Letter to a Hostage

adseBy Antoine De Saint-Exupery

This was an impulse purchase in Waterstones and after I got home I read this in a couple of hours and have since read it again. A very nice little book. I read everything by Saint-Exupery almost thirteen years ago and thought there was nothing else to read. Finding this book was a very pleasant surprise and reminded me of why I liked him so much. Saint-Exupery is contemplative but also with a lust for life; he was a man of action in his aviation endeavours as well as a poet and a deep thinker. I use the term ‘poet’ because his writing really is very lyrical and I am reminded of Bruno Schultz who I have only read in the last few years.

Paul Belzard (who I am not very familiar with) had this to say about the book:

“A book I always keep in my pocket … As perfectly formed as Heart of Darkness.”

I’m not sure that it is as perfectly formed as ‘Heart of Darkness’ which is an amazing novel, but Letter to a Hostage will be re-read regularly. The ‘Hostage’ was Leon Werth who was Saint-Exupery’s best friend and who was Jewish and in danger due to the Nazi occupation. It was perhaps Saint-Exuper’s friendship for Werth that led to him returning to Europe and eventually not surviving the war. Werth was eventually given a special edition of the book by Gallimard after the war and he had this to say:

“Peace, without Tonio (Exupery) isn’t entirely peace.”

As to what the text is about: Saint-Exupery ruminates and many different things but they all fall under the umbrella of friendship. In fairness it would be better to read the book rather than have me do a disservice by summarising them all.

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