Saint-Exupéry uses wheat as a metaphor for civilization, seeds stored and sown in order to take root in people, something nourishing, organic and dynamic, not simply carved in stone and forgotten about.
For what is true of wheat is true also of a civilization. Wheat nourishes man, but man in turn preserves wheat from extinction by storing up its seed. The seed stored up is a kind of heritage received by one generation of wheat after another. If wheat is to flourish in my fields, it is not enough that I be able to describe it and desire it. I must possess the seed whence it springs. And so with my civilization, for it too springs from energy contained within a seed.
See another fine comment by him on the nature of civilization; and also stemming from the war, Lawrence Durrell’s simple signals of civilization re-emerging in peace-time. Lastly, on a lighter note, Durrell’s account of a dispute he heard on the role of men and of women, as it relates to civilization; followed by a delightful definition of civilization through a child’s eyes.
Source: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, trans. by Lewis Galantière (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), p. 149
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