Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Imagine killing your favorite author

It has been speculated for years that the Little Prince author, Antoine de St. Exupéry was shot down in his plane by German WWII pilot Horst Rippert in July of 1944. His disappearance remained a mystery, although artifacts have been discovered over the years that included a piece of St.Exupéry’s plane as well as a bracelet that bore the name of his wife and his publishing company.

This week, all the evidence came together with an admission from Rippert.* Rippert himself had suspected for years he may have been the one to take St. Exupéry’s plane down on that fateful mission on July 31st, 1945. Rippert was not happy to have shot down St. Exupéry’s plane that took its last flight from Corsica in a reconnaissance mission. In fact, he admitted that had he known it was St. Exupéry, he wouldn’t have done it. St. Exupéry was one of his favorite authors. He was an author and pilot most known for his book, le Petit Prince, which while not as autobiographical as his other works, does begin with a pilot stranded in the desert which he himself had been in 1935 after his aircraft went down in the Saharan desert. In the story, a little prince appears to the pilot seemingly out of nowhere in the desert requesting a drawing of a sheep.

Through the Little Prince’s adventures to different planets, Saint Exupéry makes fun of what is often held as important in the world- amassing wealth, prestige, and power, as he watches adults perform tasks that he perceives to be meaningless. The Little Prince observes, “Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”

The Little Prince realizes the importance of the simpler things like watching sunsets and caring for his rose (despite her thorns). He realizes, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Can you imagine being the guy who downed the author of the Little Prince? I kind of feel for Rippert. But that’s war. You may be destroying one of your favorite authors, or her/his children, or an entire civilization, or a researcher who was close to finding a cure for cancer, or the neighborhood crazy. I guess that’s why we have to demonize the enemy, so that the killing “makes sense”. Propaganda is a necessary tool to lead people to believe that the enemy is not human, and a threat to our own lives, and thus, needs to be wiped out.

I’ll stop my ranting with one final Little Prince quote. “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…”

*See http://www.france24.com/en/20080316-little-prince-antoine-saint-exupery-literature-history-second-world-war&navi=FRANCE for original article and additional information.



Alain said...

July 1945 ? the war was over...

dryanna said...

Correction: July, 1944. Thanks.

Misplaced said...

Alain is keeping a sharp lookout for typos.