Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Little Prince - A Review

The Little Prince
By Antoine de Saint Exupery

Back Cover :
No one story is more beloved by children and grown-ups alike than this wise, enchanting fable. One day, the author reminisces, when his plane was forced down in the Sahara, a thousands miles from help, he encountered a most extraordinary small person. "If you please," said the stranger, "draw me a sheep." And thus begins the remarkable history of the Little Prince.
The Little Prince lived alone on a tiny planet no larger than a house. He owned three volcanoes, two active and one extinct. He also owned a flower, unlike any flower in all the galaxy, of great beauty and inordinate pride. It was this pride that ruined the serenity of the Little Prince's world and started him on the interplanetary travels that brought him to Earth, where he learned, finally from a fox, the secret of what is really important in life.
I knew from the moment I cracked open the Little Prince and read the dedication that I would enjoy this book; "To Leon Werth: I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a reason: he is the best friend I have in the world....I will dedicate this book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children-although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication: To Leon Werth when he was a little boy."
I so enjoyed the sweet and simple prose of this story, and made an effort to read it slowly as to appreciate it. I have to say though, that I was expecting a pure children's novella and I do not think that is what I got. The simplicity of the language and illustrations seem to masquerade what I believe to be a story to the adults and an attempt to speak to the children they once were.  There seems to be a bit of satire laced throughout the story towards adults and adulthood. I sensed perhaps a man grown slightly wearied and cynical toward his fellow adults, the ones who have lost their way attempting to find purpose and happiness. Or perhaps he had lost his way.
This story was written after Antoine de Saint Exupery, among other things, an aviator, had crashed in the Sahara desert in 1935. He had been attempting to break the speed record in a Paris to Saigon air race. He survived the crash, but was close to death by dehydration after being lost in the desert for four days. They were saved by a bediuon and and this book was in part a homage to that experience.
This book was also a homage to his late brother and best friend, Francois, who passed away from rheumatic fever at the age of fifteen. There is a line that reads, "he fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound," which is very similar to how he described his brother in writing,"...remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a [young] tree falls."
Strangely and sadly, Antoine de Saint Exupery disappeared on a WWII flight assignment, never to be seen or heard from again. The Little Prince was the last book published before his disappearance. He  seems to be eternally intertwined with this story. I would recommend this story, but more so to adults than to children. It would be a good read to curl up to on one of these winter nights.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."


  1. I have never read this book, though it has been on the periphery of my life for so long. My dad was a pilot and loved flying and reading about flying, and he loved this book. I really need to read it.

    Your post on it is lovely--a nice combo of history and excerpts and commentary that seem to capture the elegiac tone of the book.

    Nicely done.

    1. Thank you Jane! I love to look for the story beyond the story...it's interesting to see how an author's experience shapes their writing. I hope that you get a chance to read it. You will have to let me know what you think. :)