cover, and I like flight. I little dreamed that by pure chance I had picked up a masterpiece, but I had. St. Exupery was one of those superb freaks that - all too infrequently - nature can produce: a man of action with the mind of a philospher and the soul of a poet, with the ability to express them all with lucid clarity.
He was said to be a terrible pilot, and intellectuals will pooh-pooh his 'metaphysics'. Forget that. When he disappeared, flying reconnaisance over the Med. during the war, we more normal mortals lost a marvellous example of how fine humans can be when given the chance, and humanity lost one of its graces. He was only forty or so, and had he lived he would have been recognised as one of the greats both of literature and of cultivated thought. As it is we have only these few little jewels of books by which we can appreciate his qualities and perhaps realise that we, too, can be so much better than we are.
'Flight to Arrass' is an account of a reconnaisance flight over occupied France, probably based on his personal experience, first at high altitude, then lethally low. In this extraordinary pilot-writer's mind, potential sudden death becomes transmuted into a magical account of memories which provide beauty, humour and wisdom, and his extraordinary ability as a writer puts you in the pilot's seat as you have never been before. You live with him the peril of being there, and you enter the wonderful world of his mentality in his detached response to terror and imminent abrupt extinction. All his books give you immediate access to a world of experiences which you otherwise will never meet, seen through eyes of maturity and intelligence.
Listen, in the same way that flowers are their own best advertisement, St. Ex's books are their own best recommendation. For me, 'Flight to Arrass' is one of his best, and it will cost you less than a cheap lunch. You owe yourself contact with this better example of humanity. The work of the translator in the case of St. Ex. is also as near perfection as you will find. If you have not read any of his books, then lucky you, in that this magical world as seen through his eyes is waiting all fresh for your discovery. Don't wait. Buy it. I recommend it to you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surrender Monkeys?, 14 July 2003
By 
Christopher Chinnery (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A short but searing personal account of a suicidal reconnaissance mission flown as France was collapsing before the Nazi surprise attack. From the vantage point of this short flight, Saint Exupery saw the whole tragedy: the population of the North taking to the roads south, unable to bear the repetition of the pain that they had suffered less than a quarter of a century earlier, and the utter impossibility of getting any help to the elderly reservists that faced the blitzkrieg.
To read this book is to understand two things: how the view of the pilot can increase his sympathy rather than his detachment, and what the collapse of France was like. How a country with rough parity of equipment and forces could be so quickly defeated by a neighbour is a matter for military historians, but as for what it was like to be on the losing side, I can not think of a better account.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A philosophical personal view of combat, and defeat..., 24 Oct. 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Saint-Exupéry is best known for his children's classic The Little Prince. He is also known for a classical account of peacetime aviation - of flying in the days when it was both fun, and quite dangerous - rendered in Wind, Sand and Stars (Penguin Modern Classics). Jules Roy, a pied-noir (an Algerian of French extraction), and fellow pilot, wrote a portrait of the author in the eponymous Passion de Saint Exupéry. The present book is another facet of the writer, when he flew in combat for the French air force.

Arras is the capital of Pas-de-Calais, in the far northeastern part of France. The month is May, 1940, when France suffered its catastrophic defeat at the hands of the German army. The author is ordered to perform a reconnaissance mission over Arras, which has already fallen to the Germans, and the town is in flames. Only one in three "routine" missions (sorties) of his squadron return to base. His assignment is much more dangerous. In many ways, it is a suicide mission. He survives though, and this is his account, a brilliant one that combines the adrenaline-rush of being shot at, and having the bullets miss, with a philosophical mind that is attuned to the particulars of a bullet's trajectory as well as the macro picture of a great nation experiencing defeat.

It is a short book (and in my opinion, would have been better if it was 15 pages shorter), but Saint-Exupéry packs a lot it. There is the succinct analysis of the General Staff's "logic" in sending him, and his crew, on a reconnaissance mission whose findings could not possible be used. He understands the "military mind" all too well. There is also an excellent descriptive analysis of flying a plane at high altitude (33,000 ft., plus) long before the Boeing jet liners made such flights routine, with the major inconvenience being the middle seat. Saint-Exupéry wears three layers of clothes due to the cold; he has to exert himself strenuously to manually shift the lever mechanisms; the oxygen lines tend to freeze, which lead to partial blackouts; he has 103 gauges that he must watch, etc.

Sartre's novel Troubled Sleep (Chemins de la Liberte = The Roads To Freedom) covers the same terrible month for France, and depicts the long column of refugees moving south. Saint-Exupéry covers the same ground, better, and briefer. The author writes movingly, in some brilliant chapters, on the disintegration of the French army, the contempt of the civilians for it, and the civilians own plight as they took to the road. Rumors abound when all normal communications is severed: "crazy rumors that sprouted by the roadside every mile or two in the form of ludicrous hypotheses... The United States had declared war. The Pope had committed suicide. Russian planes had set fire to Berlin. The Armistice had been signed three days ago. Hitler had landed in England." 150,000 French died in a single fortnight.

Descriptive passages? Consider: "The peace that is on its way is not the fruit of a decision reached by man. It spreads apace like a gray leprosy." Or: "The bullets were transformed into lightning. And I flew drowned in a crop of trajectories as golden as stalks of wheat." Philosophical insights? Consider: (concerning his one flight to Arras) "...we had learnt even more about ourselves than we should have done after ten years in a monastery." Or one for our times: "What a paradox- that men who possessed wealth should claim the right, over and above their possessions, to the gratitude of those who were without possessions!"

I really was considering giving this book 6-stars, until I got to the last 15 pages or so. His loose philosophical ramble, about the concept of "Man" vs. "man," the needs for sacrifice, the equality of man (in the military?! "The private and the captain are equal in the Nation"), and in the midst of massive killing, "My civilization was the inheritor of Christian values." which was not used ironically, all in all, didn't make much sense. My dominant thought was that he wrote these pages while still suffering from oxygen deprivation. Overall, an essential read; a vital book on war, but I'd consider the end of the book with a tolerant view to some new-age mumbo-jumbo. Thus, I'd take a star off of six. 5-stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A classic of war literature, and a memorable reflection on mortality and meaning., 9 Sept. 2014
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
'Flight to Arras' (originally 'Pilote de guerre') appeared in 1942 and was almost immediately translated into English. The present edition offers a newer (1995) translation.

The book is an account of a single, near-suicidal reconnaissance mission flown by Saint-Exupéry and two colleagues during the Fall of France in 1940. It blends a gripping boys-own adventure with the author's personal and philosophical reflections on war, on community, and on what it meant at this dark time to be French.

The style will be familiar to anybody familiar with the author's other books, though 'Flight to Arras' is less obviously novelistic than the earlier books that made his name. There are several bravura chapters: notably those that deal with the chaos of the civilian exodus from the combat zone, and the final approach to heavily defended Arras itself. As a first-person account by a man both intimately involved and, as an airman, unavoidably somewhat distanced, it could hardly be bettered. The only flaw is the sudden change of tone in the last few pages, in which Saint-Exupéry tries to formulate an ethic that will reframe a catastrophic defeat as cause for hope: and this may surely be excused in the circumstances. Even this offers important insights into the state of mind of French intellectuals at the time.

A classic of war literature, and a memorable reflection on mortality and meaning.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT EVERYONE'S CUP OF TEA, 25 Mar. 2012
By 
A Happy Chappie (Surrey England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I know that I'm a lone voice here but unless you are into lots of introspection and deep thoughts on the meaning of life and all that, then I venture to suggest that you'll find this one boring book and probably not the `flying' book you were expecting - least it wasn't what I thought I was getting.

As others here have said, the book is about a French airforce reconnaissance flight to Arras which takes place during the total confusion in the French forces during the German invasion of 1940. It is a well written book and certainly conveys said confusion and the resultant despair extremely well. It probably also gives one an insight into the French mindset of the time i.e. how can this be happening and the almost poetic justification/reasoning that some people seem to have `indulged' in. The flight itself is obviously dangerous, and pointless according to the author, though pretty much nothing happens during it of any great interest(though by the end of chapter 3's musings I was wishing the author had been shot down!)to anyone. However, after a few lines at the start of each chapter about the flight and crew we wander off into the introspective musings of the author/pilot about life and all that and hear little more about the flight until the start of the next chapter.

I fully realise that it's each to their own with this type of book and others obviously see the thing in a different light but I found it as interesting as watching grass grow and with about as much insight. Ernest Gann does it far better for my money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Great purchase. Beautiful book. Thank you very much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as other St Ex, 29 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Magnificent! Not as good as other St Ex. offerings.
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Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics)
Flight to Arras (Penguin Modern Classics) by Antoine Saint-Exupery (Paperback - 25 May 2000)
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