‘The Little Prince‘ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery has been on my to-read list for almost two years now, mainly because of all the hype surrounding it. And finally, when I finished it today, I wonder why I waited two years to read this simple, yet enigmatic 90-page book! A truly remarkable book though published in 1943 remains just as relevant today as it was then.
The book starts off with the life of the narrator, who in his younger years could never connect with the adults. His true skills lay in artistry, but the adults could never decipher his advanced drawings and thinking. Dejected, he gave up all hopes and became a professional air pilot. This adventure, which forms the major part of the tale, takes place when the narrator’s plane crashes in the Sahara desert and he is left stranded. There, he meets the mystery called the Little Prince.
Little Prince is from Asteroid B-612, where he talks to butterflies, looks after the plants and battles evil baobabs. The Prince is not like anyone the narrator has ever encountered. Filled with childlike curiosity and innocence, he acts like a precocious kid would. And yet, he has wisdom that takes adults a lifetime (or more) to acquire. It is astonishing, that a sunset-loving young boy, who babbles unconnectedly, can give us so many recycled and precious lessons that will enable us to keep that child within us alive.
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”
The Little Prince also describes his journey from planet to planet to fight the loneliness he feels. Each tiny world is populated by a single adult. It’s a wonderfully inventive sequence, which evokes not only the great fairy tales but also such monuments of postmodern whimsy whenever the author pokes fun at the following: a king, a conceited man, a tippler, a businessman, a geographer, and a lamplighter, all of whom signify some futile aspect of adult existence.
At a different level, you can see the Little Prince’s travels to other planets as an allegory for all of life. What are we seeking for? How do you know when we have found it? How can we lose what is important? The examples of self-absorbed adults, beginning with the aviator, provide many cautionary tales. “Don’t you see — I’m very busy with matters of consequence!”
And finally, from the Prince, the narrator learns lessons about life, friendship, love and truth in a simple yet touching way. My favourite part is the one involving the wise fox and the Prince, where the fox tells the Prince,
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
The story of ‘The Little Prince’, though many critics feel is meant for children and has no significance whatsoever on an adult bookshelf thanks to its unpretentious language, whimsical tales and short length, can be read at many different levels of meaning. In fact, the wider your mind and heart, the more you will appreciate the story. But the narrower your mind and heart, the more you need this story.
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: