Saint-Exupery wrote a slim, subtle stream-of-consciousness account of a futile aerial reconnaissance flight over enemy occupied territory which he had a one in three chance of surviving. His thoughts flow between philosophical meditations on war, peace, life and land, and sudden urgent action to avoid being shot down or to fix jammed controls in a tiny plane where equipment had not always been tested at altitude.
His limpid style and intellectual clarity lead to pithy definitions: this one about the nature of war complementing another on the nature of peace.
‘The war’, I said to myself, ‘is that thing in which clocks are no longer wound up. In which beets are no longer gathered in. In which farm carts are no longer greased. And that water, collected and piped to quench men’s thirst and to whiten the Sunday laces of the village women – that water now stands in a pool, flooding the square before the village church.’
Source: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, trans. by Lewis Galantière (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), p. 9
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