Have you ever had a book whisper to you? A whisper that cannot be heard, but felt like misty hands delicately touching you in ghostly, forgotten places that you’ve learnt to keep dark and cold. Places in your heart. In your mind. Or your spirit. Places that once shone with tiny stars but for whatever reason was wiped black. Le Petit Prince or The Little Prince (1945) by French writer and poet, Antoine Saint-Exupéry is a novella that crept into my world one boring high-school day in French class. It was as if I melted right into the words as my teacher read it to us. I didn’t even mind that the loaned book I was given smelled of cat pee. That’s how absorbed I became.
The insistence and impatience of the Little Prince as he demands “Dessine-moi un mouton! (Draw me a sheep!)” will forever echo my search for a soulmate. The aviator (stranded in the desert) is asked to draw a sheep by a peculiar boy he has just met. All his attempts at drawing said sheep ends with rejection (too sickly, a ram, too old) until in despair he decides to draw a box with little holes.
His exasperated effort (that most adults would mock or scorn) is greeted with a deep appreciation and gratitude by his curious new friend. And aren’t we all looking for childish originality and creativity? We seek a return to an innocent and colorful way of viewing life. We seek someone who will draw us a box and join us in debating the infinite possibilities that the simple box presents.
I admit that I read The Little Prince at least twice a year as a reminder of what’s truly important. It’s become my safety blanket and helps me shed light on that frustrating thing people call ‘acceptance’.
Often when I get asked to name my favorite books, this one stumbles effortlessly out of my mouth and I’m greeted with slight unimpressed shock. But that’s usually because people are unaware of the magnitude of poetic achievement Saint-Exupéry managed to achieve with this so-called ‘children’s book’. The original French text is written flawlessly and speaks to bilingual readers more than the English version ever could. However, that’s not to say that the English text lacks any of the deeper thoughts on love, loneliness, friendship, human nature and existence. The book is a clever piece of artwork that stands the test of time. I just returned from a screening of the animated movie adaptation in French (at the Alliance Française de Durban) but it is equally thought provoking (and tear inducing) in English. The adaptation allows us to experience a little, lonely girl’s encounter with the original story. It reinvents the classic children’s tale as we see the way the story weaves around her life and changes it. Highly recommended.
If you’ve ever had a friend, or wanted one…if you’ve ever been in love or yearned for it…or if you’ve ever thought how strange grown-ups can be…then this is the book (and movie for you). I take no responsibility for the tears you will cry, but I look forward to the ways in which the words will write themselves upon you.
The French trailer of Mark Osborne’s 2015 animated adaptation of Saint-Exupéry’s classic.
Click to view on Amazon.com
Disclaimer: Feature Photo source unknown. Found on Pinterest.