‘The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Walking down streets or sitting in cafes reading, there is one thing I own which gets me involved in more book-based conversations than anything else: a now slightly tatty, faded leather book cover of ‘Le Petit Prince‘ bought in a tourist shop at the foot of Seoul Tower in South Korea around five years ago. Strangers walk past in the street with a simple “Nice!” and waitresses whose boyfriends have handmade them a gold necklace of the snake-ingested elephant go wild for it.
I even have one friend, (who became a friend partially based on this fact), who sports a 4-inch high tattoo of the Little Prince being pulled across the night sky (and her left midriff) by stars, but she didn’t wish to have it broadcast to strangers across the world on my blog, for some reason, so you’ll just have to imagine how amazing a tattoo it is.
‘Le Petit Prince,‘ or ‘The Little Prince,’ for the less francophone inclined, is one of those books which you read when young and which stays with you. I won’t turn this into a review of the book, because either you’ve read it, or you can take an hour to go and read it. Some may find it a little simplistic in a Paolo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ kind of way, (one reason I think you appreciate it more if you experience the book for the first time when young, like Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro‘ or ‘The Dark Crystal,’ the latter a film which really doesn’t stand up to re-viewing!), but for those who don’t need cute, life-affirming mottos, this little book offers plenty more.
It is the unique feel of the book which offers so much to the reader: firstly, the mix of fairly serious reality (the narrator throughout being in mortal danger after his motor breaks down in the Sahara desert ), and the fantasy world offered by a miniature person with miniature problems on a tiny planet who only cares about the simple things in life.
The illustrations, penned by the author Saint-Exupéry himself, (left), are timeless and affectionate.
Finally, the not-so-subtle symbolism of the various characters throughout the book are balanced by the underlying adorability of both the eponymous protagonist and the child which the narrator used to be. Morals are everywhere, but the basics can never be repeated enough: nature is good, (“Dessine-moi un mouton”/”Draw me a sheep”), greed and obsession are bad, you can’t always believe your eyes, and we should never, ever grow up.