The press card used by the French novelist and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry during the Spanish Civil War has been discovered by historian and researcher Policarpo Sánchez.
According to his press card, Saint-Exupery was checked into the Hotel Florida in Madrid where US writers Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn were staying
The author of The Little Prince, who disappeared over the Mediterranean on a reconnaissance mission in July 1944, covered the Spanish Civil War for a number of French newspapers. “His press card was not found earlier because it wasn’t with the other foreign figures who came to Spain during this period, such as Ernest Hemingway or the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro,” says María José Turrión, assistant director of the General Archives of the Spanish Civil War, in Salamanca.
The press card was issued on April 16, 1937 by the Republican Ministry of Propaganda. At the time, forces loyal to the democratically elected government were defending the capital from the Nationalist forces – half of which was under the command of General Francisco Franco – and all journalists working in Republican-held territory had to sign in with this department.
When Franco’s troops conquered Madrid in April 1939, all Republican documents were sent to Salamanca in boxes. “It's not unusual that Saint-Exupery’s press card turned up somewhere else because everything was scattered and there is not much that’s complete,” says Turrión. “We have identified the main box of press cards belonging to writers and journalists. Press cards were issued by the Ministry of Propaganda allowing them to be at the front taking photographs and gathering news.”
The French writer was 36 when he arrived in Spain and signed up as a pilot and writer, although a mistake in translation meant he was registered as a clerk and pilot – the French word for writer is écrivain and the Spanish word for clerk is escribano.
According to his press card, Saint-Exupery was checked into the Hotel Florida in Madrid where US writers Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn also stayed.
But despite being in the ‘wrong’ box, Saint-Exupéry’s press card will remain where it was found. “It doesn’t make any difference,” says Turrion. “It has been registered on our website with the corresponding description.”
English version by Heather Galloway.