Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Spanish civil war press pass found


An amateur historian has found the press pass issued to the French writer and aviator when he covered Spain’s 1936-39 civil war for several French newspapers.

The pass was lost because it was not stored with those given to other reporters such as the German photojournalist Gerda Taro, the partner of the war photographer Robert Capa, said Maria Jose Turrion, the assistant head of Spain’s Salamanca-based civil war archives.

Dated 16 April 1937 the media accreditation for the author of The Little Prince was issued by the bureau in charge of propaganda for the losing republican side in Spain’s civil war. All journalists who worked in republican territory were required to register with the department.

Saint-Exupéry was aged 36 at the time and he listed himself in the pass he filled out as being an aviator and “clerk” in what appears to be a mistaken translation into Spanish of ecrivain, the French world for writer.

Policarpo Sánchez, a 52-year-old lawyer and amateur historian, found the press pass among other documents on 30 June in a small village in the central province of Toledo while researching civil war cinema.

“It has extraordinary value. His press pass provides us with precious information regarding his stay in Madrid,” Sánchez said.

The press pass used by the French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry during the Spanish civil war. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Saint-Exupéry had listed his address in the Spanish capital as the Hotel Florida, where many writers who came to Spain to cover the war such as Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn stayed.

The conflict pitted soldiers loyal to an elected Socialist-led government known as republicans against rebel nationalist troops under Gen Francisco Franco in his military uprising that ultimately toppled the government.

It was one of the first conflicts to be extensively covered by press around the world, especially by intellectuals who sympathised with the republican side.

Saint-Exupéry, a pioneering pilot of his era, covered the war in 1936 from Barcelona in north-eastern Spain for the French newspaper L’Intransigeant and then in 1937 for Paris-Soir.

He disappeared while flying over the Mediterranean in 1944, shortly after the publication of the fairy tale-like novella The Little Prince. His body was never found.