“Consuelo and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Taming the Stars”, on France 5: the romantic turbulence of “Saint-Ex”

She was the soul and heart of The Little Prince (1943)

“Consuelo and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Taming the Stars”, on France 5: the romantic turbulence of “Saint-Ex”

She was the soul and heart of The Little Prince (1943). When, in the summer of 1930, Consuelo Suncin Sandoval (1901-1979) met Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) in the salons of the Alliance Française in Buenos Aires, she had everything to please him: an intense and a volcanic character. The Salvadoran artist, 29, has just left Paris after the death of her husband, the Guatemalan writer and diplomat Enrique Gomez Carrillo. Between her and “Saint-Ex”, operations director of Aéropostale in Argentina, love at first sight was immediate. It lasted fourteen years, until the famous aviator disappeared at sea on July 31, 1944, after taking off from Bastia.

The documentary Consuelo and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Taming the Stars traces this extraordinary love story where the breakups were as intense as the reunions. Thanks to numerous films, archive photos and the feverish words (letters, telegrams, etc.) they spoke to each other, Dorothée Lachaud's film reveals a fiery and free relationship.

It begins aboard a Latécoère when Saint-Exupéry, after performing a series of loops, begs the young woman to kiss him. Won over by the pilot’s audacity, Consuelo accepts. “In turn, he kissed me violently and we stayed like that for two or three minutes,” she says. But the relationship will experience long periods of turbulence, notably when the aviator, after crossing the threshold of the town hall to get married, turns around. The union will be formalized in April 1931 in Var, where Consuelo, dressed in black, will become the Countess of Saint-Exupéry.

A muse

The writer sees in her a muse, a precious support for his writing work. If Consuelo inspires him, she also reassures him. They never separate, except when the aviator goes on a mission. The mail does not wait, and the Aéropostale becomes his other source of inspiration, especially when he flies through the stars and imagines his future work, Night Flight. “When he came home late, I waited for him and said: ‘Only five pages of storm this evening,’” Consuelo confided. He was going to his studio. I sat him in his chair, kissed him and repeated in his ear: “It’s necessary… Write… Write!” And in the morning, I found a few unreadable pages on my little desk. »

Already a widow, the artist understands that she is madly in love with a hero without limits, capable of taking insane risks to fly over the Sahara or the Andes mountain range in order to ensure air connections, but also to write his legend of successful writer. Night Flight won the Prix Femina in 1931 and became a bestseller. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is acclaimed and adored. Publishers are scrambling for it.

In the mid-1930s, the couple moved to Morocco, where the pilot believed the climate would help his wife’s chronic asthma. But, in Casablanca, Consuelo has difficulty putting on her aviator's wife's outfit. Love stretches once again and everyone consoles themselves in other arms. In 1939, Terre des hommes, initially titled Etoiles par grand vent, enjoyed unprecedented success. In addition to the Grand Prix du roman from the French Academy, he won the National Book Award, the American accolade.

Multiple female conquests

On a whim, Saint-Exupéry left Paris and pursued his career in New York. The couple separates once again. “My man whom I love, lost forever, like your nuptial ring which you pass on to other hands without being able to grasp it ever again, I say to you “Good evening”, she writes. I'm leaving tonight in my sleep. »

She joins her husband across the Atlantic, but the reunion, after a year of separation, is cruel. The documentary then shows the writer in a less flattering profile than the one we know: he becomes frosty, sometimes humiliating. Her female conquests follow one another, she only dreams of “a shoulder to sleep on”.

When the Second World War broke out, Saint-Exupéry forgot the tensions and played his role as a protective husband by helping his wife escape the bombings. Captain Saint-Exupéry goes on war missions, and everyone understands that they can no longer live without the other, at the risk of losing themselves. In the summer of 1942, the aviator wrote The Little Prince, a story for children. The book tells the story of a pilot lost in the desert. There he comes across a baobab, a sheep, a snake and a rose. She is flirtatious, vain, angry, and her thorns are sharp. No doubt, this rose was inspired by Consuelo.