Flight to Arras, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is another of those books I enjoyed the first three-quarters of,

and from then on until the last page found it a terrible struggle of the will to complete. It reminded me strongly in this respect of the Juan Goytisolo novel I read a few months ago: an interesting situation is described –

here, de Saint-Exupéry (or the narrator, I cannot now recall) is sent on a semi-suicidal reconnaissance mission as the Germans invade France during

the Second World War: the narrative describes his thoughts, both about the mission and about the fate of France (defeated from the start, in the

narrator’s view – or even before); – these sections are well-told, with a nice balance between story and philosophical reflection; but as we come

towards the end (and, sadly, the mission itself ends some forty pages before the book), the tenor of the work changes, and becomes instead a long

philosophical monologue about Man – not without interest ultimately, but so hard-going in comparison to the rest of the work, so abstract all of a

sudden, that I’d soon lost interest and was almost inclined to cast it aside.

It makes me wonder, though, whether it is a good thing that

writers don’t (or can’t) sufficiently distance themselves from what they write. Both novelists – Goytisolo and de Saint-Exupéry – turn to

philosophical speculation seemingly because they are so involved in the matter of their story: – for Goytisolo, it’s the death of his wife which he

seeks to come to terms with; for de Saint-Exupéry, it is the defeat of France and the problem of what the human race has descended to (the novel was

written in 1942). It is clear these things mean a lot to these writers, and that they have given much thought to the causes: – and it is thus perhaps

that they have come to feel that the vaguely-philosophical narratives with which their works began are not enough; that they must give up these

narratives and turn merely to abstract speculation. There is a sense, I feel, about them both, that narrative is in a sense too trivial.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s