Sagittarius Rising

Sagittarius Rising

Written by:
Introduction by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780143107347
  • 240 Pages
  • Penguin Classics
  • Adult


A memoir by a WWI fighter pilot, with the adventurous spirit of War Horse and the charm of The Little Prince

A singular, lyrical book, Sagittarius Rising is at once an exuberant memoir from the Lost Generation and a riveting tale of the early days of flight during World War I. Cecil Lewis lied his way into the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps at age sixteen and was ordered to a squadron on the Western Front only a year later. At the time, flying was so new that designers hadn’t even decided on basic mechanics such as how many wings a plane should have. Despite this, Lewis mastered virtually every kind of single-engine plane in the RFC, going on to excel in active duty and even to dogfight the Red Baron—and live to tell the tale. Full of infectious charm and written with the prose and pacing of a novel, Sagittarius Rising beautifully recounts Lewis’s harrowing exploits in the sky alongside his wild times of partying and chasing girls while on leave in London. His coming-of-age story is unlike any other WWI memoir you’ve read before.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


Praise for Sagittarius Rising:

“This is a book everyone should read. It is the autobiography of an ace, and no common ace either. The boy had all the noble tastes and qualities, love of beauty, soaring imagination, a brilliant endowment of good looks . . . This prince of pilots had a charmed life in every sense of the word; he is a thinker, a master of words, and a bit of a poet.”
—George Bernard Shaw

“A magical evocation of the lonely battle fought in the clouds.”
The Daily Telegraph

“Classic . . . the definitive account of aerial combat—full of passion and poetry.”
The Independent

“I have read a number of different accounts of aviators in the First World War, but the world that Cecil Lewis unveils in Sagittarius Rising is unlike any other I have previously read about … What makes this book so special is not only Cecil Lewis’s story, but the way in which he shares his life experiences. He writes so eloquently, painting an amazingly detailed picture with his words … If I had to pick the one book that I could own on the personal accounts of aviators from the First World War, this book would be it … [Lewis’s] ability to captivate your imagination with his words makes for a book that is very difficult to put down once you start reading it.”
Aero (January 2007)

“This beautiful work evokes the air war of 1914-1918 in an unusual and moving way. It was written by a sensitive artist who, unlike so many of his comrades, had his life preserved by a series of fortunate assignments during his career as a combat pilot. He thus acquired the skill to match his love of flying, and so survived the war … Given that Cecil Lewis left school at 17, lying about his age to get into the Royal Flying Corps, his ability with words is astounding. Even more remarkable is that much of his 1936 Sagittarius Rising is written with passionate, embracing enthusiasm of youth. His foreword wryly acknowledges this, asking the reader’s forgiveness for his inclusion of some tentative romantic encounters … a book that everyone who loves aviation should read.”
Aviation History (November 2007)

“If you want to read one book which best captures the heroic infancy of flying, then Sagittarius Rising is it. Forget St-Exupery, Lindbergh or even Richard Hillary. Cecil Lewis got there before any of them, and in this magical memoir summed up the terrible beauty of flying, and fighting the first air war, waged in the skies above the Western Front.”
—Nigel Jones, BBC History Magazine

Sagittarius Rising is his stirring, often moving, account of his years with the corps, fighting on the Western Front. The vivid descriptions of dog-fights (including an encounter with the Red Baron) and the exhilaration of flight transcend Boy’s Own Paper banality through his poignancy and lyrical depth.” —The Times

This pretty new Penguin edition of his book sports an eye-catching cover illustration by Matthew Taylor and a wonderful Introduction by aviation historian Samuel Hynes…it’s mighty good fun to spend time in airman Lewis’s company.”
Open Lettters Monthly