A Great Lover…
The year 1930… Consuelo Suncín de Sandoval (April 10, 1901 – May 18, 1979) left Paris for Buenos Aires. The girl, born in El Salvador, had tied the nuptial knot with Argentinean diplomat Enrique Gómez Carrillo. Carrillo passed away just 11 months after their marriage, leaving huge property for his 29-year-old wife. One of Consuelo’s friends introduced her to a pilot, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, Comte de Saint-Exupéry, simply known as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (June 29, 1900 – July 31, 1944) at a party in Buenos Aires…
No one had the idea that Saint-Exupéry would soon secure his place among the leading French authors of the 20th Century, like Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, André Malraux, Jean Genet, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Readers highly appreciated his ‘Le Petit Prince’ (‘The Little Prince’) soon after the novel was published in April 1943!
Consuelo Suncín de Sandoval
Saint-Exupéry fell in love with Consuelo when he met her for the first time! He promised to show her the sunset from the plane. He told Consuelo about himself while flying the aircraft. Till then, he penned only one novel – ‘Courrier Sud‘ (‘Southern Mail‘) – and only three copies of the book were sold. In his first novel, Saint-Exupéry paid homage to “those elemental divinities – night, day, mountain, sea, and storm”, turning an account of a routine mail flight from France to North Africa into an epic rendering of the pioneer days of commercial aviation. The book is also a poignant reminiscence of a tragic affair, in which the uncertainties of love and flight enhance the mystery of one another. Saint-Exupéry’s hands reminded Consuelo of Raphael’s paintings! And, the Frenchman placed a kiss on her lips… he also proposed her onboard the flight.
Since then, both of them experienced a number of dramatic situations. During their Engagement Party, Saint-Exupéry received the message that he would have to leave for Argentina. Later, the revolution began in Buenos Aires. Consuelo had experienced revolution at the age of 15 in Mexico. During their journey, Saint-Exupéry reminded her of a wild bird, flying high over the sky. However, Consuelo would have to be the garden, where the bird could take rest!
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Consuelo returned to Paris a few weeks later. By that time, her engagement with Saint-Exupéry was broken! Her family members decided to get her married to another person. All of a sudden, Consuelo got a phone call from Saint-Exupéry! He admitted that their separation made him crazy and depressed. Consuelo, too, realised that she loved Saint-Exupéry the most. Once again, they started their journey, together… Consuelo tied the knot with Saint-Exupéry on April 23, 1931. During this period, Saint-Exupéry was in regular touch with Nobel Laureate Belgian playwright, poet and essayist Maurice Maeterlinck, who was Flemish but wrote in French. Saint-Exupéry told him: “I want to express my existence through my writings. Writing gives me the right to think!” Then, he completed his second novel, ‘Vol de Nuit’ (‘Night Flight’), in 1931. It is to be noted that André Gide wrote the introduction of the novel and Poet Paul Valéry wholeheartedly appreciated Saint-Exupéry’s second work.
Two significant events took place during their stay in Morocco. Saint-Exupéry had a sense of jealousy, as well as possessiveness, in his mind in regards to Consuelo. Once, he returned to home from the airport after cancelling his duty only to see Consuelo. Another day, Consuelo received the news that Antoine’s aircraft crashed shortly after taking off. She rushed to the airport, immediately, and came to know that the pilot was not her husband, but another Antoine. Then, Consuelo burst into laughter, and she did not notice that the wife of the pilot (of the ill-fated plane) was weeping, nearby. Finally, the concerned authorities used morphine to calm down both of them!
A plane, named ‘Maxim Gorky’, met with an accident during Saint-Exupéry’s trip to Russia. He was supposed to take that flight. However, Saint-Exupéry escaped as he left Russia on the previous day. On December 30, 1935, his plane crashed in the Libyan desert. Saint-Exupéry survived and spent five days in the desert before being rescued by the Bedouins! A few months later, Consuelo visited her home in Guatemala. There, she received the news that Saint-Exupéry received serious injuries in a plane accident in Guatemala, and was admitted to a hospital. The doctors allowed her to stay with Saint-Exupéry at the hospital. Thereafter, she returned to Paris.
Meanwhile, the Second World War had started. Consuelo’s mother wanted her daughter to leave Europe as soon as possible. However, Saint-Exupéry urged his wife not to leave him. Consuelo did not leave France. Then, Saint-Exupéry left for North Africa. A couple of weeks later, Consuelo came to know from a pilot that Saint-Exupéry returned to Paris, but did not inform her. Saint-Exupéry was in his bed when Consuelo reached the hotel, where he was staying. He asked Consuelo to return home. On that day, she decided to get their marriage annulled. Then again, she received a letter from Saint-Exupéry! When Saint-Exupéry met Consuelo, she informed her husband that she developed a relationship with a Major. Saint-Exupéry took the phone number of the Major from Consuelo, and told her that he would talk to that person. Later, he came back to the room, and informed Consuelo that the Major was very upset and he would never meet her. Still, Saint-Exupéry told Consuelo that he did not call anybody…
Next year, Consuelo and Saint-Exupéry arrived in New York. Surprisingly, Saint-Exupéry arranged her accommodation in another hotel! However, Consuelo could see her husband’s room from her hotel. Later, they attended a programme at the Town Hall, together. Then, Consuelo managed to get a rented accommodation in Northport, and started living alone. After a few months, Saint-Exupéry, too, reached there. During their stay at the Northport house, he wrote the novella, ‘Le Petit Prince’ (‘The Little Prince’, 1943), which became Saint-Exupéry’s most successful work, selling an estimated 140 million copies worldwide. It is most translated books ever published, as the novella has been translated into 300 languages and dialects!
In 1944, Saint-Exupéry returned to flight duties with his squadron in North Africa. On July 31 (1944), he took off in an unarmed P-38 on his ninth reconnaissance mission from an airbase on Corsica. To the great alarm of the squadron compatriots who revered him, he vanished without a trace. News of his disappearance shortly spread across the literary world and then into international headlines!
It was a stormy union, as Saint-Exupéry left and then returned to Consuelo many a times. Despite their tumultuous relationship, he kept Consuelo close to his heart. She was the inspiration of the major character in ‘The Little Prince‘, the prince’s flower, identified as The Rose. Before his final journey to North Africa, Saint-Exupéry reportedly told Consuelo: “The way a mother understands and loves her child, you understand me like that. You should become the harbour, where I could take shelter during a severe storm. I will never forget your sacrifice. You are a great poet, Consuelo. If you want, you could be a famous writer than me!”
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