This page contains details of plays by and about the most famous writer-pilot of WW2.
I was made aware of the existence of this remarkable man by Alex Ferguson, who knew him.
The book condenses months of flights into a single terrifying mission over the town of Arras. Saint-Exupéry was assigned to Reconnaissance Group II/33 flying the twin-engine Potez 637. At the start of the war there were only fifty reconnaissance crews, of which twenty-three were in his unit. Within the first few days of the German invasion of France in May 1940, seventeen of the II/33 crews were sacrificed recklessly, he writes "like glasses of water thrown onto a forest fire".
Saint-Exupéry survived the French defeat but refused to join the Royal Air Force over political differences with de Gaulle and in late 1940 went to New York where he accepted the National Book Award for "Wind, Sand and Stars". He remained in America for two years, then in the spring of 1943 rejoined his old unit in North Africa. In July 1944 "risking flesh to prove good faith" he failed to return from a recon mission over France.
'The most important book yet written about this war . . . a magic text, at times almost Biblical, of why men fight and how they feel in the presence of death' - Time, February 1942. <<
At Buenos Aires, Rivière, the head of the mail service, is pacing the airport. Torn between the potential devastation of losing any of his pilots and his duty as operational director, Rivière maintains a stern exterior while keeping his concerns internal. He is viewed as severe and even heartless by his men, whom he must continue to send out on night flights to deliver mail in order to keep the mail service running.
Fabien, along with his wireless operator, is flying at sunset, bringing the mail from Patagonia to Buenos Aires. Two other mail planes, one from Chile and one from Paraguay, are also headed for Buenos Aires, where another plane was to take off, at about midnight, with a cargo of South American mail intended for Europe. As Fabien's plane prepares to land in San Julian for ten minutes to pick up mail, his wireless operator, receiving bursts of static on his radio which would would indicate thunderstorms ahead, asks Fabien if they plan to stay in San Julian for the night. When he is told the reports from the airfields ahead are telling them the sky is clear and there is no wind, Fabien decides to continue the journey to Buenos Aires....
Dramatised by Ray Jenkins from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's award-winning second novel, "Vol de nuit", published in 1931, which had been translated into English in 1932 by Stuart Gilbert as "Night Flight". The book is based on Saint-Exupéry's experiences as an airmail pilot and as a director of the Aeroposta Argentina airline, based in Argentina. The characters were also loosely based on people Saint-Exupéry knew in South America. Notably, the character of Rivière was inspired by Didier Daurat, operations director of the Aéropostale. More details can be found in Saint-Exupéry's 1939 memoir, "Wind, Sand and Stars".
With Ronald Pickup [Rivière, the Head of the Mail Service in Buenos Aires], Sean Baker [Fabien, the Pilot of Plane from Patagonia], Alex Lowe [Pellerin, the Pilot of Plane from Chile], Keith Drinkel [Robineau, the Running Inspector at Buenos Aires], Janet Maw [Simone, Fabien's Wife of Six Weeks], Kim Wall [The Europe Pilot], Adjoa Andoh [The Europe Pilot's Wife], and Ioan Meredith [The Narrator].
Other parts were played by Chris Pavlo, Joanna Monro, Alice Arnold, Christopher Scott, and Mark Bonnar. Music by Wilfredo Acosta. Producer: Janet Whitaker. Re-broadcast on Friday 31st January 1997 @ 2:00 p.m. 60m.
Compiled by Nigel Deacon / Diversity website, with thanks to Jim and Greg
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