Tag Archives: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

J’ai fait mon métier

24 Jul

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There is a line in Pilote de Guerre, one of my favorite Antoine de Saint-Exupéry novels, in which the pilot, in describing his mission, says, “J’ai fait mon métier.” It means, simply, “I did my job.” It is a statement of fact that sees no particular glory or heroism in doing what needs to be done.

And this sense of simply doing one’s job, a job which to the rest of us seems rather heroic, pervades Alan Furst’s A Hero of France.

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This is an adult novel that tells the story of Mathieu, a  French Resistance leader, over  five months in 1941. His Gallic acceptance of doing what must be done is marvelously contrasted to the delight in things that seem ordinary: the smell of potatoes fried in beef fat, the taste of black-market cheese, the feel of a cashmere sweater. This is my first Furst novel, but I think it won;t be my last!

Publisher’s Summary: Paris. 1941. The City of Light is dark and silent at night. But in Paris and in the farmhouses, barns, and churches of the French countryside, small groups of ordinary men and women are determined to take down the occupying forces of Adolf Hitler. Mathieu, a leader of the French Resistance, leads one such cell, helping downed British airmen escape back to England.

Alan Furst’s suspenseful, fast-paced thriller captures this dangerous time as no one ever has before. He brings Paris and occupied France to life, along with courageous citizens who outmaneuver collaborators, informers, blackmailers, and spies, risking everything to fulfill perilous clandestine missions. Aiding Mathieu as part of his covert network are Lisette, a seventeen-year-old student and courier; Max de Lyon, an arms dealer turned nightclub owner; Chantal, a woman of class and confidence; Daniel, a Jewish teacher fueled by revenge; Joëlle, who falls in love with Mathieu; and Annemarie, a willful aristocrat with deep roots in France, and a desire to act.

As the German military police heighten surveillance, Mathieu and his team face a new threat, dispatched by the Reich to destroy them all.

Shot through with the author’s trademark fine writing, breathtaking suspense, and intense scenes of seduction and passion, Alan Furst’s A Hero of France is at once one of the finest novels written about the French Resistance and the most gripping novel yet by the living master of the spy thriller.

 

Going Wild

3 Jun

In 2014, Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, saw a tiger shedding his civilized clothing and dainty manners to GO WILD!

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In his first novel for middle readers, The Wild Robot, the opposite occurs.

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A robot is washed ashore on an island, after a cargo ship is wrecked. Accidentally activated by sea otters, Roz, the robot, begins exploring her environment where she is seen as a monster.  After an accident in which she kills a mother goose, she adopts the  gosling she has orphaned. In her efforts to be a good caregiver to the gosling she names Brightbill, she begins to make inroads into the animal community. Roz learns skills from the animals she encounters: care of goslings from a mother goose, house building from a beaver. In turn, she learns to love and becomes a vital member of the island community that she considers her home.

The book seems simple, but it really speaks to the heart of what it means to be human. Roz doesn’t fit in at first. She begins as “other”  but becomes an integral member of society because of the connections she makes with the island’s inhabitants. It reminds me of the fox from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince who wants to be tamed.

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

And later the fox says,

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox.

So it is with Roz and the animals on the island. Ties are established and the “monster” is tamed.

Alas, the idyll is violently disrupted when robots come to the island, seeking the cargo that was lost at sea. The ending is more realistic than happily ever after, but I think it makes this story more powerful. As Mr. Spock once philosophized

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Live long and prosper, Roz!

 

 

Some thoughts on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

23 Jun

When they hear the name Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, most people think of his book The Little Prince. I read it in Grade 13 French with Monsieur Esders. My favorite Saint Ex novel has always been  Pilote de Guerre , translated as  Flight to Arras). 

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I have to admit, and I don’t say this to be pretentious, but I prefer to read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French.  Pilote de Guerre is  memoir of his time as the pilot of a reconnaissance plane during the Battle of France in 1940, and condenses months of flights into a single mission over the town of Arras. Although it is about events, it is a reflection on war that was written, in part, to encourage the Americans to enter the war.  The Little Prince was published a year after  Pilote de Guerre.

This year, Peter Sís has written an excellent picture book biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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The Pilot and the Little Prince connects Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s birth in 1900 to the sense of adventure and unlimited potential that the new century brought. Fascinated by planes a little boy, he became one of the first pilots to fly mail, creating new routes in far away places. He even crashed in the desert, an event that became the inspiration for the story of The Little Prince. It covers his time in America as well as his role fighting for France. And it ends with his disappearance. The story os good, but it is Sís’ illustrations that capture the energy and imagination of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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 A picture book well worth picking up. I hope it will fuel your imagination.

 

Taming SOLSC 31

31 Mar

I started this month commenting about how busy life felt. Here we are at the end of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, the end of Spring Break, and going back to life as normal. School should be calm today. The kids are always sleepy the first day back after a break.

When I started the Challenge, I felt a little overwhelmed and wondered if I could do it. Although it took a little discipline, it was easier to find things to write about than I thought. Thank you to everyone who read and to everyone who commented. I read more than I commented on, and so my goal for next year is to comment more. Yes, I intend to participate next year. There was a point partway through when I thought I wouldn’t, but at the end, I can;t imagine not doing this again next year.

The End has me thinking of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

Thank you the everyone who read, commented inspired  and tamed me. You are  unique in all the world.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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