The prince who evinced the creative power of youth turns 70.
An idealistic and emotionally rich tale, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince is considered the greatest book written in 20th century France; its philosophical focus is on the queerly uncreative nature of adults, and the importance of love and creativity –and April of this year marked the 70th anniversary of the world’s first introduction to this little literary icon.
Aside from the moral content of The Little Prince –which is, to be sure, timelessly treasureable –what makes the story so fascinating is its historical, “real life” parallels. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, our humble narrator, really was a pilot; he really did crash-land his plane into the desert (in Morocco, during World War Two), where he and his navigator nearly died of dehydration (and would have, if a Bedouin had not happened upon them). Surely, the two experienced hallucinations during their four-day-long ordeal –maybe Antoine really did meet a little prince, out there in the desert. As observed by Saint-Exupéry biographer, Stacy Schiff:
Rarely have an author and a character been so intimately bound together as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his Little Prince … the two remain tangled together, twin innocents who fell from the sky.
Leandra Medine of Man Repeller recently shared her nostalgia for the story –one she has loved since childhood. By way of some cosmically unjust happening, I didn’t experience the might of Saint-Exupéry’s imagination until I was in high school. As a delicate 15 year old proto-philosopher, one who devoutly privileged the values espoused by the story before ever reading it, this book was like candy for my soul. I consumed the novella, over and over again; I was consumed. The power of children… the creativity of youth… it was all so Nietzschean, so Zarathustra! I read the book five times in one day, the first time I read it –my original copy, now long gone, had so many underlines and circlings and notes in the margin that I had to buy a new copy.
As a child, my mother must have read The Little Prince; if not, her fascination with elephants and baobab trees is an incredible coincidence. It wasn’t a book I grew up with, though, which leads me to believe that she discovered it after her youth, much like I did. Either way, since discovering that most Petit Prince, I’ve kept the idealistic dreamer close to my heart. For, as the (crazily-long-eared and incorrigibly wise) fox tells us:
On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Like Leandra, I too have wondered where the hell I could get such a whimsically windswept scarf –but I want the pilot jumpsuit, too. That shade of chartreuse is too magnificently tart to not possess!
It is difficult to not post all of my favorite quotes, but I shall refrain. Instead, I’ll ask you, little aesthetes, to share your most meaningful moments –what quotes, which illustrations do you love the most?