Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Life Stories

A little discussion has been going on over at Big A little a among readers who dislike The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I can't describe myself as a fan of the book, I'm more of a Saint-Exupery groupy. His story is what grabs me. Whatever possessed a man who led a life of danger to write what he felt was a children's book even if some would argue that kids can't make heads nor tails of it? Then he died young and mysteriously, which is a plot twist few can resist.

The discussion at Big A, little a was inspired when Kelly brought up a news story about a former German fighter pilot who might have shot Saint-Exupery's plane down. The eighty-eight-year-old man was a fan of the author, who had written books on flying in addition to his cult classic Prince, and says, "If I had known, I wouldn't have fired - not on him." "In our youth, we had all read him; we loved his books...He could deftly describe the sky, the thoughts and feelings of pilots. His work inspired our vocation for many of us. I liked the man."

The article continues, "Mr. Rippert said he suspected within days that he had shot down the famous writer. But he kept quiet, keeping the secret for more than six decades.

"You can imagine what would have happened to my career if people had known what I had done during the war," he said."

Think about what this poor man has been carrying around for decades. All soldiers carry burdens. But to believe that you didn't kill a faceless enemy, you killed a beloved figure, a figure you, yourself, found inspiring?

I feel like a blood-sucking witch for saying this, but that's a life story with narrative possibilities. Or maybe I just think so because I'm a Saint-Exupery groupy.


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