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The Little Prince ()


Amazon.com Top 100 Books of the Millenium (74)

I wonder what commonality it was that lead several of the early aviators to be such great authors.  There's Beryl Markham's West With the Night (see review), the various works of Saint Exupery and in addition to the writings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the Lone Eagle himself, Charles Lindbergh, won the Pulitzer for The Spirit of Saint Louis.  Certainly they had all lead fascinating and exciting lives, so they had good material to work with when it came to autobiography and memoirs, but how then explain the slight but enchanting fable of The Little Prince?

Saint Exupery's classic tale can be read on many levels and enjoyed by readers of any age.  He tells the story of being stranded in the desert and meeting a tiny blond boy.  This Little Prince proceeds to tell of his travels from planet to planet until he arrived on Earth and of what he has learned along the way.  The most important thing he reveals is a secret that was taught him by a fox that he tamed:
 

                         And he went back to meet the fox.
                         "Goodbye" he said.

                         "Goodbye," said the fox.
                         "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
                         It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
                         what is essential is invisible to the eye."

                         "What is essential is invisible to the eye,"
                         the little prince repeated,
                         so that he would be sure to remember.

                         "It is the time you have wasted for your rose
                         that makes your rose so important.

                         "It is the time I have wasted for my rose--
                         "said the little prince
                         so he would be sure to remember.

                         "Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox.
                         "But you must not forget it.
                         You become responsible, forever,
                         for what you have tamed.
                         You are responsible for your rose. . ."

                         "I am responsible for my rose,"
                         the little prince repeated,
                        so that he would be sure to remember.
 
 

This is the central lesson of the story--love and responsibility for one another.  And just as this is essentially the message of Christ, from here on in the rest of the story is a fairly straightforward Christian allegory.  As Saint-Exupery is dying of thirst, the Little Prince leads him to a well, the water of which is uniquely refreshing.  Then the Little Prince announces that the time has come for him to go away, that a snake will bite him and it will look like he is suffering greatly, but that he will live on in Saint-Exupery's heart and mind and can never die.

Regardless of whether you read the story as simply a delightful children's fable or read it as an existential or a Christian myth, or read it multiple times and find a different meaning each time, it is endlessly rewarding and quite beautiful.  If you want an ideal introduction to the book, check out one of the etexts below, they are excellent examples of the best aspects of the Web--presenting the entire story (in various languages) and illustrations in lucid formats.

GRADE: A-

DOROTHY JUDD'S REVIEW:
The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery)

Orrin's review piqued my interest in this book, a book which I had picked up and put down several times in the past, never getting past the first few pages.

Clearing that first hurdle, I saw what has kept this fable popular for so many years. I liked the  characters and the "lessons." I was especially fond of the tippler and the businessman, and the poignant description of "taming."  And, of course, there is the oft-quoted, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Toward the end I began to feel that I was reading the New Testament but that is perhaps what will keep the fable in my consciousness: that and the marvelous pictures which I still find the best part of the book!

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

Antoine Exupery Links:

    -ESSAY: From the Murky Depths: Fathoming the lasting appeal of Saint-ExupŽry and "The Little Prince." (BENJAMIN IVRY, April 15, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Book-related and General Links:
    -etext: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Illustrated by author Translated from the French by Katherine Woods
    -The Little Prince Picture Index (click picture to get text)
    -Asteroid B-612
    -The Little Prince Home Page
    -Le Petit Prince - The Little Prince: The multilingual Little Prince
    -The Fox and the Little Prince
    -International LITTLE PRINCE Online
    -Little Prince Postcards:  Illustrations by Vasili Kandinsky
    -Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupery: Pilot, Poet, Man
    -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at Villa St. Jean
    -Antoine de SAINT-EXUPERY Memorial
    -Simple Complexity: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Michael Waddell)
    -ONLINE STUDYGUIDE : Little Prince (Daniel Maxwell , Spark Notes)
    -REVIEW: of SAINT-EXUPERY A Biography. By Stacy Schiff. ( Isabelle de Courtivron, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of WARTIME WRITINGS 1939-1944 By Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Translated by Norah Purcell. (Nona Balakian, NYTimes Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Saint-Exupéry: A Biography by Stacy Schiff  Lonely Passion (A. Alvarez, NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: (David McCullough, NY Times)
    -Saint Exupery picture

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