The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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The Little Prince by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is probably one of the most famous French books ever as it is officially the most translated French book in history. It was first published in April 1943 under the original title Le Petit Prince. This 83-page gem is a must-read book for everyone, young and old! And it’s just so amazingly quotable!

The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.

At first sight, The Little Prince is a lovely fairy tale that children everywhere will adore. But since the book is rife with allegories and metaphors, it is just so much more and can be also enjoyed by teenager and (young) adults alike! I reread the story several times and discovered something new every time; another link to present-day life, a new take on human behaviour, critiques on perceived faults in adults and society, …

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Goodreads describes it as a “moral allegory and spiritual autobiography.” I can’t describe this book any better than Goodreads did, so I’m not even going to try.

With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.

In summary, it’s about a Little Prince who travels the universe and learns new things on every planet he encounters. These chapters are like little stories onto themselves. The longest stop of the Prince’s trip is on earth where he meets a fox, which is in my opinion the focal point of the book.

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As Goodreads said, this is an autobiography. The author was born in Lyons in 1900 and flew for the first time when he was 12 years old. Ever since then, it was his biggest ambition to become a pilot – he succeeded in doing so after joining the army. Just like Antoine’s love of flying made it impossible for him to stay in one place for long – so is The Little Prince constantly discovering new horizons.

During the Second World War, he flew reconnaissance missions for his home country and even flew to New York to ask the United States for help when Germany occupied France. It’s during that time that he published The Little Prince, in 1943 to be exact. He soon returned to the French air forces and despite having been forbidden to fly due to his suffering from earlier plane crashes, he soldiered on (pun intended). On July 31st, 1944, he set out from Corsica to fly over occupied France – a mission from which he never returned.

It’s clear that it is not only his love of travelling that translated into The Little Prince’s characteristics. Saint-Exupéry used many elements from his travels and his life in general in his book. He crashed a plane in the desert, which The Little Prince also ends up in. Because of what he saw and experienced in the war, he was disappointed in and at times disgusted by human nature and human society – which shows in The Little Prince’s incomprehension of those same things.

All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.

Of course, some of the societal criticism present in The Little Prince is no longer valid today. However, it’s not hard to still recognise that people sometimes assign too much importance to numbers, stuff and power than they probably should. And finally, I also want to highlight something in the ending. As a child, I understood that as The Little Prince finally going back home to his beloved rose. However, as I reread it later, I realised that The Little Prince in fact died, and that he did not get his happy ending. I think this is also autobiographical, though the author couldn’t have predicted it. It turned out to be strangely prophetic. Not content to stay where he was, longing to go back up into the sky he loved, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry went back up in his plane and left on one final journey – never to be seen again. In my opinion, The Little Prince does the same thing. He voluntarily leaves on one final journey, in the hopes of being reunited with his loved ones. Such beautiful symbolism, though unintended.

The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.

The Little Prince is a beautiful story and will appeal to readers of all ages. The more discerning reader will love searching out all the metaphors and allegories. A definite must-read!

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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