Carnival of Light

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse in 1933 [public domain]

I had been looking on at a carnival of light. The ceiling had risen little by little and I had been unaware of an intervening space between the clouds and me. I had been zigzagging along a line of flight dotted by ground batteries. Their tracer bullets had been spraying the air with wheat-coloured shafts of light. I had forgotten that at the top of their flight the shells of those batteries must burst. And now, raising my head, I saw around and before me those rivets of smoke and steel driven into the sky in the pattern of towering pyramids.

I was quite aware that those rivets were no sooner driven than all danger went out of them, that each of those puffs possessed the power of life and death only for a fraction of a second.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

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Silence in the Desert

Sahara Desert, Morocco. Photo by flowcomm via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Quote of the Week:

There is the silence of peace, when the tribes are reconciled, when the evening cool returns and it seems as if you were putting in, sails furled, at a quiet harbour.

There’s silence at noon, when the sun suspends all thought and movement.

There’s a false silence when the north wind flags and insects appear, ripped away from oases in the interior like pollen, presaging a sandstorm from the east.

There’s the silence of brewing plots, when you know that some distant tribe is simmering.

There’s a mysterious silence when the Arabs gather for their indecipherable confabulations.

There’s a tense silence when a messenger is late returning.

An acute silence when, at night, you hold your breath to listen.

A melancholy silence if you’re remembering someone you love.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Introduction to 33 Days)

Exodus (Éxodo)

France, June 1940:

An estimated 10 million people, including up to 80% of the population of Paris, fled south from the German advance to seek safety beyond the River Loire in what became known in history as l’Exode – the Exodus.

Francia, junio 1940:

Se estima que 10 millones de personas, incluido hasta el 80% de la población de París, huyeron hacia el sur del avance alemán para buscar la seguridad más allá del río Loira en lo que se conoció en la historia como l’Exode: el Éxodo.

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Quote of the Week: What War?

Today’s quote is longer than usual: it’s an excerpt from Flight to Arras, a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and it captures the utter exhaustion of a squadron of French pilots during the German offensive on France in June 1940.

Like all Saint-Exupéry novels, Flight to Arras too was inspired by the author’s own experiences. Saint-Exupéry served in the French air force and continued to fight after the fall of France. He disappeared during a reconnaissance flight over the  Mediterranean Sea in 1944; his identity bracelet was finally recovered from the sea in 1998. He’s the author of such classics as The Little Prince, Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars.

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Quote of the Week: The God of Triangles

It seems to me, Usbek, that we never judge anything without secretly considering it in relation to our own self. I am not surprised that black men depict the devil as brilliantly white, and their own gods as coal-black, that the Venus of certain peoples has breasts that hang down to her thighs, and in short, that all idolaters have depicted their gods with human faces, and have endowed them with their own propensities. It has been quite correctly observed that if triangles were to make themselves a god, they would give him three sides.

(Montesquieu: Persian Letters)

Quote of the Week: A Crop of Golden Trajectories

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse in 1933
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Each burst of a machine gun or a rapid-fire cannon shot forth hundreds of these phosphorescent bullets that followed one another like the beads of a rosary. A thousand elastic rosaries strung themselves out towards the plane, drew themselves out to the breaking point, and burst at our height. When, missing us, the string went off at a tangent, its speed was dizzying. The bullets were transformed into lightning.

And I flew drowned in a crop of trajectories as golden as stalks of wheat. I flew at the centre of a thicket of lance strokes. I flew threatened by a vast and dizzying flutter of knitting needles. All the plain was now bound to me, woven and wound round me, a coruscating web of golden wire.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

You might also like:Glassfuls of Water into a Forest Fire (Flight to Arras)The Little PrinceNight Flight

The Persian Letters of Montesquieu

Thirty-odd years ago I thought that the French author Montesquieu was enlightened, witty and clever. I based this opinion on reading his Persian Letters, an epistolary novel which details the experiences of two Persian travellers, Usbek and Rica, in France in the early part of the 18th century. Last month I picked up Persian Letters again… and found out what a change thirty-odd years made.

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A Book with a History

The book is green with golden letters, cloth bound. Sunlight faded the spine into autumnal yellow so that you can no longer make out the title and the author very well. When you open it, the yellowed pages rustle, feeling slightly stiff to the fingers. The title page is followed by the picture of the author printed on smooth, glossy paper that contrasts with the coarser pages that follow it. I turn the pages and think: they don’t make books like this anymore.

And then there’s the way it smells. The smell of decades which lingers on  your fingers even after you put the book down.

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Night Flight

“In a flash, the very instant he had risen clear, the pilot found a peace that passed his understanding. Not a ripple tilted the plane but, like a ship that has crossed the bar, it moved across a tranquil anchorage. In an unknown and secret corner of the sky it floated, as in a harbour of the Happy Isles. Below him still the storm was fashioning another world, thridded with squalls and cloudbursts and lightnings, but turning to the stars a face of crystal snow.”

(Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

After wanting to do this for a couple of years, I finally picked up my second-hand volume of Saint-Exupéry last week to read it again.

(The things blogging does for you:
I swear I read more than ever since I started blogging.
I don’t know where I’m finding the time.)

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