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Help me truly cite this Antoine de Saint Exupery quote
March 13, 2008 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Help me truly cite this Antoine de Saint Exupery quote: "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

This is quoted all over the place, but I'd like to find its original source. Was it spoken? Is it in a book? If it's in a book, which one?
posted by josh.ev9 to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dang, I can't remember which but I do know it was in one of the essays in Airman's Odyssey.
posted by jon1270 at 6:41 PM on March 13, 2008


According to this site, it's from Terre des Hommes. (click citation and then enter "perfection" into the search box.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 6:41 PM on March 13, 2008


The american translation seems to be Wind, Sand and Stars. You can search inside on Amazon. And there it is.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2008


Google is telling me that Terre des Hommes became, when translated, "Wind, Sand and Stars," which makes sense because that essay talks about the very early days of commercial flight. The quote, if I remember right, comes up when he's reflecting on the development of airplanes.
posted by jon1270 at 6:53 PM on March 13, 2008


And now, having spoken of the men born of the pilot's craft, I shall say something about the tool with which they work, the airplane Have you ever looked at a modern airplane? Have you followed from year to year the evolution of its lines? Have you ever thought, not only about the airplane, but about whatever man builds, that all of man's industrial efforts, all his computations and calculations, all the nights spent over working draughts and blueprints, invariably culminate in the production of a thing whose sole and guiding principle is the ultimate principle of simplicity?

It is as if there were a natural law which ordained that to achieve this end, to refine the curve of a piece of furniture, or a ship's keel, or the fuselage of an airplane, until gradually it partakes of the elementary purity of the curve of a human breast or shoulder, there must be the experimentation of several generations of craftsmen. In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.

de St. Exupery, Antoine. Wind Sand and Stars. Trans. Lewis Galantiere. New York: Harcourt Inc. 1967


I LOVE this book with all my heart and soul.
posted by amethysts at 7:01 PM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Forgot: It's right at the beginning of chapter 3: The Tool.
posted by amethysts at 7:03 PM on March 13, 2008



I won't argue that he put it in writing, but it is interesting to compare with these references.
posted by plinth at 7:46 PM on March 13, 2008


As a reference, from the French edition of Terre des Hommes (Gallimard, 1939), p. 60.

Il semble que le travail des ingénieurs, des dessinateurs, des calculateurs du bureau d'études ne soit ainsi, en apparence, que de polir et d'effacer, d'alléger ce raccord, d'équilibrer cette aile, jusqu'à ce qu'on ne la remarque plus, jusqu'à ce qu'il n'y ait plus une aile accrochée à un fuselage, mais une forme parfaitement épanouie, enfin dégagée de sa gangue, une sorte d'ensemble spontané, mystérieusement lié, et de la même qualité que celle du poème. Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n'y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n'y a plus rien à retrancher. Au terme deson évolution, la machine se dissimule.
posted by ddaavviidd at 8:19 PM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


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