It’s been a very long while since I read Le Petit Prince and I can’t say that I loved it or understood it very well in high school. It was a reading assignment in second year French. I thought it was a little difficult and absolutely didn’t compare to reading Le Petit Nicolas the year before, which was very easy. So here I am 31 years later giving it a try for its 70th anniversary. Funny that there wasn’t much more hype than different covers being sold in bookshops, with banners marking the anniversary but not much more than that. I’m assuming more was done in Paris.
Le Petit Prince begins with the narrator’s plane crashing in the Sahara desert. (That really did happen to Saint-Exupéry and is believed that it sparked the idea for Le Petit Prince.) He has very little food and water and must rely on his limited knowledge to repair his plane. While contemplating his dilemma, he’s approached by a little blond boy who asks him to draw a sheep. We then learn that he comes from a planet called Asteroid 325, which is called Asteroid B 612 on Earth. The little prince is conscientious about making sure his planet stays balanced and that it won’t get overrun by bad seeds or baobab trees. Then one day a mysterious rose grows on the planet and he immediately falls in love with it, until he catches the rose in a lie. He realizes he can’t trust the rose and that makes him feel lonely. In spite of everything, the little prince decides to venture out and explore other places to try to cure his loneliness.
This isn’t really my kind of story. Le Petit Prince is a succession of parables that make one story. It kind of reminded me a slightly of The Alchemist for that and I hated The Alchemist. Even though, there is something original and redeeming in Le Petit Prince. The main character happens to be a little boy and most people believe the story is for children which I really don’t think is the case. It is written in a way that children can relate to and the beautiful watercolors from Saint-Exupéry make it all so inviting, especially for little boys. It is a multilayered story written in simple fashion. Not to mention the parables are clear but not too preachy, thank goodness for that. The principal themes are narrow-mindedness and its dangers along with how exploration can bring enlightenment. These themes are touched on in some way through all the encounters the little prince makes with the different characters and the narrator. The allegory is quite clear in the story for adults but not so much for children, but that’s ok because they will be more focused on the little prince’s travels, adventure, and all the characters he meets. The recurring symbols are the stars, water, the trains, and the desert. The cover picture was a perfect choice.
All in all Antoine de Saint-Exupéry created a story that spoke about the person he was and his beliefs. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the privilege to realize or experience the worldwide popularity of Le Petit Prince, which was translated into over 250 languages. It was published in 1943 when Saint-Exupéry set sail on an American ship from the United States headed to Europe to fight in World War II. He wanted to fight in the war and save Europe from nazism. He left with a quickly bound copy of Le Petit Prince made by his publishing company. He then joined the Free French Air Force in North Africa but disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea in July 1944 on his last mission. He was of maximum age for flying during the war and his health was declining. Nevertheless, he wrote three very successful novels during his hiatus in the United States that all received literary recognition and awards: Terre des Hommes in 1939 (Wind, Sand, and Stars), Pilote de Guerre in 1942 (Flight to Arras),and Le Petit Prince in 1943 (The Little Prince).
Title: Le Petit Prince
Genre: Classic/French Literature/Young Adult/Fantasy/Philosophy
My rating: * * *