Antoine de Saint-Exupéry disappeared at age forty-four during a reconnaissance flight over southern France. At the time he was best known for a career of daring flights over the Sahara, the Pyrenees, and Patagonia and for his contributions to the science of aviation. But the solitary hours he spent above the earth in open cockpit airplanes gave birth to a more famous legacy, a series of enchanting, autobiographical novels and the classic story The Little Prince, still the most translated book in the French language.
An impoverished aristocrat from one of France's oldest families, Saint-Exupéry moved at age twenty-seven to the western Sahara Desert, to live alone in a plank shack and manage the way station for the Aéropostale, the French mail service. His careers as a novelist and an aviator were born here, and his life once he returned to Europe was defined—with brilliant and catastrophic results—by the sense of isolated fascination and curiosity he developed in the desert.