Friday, October 28, 2011

The Little Prince


The Little Prince
Author and illustrator: Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Gallimard

First published in 1943, ‘The Little Prince’ has enchanted millions of readers around the world with its strange tale of a mysterious boy and his adventures. I first encountered the book as a ten year old, and my memories of it were of a charming and funny story about a boy and his fantastic interplanetary travels. It was also the first book I ever read (I hadn’t discovered Roald Dahl yet) that suggested grown ups weren’t powerful all knowing gods, that they often missed the woods for the trees and obsessed over trivial things like appearance and rules and the monetary value of things.

Revisiting ‘The Little Prince’ now for the purpose of this review, I seem to prove the author’s point, as I find myself engaging in the all too adult exercise of classifying it. Is it science fiction, with its tale of strange worlds and their stranger denizens? An ode to innocence and the infinite possibility of childhood? A parable about love , the power it possesses to change a life and give it purpose? An allegory about the power of hope and belief? A philosophical – and pro suicide- fable about spiritual freedom? Or a tragedy about the sacrifices one must make for the sake of that which we are responsible for? Interestingly, my eight year old shares none of my curiosity – the book is, to her, a funny story about silly grownups , bizarre worlds and the importance of loyalty to a friend.

“Grown ups never understand anything by themselves and it is rather tedious for children to explain things to them again and again.” Thus begins Saint-Exupery’s story of his meeting with the Little Prince, and the lessons he learns from his diminutive friend. Stranded in the middle of the Sahara desert after the airplane he is flying breaks down, our adult narrator is approached by the little boy who claims to be from a different planet, an asteroid called B612 that he shares with a single rose and three volcanoes, and on which he enjoys forty four sunsets a day. The prince loves the rose and tends to her with care, but it is her fickle nature that drives him away, as he begins his journeys to other stars. He meets a motley crew of eccentric people – all grown ups, of course – each with his individual take on life and its meaning. But it takes a little fox to explain the purpose of his life and his responsibility to the things he loves that finally sets the Little Prince free and eager to return home to the things he has left behind.

It is only with one’s heart, says the wise fox, that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. Powerful words these, and sure to resonate with readers of all ages. And though the Prince finally chooses a corporeal death as a solution to his quandaries, the book’s ambiguous ending manages to offer us both hope and a lesson in the healing powers of selfless love.

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5 comments:

sathish said...

WJ, a lovely review, as always.

sandhya said...

A wonderful review of a well-loved book, WJ!

You must try "The Tale of the Rose" written by his wife and muse, Counselo de Saint-Exupery (the inspiration for the Rose in The Little Prince)for a look at his real life.

artnavy said...

My all time favourite book is this I just love it


Pl lend me The tale of the rose S!!

Choxbox said...

Always a treat to read your reviews WJ!

Also seen this one as a play in Rangashankara - the kids enjoyed it thoroughly too.

wordjunkie said...

Thank you.
Sandhya, thanks for the tip .. will go hunt for 'The tale of the Rose'.

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