“Certainly not to fly but to travel“, Who sang it you remember it all.
Like everyone remember that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to travel he flew and a lot. Until the last take-off, but that’s another story.
The story that we propose here instead and that we recalled on Vogue house in October 2012 he talks about one of the thousand flights of Saint-Ex, but also about one of the many makeshift landings that studded his expeditions and the events that followed.
Today, that travel, denied, has taken over that dimension of the dream and the forbidden a little lost lately, and after 90 years, we like to remember that story and the encounters that completely unexpected (here is the miracle that gives to travel the wonderful taste of discovery) happened in a corner of the immense Argentine. The writer spoke about that story first in 1932 in an article published in Paris, written after returning from the South American experience, then in the fifth chapter of “Land of men“. Another book to be taken back, if not now when?
Finally, to say how much he cared about that affair, Saint-Ex sent to his friend the director Jean Renoir some notes directly recorded by him as an idea for making a film. They are found on the net and impresses the speakerphone of the writer. It was 1941, History said no and the project was definitely gone.
One last note. The service that follows precedes by two years the safety of the Castillo which is now fenced, protected and regularly visited. (Paolo Lavezzari)
The princesses of the castle. An extraordinary meeting of Saint-Exupery.
«Look how stupid. He did not see the nest of the vizcachera, “said the girls, noting how, during the descent, the plane’s cart broke and hit the refuge of an owl. When the Laté 28 landed in the middle of the countryside, The girls, who were riding in the surroundings, approached and found the intrepid aviator talking to his mechanic.
The Argentine princesses
© Luis Ridao
The pilot was stunned by that appearance: two blonde little girls who spoke French, on the banks of a river that was born in the Amazon rainforest and died in the South Seas. The river is still Uruguay; the girls were Suzanne (sixteen) and Edda (nine) Fuchs Vallon; the “stupid” was Antoine de Saint-Exupéryarrived in Argentina in 1929 with the task, as director of Aeroposta Argentina, the first airline in the country (Aéropostale branch), of open air routes to Paraguay, Chile and Patagonia.
The company basically dealt with correspondence shipping, An activity that, at the time, promised interesting developments: in the pampa it was the time of dreams, everything was still to be done. The meeting with the “wild” girls, renamed “princesses”, took place at the end of ’29, near Concordia, a small Argentine town in the province of Entre Ríos, near the border with Uruguay. Saint-Ex (as his friends called him) was forced to make a makeshift landing while studying a stopover on the route to Asunción del Paraguay.
“I had landed in a field and didn’t know I was going to enter a fairy tale”
he wrote in the autobiographical novel “Land of men“(1939).
Towards evening, the gentlemen Fuchs Vallon arrived aboard an old Ford, who invited the aviator to dinner and to spend the night at their home, a fortress near the river, built by a Parisian millionaire in the late nineteenth century: the Castillo San Carlos.
Castillo San Carlo
© Luis Ridao
“Turning, after a bend a grove appeared in the moonlight and, behind the trees, a house. What a strange thing! Compact, massive, almost a citadel. A legendary castle, which, after passing through the entrance veranda, it offered a peaceful refuge, safe and protected like a monastery ». The history of the building is at least curious. In 1886, Edouard Demachy and consort left their family home on rue François Ier 13 in Paris (where Dior’s offices are located today) and set off for the exotic South America, to settle in the distant Concordia; in some buildings where a salting room was in operation they had opened a canned meat factory.
They purchased one hundred hectares of the best lands and, on the highest hill, in two years built a small building on the basis of projects developed in France. “A gentle-looking Frenchman arrived, with black cloak and curled mustache, whose ceremonial ways revealed the reflection of the comfortable life of the City of Light. He was not a count, nor a marquis, nor a senator, he was something more: the son of one of the wealthiest bankers in France “, reported the chronicles of the local newspaper.
There large house in Louis XV style it was built with materials imported from Europe: iron from England, wood from Germany, marble from the fireplaces from Carrara. All the furnishings were of French origin, including crystal chandeliers, paintings and velvet to cover the walls. The Demachys took up residence in 1888 and, during receptions, the guests were amazed to see the cart designed to carry food: the kitchen, in fact, was located 260 meters from the house to avoid smells.
The 27-room building was also equipped with a gas lighting system, distributed via pipes, running water and mobile sanitary ware, an absolute novelty in the region. That is why, although it is not, people started calling the place “El Castillo”. The Demachys lived there for three years, until, on a Sunday in October, they left carrying only their clothes and some objects, as for a short trip. They never came back.
The building changed several owners and, in 1929, was purchased by the Municipality of Concordia, which rented it to the Fuchs Vallon. “It was all in ruins, but it was in a lovely way, in the manner of an old moss-covered tree. From the rooms, spread like incense, it emanated thattypical library smell, which is worth all the perfumes of the worldSaint-Ex wrote in “Land of men”. After making him visit the house, Fuchs warned the pilot to watch out for holes in the floor and other imperfections. He was a rich man, but, since he was rented, he persisted in not wanting to make repairs; nor did the city take charge of it.
In the corridors Saint-Ex ran into Edda and Suzanne again. “They looked me up and down seriously, like two judges stationed on the threshold of a forbidden kingdom.” And he continues: “They held their hands in silence, with an air of curious challenge, and disappeared …”Eh! Eh! They are wild“Said the father simply.”
During dinner in the large dining room, as the moonlight entered from the large windows overlooking the river and the lush vegetation, the writer recalls: «My two silent fairies never lost sight of me during dinner… there was silence … something crept slightly on the parquet, hissed under the table ». “It’s the snakes,” said the smallest. “Ah! They are snakes, ‘replied Saint-Exupery. “I smiled because I was happy, because I definitely liked that house more every moment.” “They made their nests in a hole under the table,” Suzanne explained. “They go home around ten in the evening,” added Edda. “They hunt during the day.”
The writer wondered if the girls had classified him among their house animals, where an iguana, a mongoose and a fox, a snake, a monkey and bees already lived. “I looked at the girls sideways. Their finesse, their silent laughter behind peaceful faces. And I admired that sense of royalty that emanated ». It is more than a hypothesis to assume that the stories and adventures of the girls – which reminded Saint-Ex of childhood games with brothers – as well some experiences lived at Castillo (where he returned several times during his stay in Argentina) may have inspired him characters and situations for “The Little Prince”.
Castillo San Carlo
© Luis Ridao
A fire in 1938 irremediably destroyed the fairy Castillo. The princesses, who did not marry, always lived in Concordia. Today, in front of those ruins, a large sculpture signed by Amanda Mayor recalls the passage of Saint-Ex.
The fans of the French writer may already know him, but he is probably unknown to most. “Vuelo nocturno” is the 2017 film that the Argentine director Nicolás Herzog has dedicated to the history that we have proposed here.