30 March 2009

Book Review: The Little Prince

I have a horrible, horrible confession to make: I cheated.

That's right. I first read Le Petit Prince in French, in high school, my junior year. The book was written (duh) entirely in French. I did not know French. Not after two and a half years. A year and a half later, after I had graduated from high school, I STILL did not know French. (So, yes, I wasted four years taking French. Learned nothing.)

So, to aid myself, and to help raise my grade, I bought an English translation: The Little Prince. It is fantastic. It's wondrous. It's really one of my favorite books. It's beautiful, and heart-breaking, and mysterious - just as is the writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Wikipedia tells me The Little Prince has been translated into 180 different languages and sold more than 80 million copies (bah! two of them are mine). Apparently it's been adapted into two operas, too! And into an animation series.

So this book really hit me, as a junior in high school, because while it is marketed as a children's book, it really has a lot of profound ideas. My favorite scene is when the fox and the little prince have a conversation about the prince's rose. It's so sweet. I cried. I really did. I remember tearing up in French class. I mean, I was crying towards the English version...I had no clue what the French one was saying...

"Nothing's perfect," sighed the fox. "My life is monotonous. I hunt chickens; people hunt me. All chickens are just alike, and all men are just alike. So I'm rather bored. But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine. I'll know the sound of footsteps that will be different from all the rest. Other footsteps send me back underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music. And then, look! You see the wheat fields over there? I don't eat bread. For me, wheat is no use whatever. Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the color of gold. So it will be wonderful, once you've tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I'll love the sound of the wind in the wheat..."

But not only was I crying. There are so many cute little lines, too - like one of my favorite quotes: "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again."

Oh, and then this part (this could be good for a wedding reading, yes?)

"You're lovely, but you're empty," he went on. "One couldn't die for you. Of course an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than you altogether, since she's the one I've watered. Since she's the one I put under glass. Since she's the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she's the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except for two or three for butterflies). Since's she the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she's my rose."

And of course, perhaps the most famous of all:

Yeah, go read it.


laura bee said...

ahh! I love Le Petit Prince! It is so tragic and lovely. Don't ever watch the movie version with Richard Pryor though. It is one of the creepiest things I have seen in my entire life (shutter).

Anonymous said...

I think you meant the one with Gene Wilder made in 1974. I found it delightful.