Jan 29, 2009

The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
translated by Katherine Woods

When I was a teen I loved The Little Prince. It was one of my comfort reads, and I turned its pages many, many times. Now it rests on the shelf of "big-kid books" my daughter is always anxious to peruse, and she chose it for bedtime stories through the past week.

And I'm sorry to say I was disappointed. I don't know if my memories are nostalgically rosy, or I've become more cynical, or it's just not really a suitable book for kids. But I found reading it aloud tedious. The sentences are not smooth, or at least they didn't feel so coming off my tongue. It might be the translation, I'm sure it's more lyrical in the original. The story jumps back and forth with little explanation, and it was quite confusing for my four-year-old. (Reading it in very short segments became easier, because she would forget what came before and not expect it to follow a linear time-line). It begins with the author (who is a pilot) describing how as a child he made drawings which grown-ups could not understand, then jumps to an incident when as an adult he crashed his airplane in the desert and met a child wandering there alone. This little boy he called "the Little Prince," and their first meeting is a conversation about a drawing of a sheep the Little Prince wants. The author tries to find out what the Little Prince is doing in the desert, where he came from, why he wants a sheep, etc. but he never gets a straight answer and has to piece it all together, slowly.

It turns out the Little Prince is a visitor from a star, a little planet far away. Rebuked by a vain, proud rose he cares for (yes, the flower talks) he runs away to visit other planets. He meets grown-ups obsessed with singular occupations whose purpose make little sense to the Little Prince. He applies a child's logic and perspective to everything and shows the reader how foolish grown-up concerns can be. He learns some wisdom about friendship from a fox, and teaches the pilot his pearls of wisdom. The shining message I glean from The Little Prince is about the importance of friendship, about the value of things you love. My favorite quote from the book sums it up very well: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Rating: 3/5                       92 pages, 1943

More opinions at:
Overdue Books
Giving Reading a Chance
Uniquely Priya


Lezlie said...

Tag! Check my blog for details. :-)


KT said...

I hate when I re-read old favorites and I don't like them nearly as much. It's so sad!

Maw Books said...

I never read this as a kid but I read it last year and I just didn't get it. Ugh. Glad to know that I wasn't the only one. I reviewed it here: http://blog.mawbooks.com/2008/06/27/the-little-prince-by-antoine-de-saint-exupery/

Jeane said...

Lezlie: okay! I'll get to it!

KT: it's very disappointing. Almost makes me not want to re-read some books from my childhood.

Natasha: I remember now, commenting on that post. I'm sad that my premonition came true.

carolsnotebook said...

I remember reading this in French for a class in high school. I don't I was particularly impressed by the story.

Jen said...

I love this book, but it is far superior in French than in English. The main reason I read the English is to make sure I can remember enough French to actually read it.

Nymeth said...

I'm sorry to hear you were disappointed! I've always loved this book, but I think the last time I read it was in my late teens...I'm kinda scared to revisit it now :P

Trish said...

There are some aspects of this book that I absolutely adore but I was a little disappointed as well. I definitely would like to re-read it again, though.

Bookfool said...

I read The Little Prince a few years ago and was kind of baffled. I loved Antoine de Exupery's book Flight to Arras, but man . . . this was just one confusing, weird book. I found it disappointing, too. Have you read Flight to Arras? His war writings are fascinating.

nicole said...

So sad that you were disappointed--I haven't read this book in years either but I do remember loving it. I've never read the English version, but the French is just gorgeous.

My own favorite line, based on memory and my own translation, is the rose saying, "You have to put up with a few caterpillars if you want to get to know the butterflies." Too true!

Jeane said...

Carolsnotebook- the storyline, although simple by itself, is made way too comlicated by how its presented (at least that's how I felt)

Jen- I'm gald to know that! I wish I could read French, myself.

Nymeth- It's made me more leery of re-visiting books I read and loved as a teen; too many of them have disappointed me as an adult and I like to keep my fond memories!

Trish- There are still a lot of quotes I find really inspiring, even if it was lacking for a re-read.

Bookfool- No, I haven't but I did read Wind, Sand and Stars and enjoyed it more than The Little Prince.

Nicole- That is one of the best lines in the book! I really like what the fox says about uniqueness, too.