Monday, October 25, 2010
The Little Prince is a best selling french novella by famous author and aviator Antoime de Saint-Exupery. It remains the best selling french book with over 80 million copies sold and one of the best selling books in history. It has been translated into more than 190 languages (are there so many languages in the world?). This novella is not to be confused with the short story 'The happy prince' (which was not in the least happy).
The little prince is less than 100 pages in length and contains many illustrations. It remains one of the most popular books for children though I felt it was targeted at adults not because of content but because of the style of writing. The illustations are a little shabby but are tolerable.
The book is a fictional memoir of the author's experience at the Saharan desert.
The author begins by showing his childhood drawings which are (as expected) bad. He tells that he was an expert at drawing boa constrictors until his parents mistook and image of a boa constrictor eating an elephant for a hat. His parents were not happy to see him waste time drawing and discoraged him by telling him to do 'things of consequence'. This phrase is repeated many times in the book. The author being a child doesn't understand what this means but artist inside him is killed early in life.
The writer grows up to become a pilot who crashes into the Saharan desert during one of his voyages. There, he meets a little prince who is from another planet. He tells the narrator to draw sheep and other things which the narrator is unable to draw. He only knows to draw boa constrictors.
The prince explains about his planet and a rose in his planet with whom he fell in love. He describes his travels to six planets each with only one prominent person. These six planets depict six different types of human beings- The king, the conceited man, the drunkard/tippler, the businessman, the lamplighter and the geographer. These eight personalities tell the innocent little prince why they do their activities. The tippler drinks to forget that he is afriad fo drinking, the conceited man who wants to be admired by everyone but lives on a planet with no people, the king who controls the stars by ordering them to do what they already do, the lamplighter who lights lamps for the good of others in a planet where he alone lives etc.
The writer and the prince discuss about humans with similar thoughts. The writer imagines the prince as the child in him that was killed long ago.
Due to living in the desert for a few days, the writer is thirsty and hungry. His plane is broken. The writer and the prince find a well later. The prince tells the writer that his body is too heavy to take to his planet so, he is leaving it behind. The following day, he dies of a snake bite. The writer is devastated and filled with sadness.
In the last chapter, the writer leaves a scene of the Saharan desert and tells the readers to contact him if they every happen to meet the little prince there because deep in his heart, he wants to believe that the prince is till alive (in his memories).
Tragically, the writer died the year after this book was published.
The book lays extreme emphasis on innocence and a child's view of the world. The writer rightly thinks that children grow up too soon these days and never learn to cherish their dreams and fantasies. People are engrossed in doing 'things of consequence' that actually are not of much consequence. The book brings children's perspectives many times, one in the beginning and then after meeting the little prince. It shows how adults, who themselves were children once have grown up to be worse in some ways. The writer also writes of how preoccupied people are.
Though this book is recommended for children and is taught in France to beginners, I thought it was more appropriate for adults especially the ones who have forgotten all the marvels of childhood. The author himself recommends his young readers to dedicate this book to an adult. These days it is not hard to see people acting mature because they think childishness is stupid and won't be accepted by anyone. A recent survey showed that children are the happiest and adults who are like kids are happy too.
The book also gives a deep perspective of human nature through references to the six kinds of people the prince meets on six different planets. The book has metaphysical content and an innocent storywriting style which questions truth without offending anyone. The little prince inncoently says during the story- One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes.
The book was emotional in nature with many readers claiming they cried towards the end of the book. It has some underlying themes of friendship but mostly focuses on a contrast between childhood and adulthood.
The language is easy to understand since it was aimed at children. The illustrations are unprofessional and messy. I read the english translation of the book. Unlike some works which have been lost in translation, this book is actually as good or even better after translation.
Antoine de Saint Exupery is one of the most famous french writers. His books are mostly tragedies related to flying. They are often emotional in nature with memorable lines. He was a popular commercial pilot before he became a writer.
If you're a french student, you probably would've read this book. For others, this book is highly recommended. The parts narrating the prince's visit to various planets was a little boring but the rest of the book was great. It is a short book and even the boring parts don't drag long. There are lots of illustrations to keep you from falling asleep. A wonderful book especially for adults and teachers.
Drags at parts