The friendship of Saint-Exupéry and Léon Werth illustrated by 100 documents and previously unpublished drawings.
Léon Werth was born in 1878, he’s the son of a Jewish draper. He became an art historian and critic and led a Bohemian lifestyle.
As a young man he starts long lasting friendships with some of his most illustrious contemporaries such as Octave Mirbeau, Francis Jourdain, Paul Signac, Charles-Louis Philippe, Lucien Febvre, Marguerite Audoux, Georges Duhamel, Charles Vildrac, Pierre Bonnard, Colette and many others... In 1913, his novel La Maison Blanche (The White House) narrowly missed winning the Prix Goncourt.
He was called up in 1914 and spent fifteen months in the trenches. After being wounded, he left the front and was henceforth to be a committed pacifist. Clavel Soldat (Clavel Soldier), published in 1919, provoked outrage. Then, as a writer, journalist and an essayist, he became a great observer of history in the making, of customs and society, a sometimes sarcastic critic, impertinent, visionary, nonconformist, antimilitarist, independent, humanist, not much of a talker... Léon Werth is a fundamental witness of the first half of the XXth century.
In the 1920s and 30s, Léon Werth was just as harsh in his condemnation of French colonialism (though in the teeth of public opinion), Stalin’s totalitarianism and the rise of Nazism. During World War II, while he had to hide, he wrote Déposition, a poignant journal depicting the life of the French people under occupation. He died in Paris in 1955.
Léon Werth and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In 1931 Werth meets Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is the beginning of a great friendship which will last until the death, in 1944, of the author of The Little Prince. Werth soon becomes the closest friend Saint-Exupery had outside of his flying group of Aeropostale.
Werth and Saint-Exupéry’s friendship never failed them. We should not forget that The Little Prince - published in 1943 by Bretano’s in the US - was dedicated to Werth, but also that the Letter to the friend was written as a preface to the American edition of Werth’s 33 days.
An illustrated book
The book gives an unusual and original perception of the man and the writer. The iconography is just as important as the texts: letters in facsimile, drawings, photos taken by the Werth family, Tonio and his plane (Claude, Léon Werth’s son, flew for the first time in Saint-Exupéry’s cabin!), all sorts of tickets, etc.
« Dear Léon Werth and dear Suzanne, I am very glad that chance made us live on the same planet and that an even greater chance made us live at the same time! It was so unlikely given the number of planets and times... », Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Werth focuses on Tonio’s latest years. If he chooses to speak up it is because people had often made a monolithic portrait of Saint-Exupéry, stereotypes of all sorts.
Saint-Exupéry is very much alive in Werth’s text, and the author devotes himself to showing the strengths of Tonio’s thoughts on death, God, honor, morals, war, and justice. The intermingled texts and illustrations reveal the depth of Saint-Exupéry’s thought and give us a very intimate interpretation of the man he was. He is warm, considerate, courageous. I find that the readers of a great writer are entitled to the truth, even if it lies in detail, writes Léon Werth as he offers to decode the anecdotal under the light of History.
Table of contents
Deposition 1940-1944 – Excerpts of a journal
A few letters… 1939-1940
Saint-Exupéry-as I knew him
A few notes
Cross biographical marks