Once in a lifetime, there comes along a novel that is so touching, so innocently poignant, that just by reading it, you feel your heart shatter and soar at the same time. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Éxupéry is the apotheosis of all such novels. Published in 1943, it has become one of the bestselling novels of all time, sold more than 80 million copies and been translated into more than 180 languages¹. Some would classify it as a childish story. Perhaps it is. Yet to categorize it as such would be to deny the fundamental philosophical truths it hides behind the simplicity of the narrative.
In 2006, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit France. One of my first reactions to the old continent was how deeply engraved The Little Prince was in french culture*. It seemed the philosophical lessons of this short novel were everywhere, to be read or to be bought. The Little Prince has morphed into a capitalist’s dream: his notebooks, postcards, bookmarks can be bought everywhere. I should know… I bought a few myself.
Do not let that stop you. Do not judge this book by how commercially successful it is. There is a reason behind the fervor. Do not reduce it to “children’s literature”. It would be reducing the human heart to a mere muscle. Do not judge it by its cover… Antoine de Saint-Éxupéry has achieved the seemingly impossible: he has illustrated (both linguistically and visually) all that is beautiful about love.
Reader, whoever you are, I urge you: let the little prince seduce you. He will break your heart in the best way possible.
“What makes the desert beautiful,” says the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well.”
*Literally; on my first or second day, I saw a carving of the Prince on a sidewalk.