French novelist and aviator. He was posthumously created Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur.
Saint-Exupéry was born in Lyons of impoverished aristocratic parents. He hoped to enter the École Navale in Paris, but failed the entrance examination and was conscripted in 1921 into the air force, where he trained as a pilot. His accomplishments in the field of civil aviation included the pioneering of air-mail routes in North Africa and South America. During World War II, despite his disablement from previous flying accidents, he served as a military reconnaissance pilot until the fall of France in 1940. Having escaped to New York, he rejoined his unit three years later in North Africa. He was killed in active service in 1944, shot down on a reconnaissance mission over Corsica.
Most of Saint-Exupéry's novels are based on his flying experiences, both physical and spiritual, and celebrate the heroism, comradeship, and solidarity displayed by airmen. Vol de nuit (1931; translated as Night Flight, 1932) and Terre des hommes (1939; translated as Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939) commemorate his years in civil aviation; Pilote de guerre (1942; translated as Flight to Arras, 1942) was inspired by a daring mission over Arras in 1940, for which Saint-Exupéry was mentioned in dispatches. Saint-Exupéry's best-known work outside his flying novels is his fable for children and adults, Le Petit Prince (1943; translated as The Little Prince, 1943). Citadelle, a philosophical work left uncompleted at his death, was published posthumously in 1948 (the English translation, The Wisdom of the Sands, appeared in 1952).