Saint-Exupery : Leading his men to death

Saint-Exupéry : Mener ses hommes à la mort

Rivière is the main character of Vol de Nuit. He is largely inspired by Didier Daurat, a pioneer and prominent figure of the airmail, under whose orders Saint-Exupery flew.


What is a man's life worth in the face of his duty? Can (should) one dispose of the lives of others as one's own?


These are the questions that Rivière, head of the South American airmail company, has to answer.


Where many would not dare to risk making a man unhappy, Riviere risked their lives every night to deliver mail.


Does he have no consideration for these men?

That's the paradox: these men, ses men, Rivière cherishes them. Not as a mother, by providing warmth and security, but as a father, by coldly ripping out the best of them.

In fact, it is an honor for them to be part of something bigger, something beyond themselves.

Rivière's eyes are riveted to the lens, not to the man who carries it. He even turns his back on him: nothing is more important than moving forward.


It is because he is willing to sacrifice men, that men are willing to die under his orders.


Rivière affirms, through his ethics: I have found something more sacred than the life of a man. Whoever follows me will be only a tool that I will forge to build this cathedral. And the man who gives me his life will not die: he will become the stone of these walls, anonymous and famous at the same time.


Excerpt from Night Flight, Chapter XIV

A sentence came back to him: "It's about making them eternal..." Where had he read that? "What you pursue in yourself dies. He saw again a temple to the sun god of the ancient Incas of Peru. Those upright stones on the mountain. What would remain, without them, of a powerful civilization, which weighed, with the weight of its stones, on the man of today, like a remorse? "In the name of what hardness, or of what strange love, the conductor of peoples of former times, forcing his crowds to draw this temple on the mountain, imposed on them to erect their eternity?" Rivière still relives in his dreams the crowds of the small towns, which turn in the evening around their bandstand. "This kind of happiness, this harness..." he thought. The conductor of peoples of old, if he perhaps did not have pity on the suffering of man, had pity, immensely, on his death. Not his individual death, but pity for the species that the sea of sand will erase. And he led his people to erect at least some stones, which the desert would not bury.