A pilot, stranded in the desert, meets a little boy who is a prince on a planet. Based on the story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, this magical musical fable begins as a pilot makes a forced landing on the barren Sahara Desert. He is befriended by a ...
The Little Prince is a novella by French aristocrat, writer, and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was first published in English and French in the US by Reynal & Hitchcock in April 1943, and posthumously in France following the liberation of France as Saint-Exupéry's works had been banned by the Vichy Regime. The story follows a young prince who visits various planets in space, including Earth, and addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss. Despite its style as a children's book, The Little Prince makes poignant observations about life and human nature.
The Little Prince became Saint-Exupéry's most successful work, selling an estimated 140 million copies worldwide, which makes it one of the best-selling and most translated books ever published. It has been translated into 300 languages and dialects. The Little Prince has been adapted to numerous art forms and media, including audio recordings, radio plays, live stage, film, television, ballet, and opera.
Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, simply known as de Saint-Exupéry (29 June 1900 – 31 July 1944), was a French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France's highest literary awards and also won the United States National Book Award. He is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) and for his lyrical aviation writings, including Wind, Sand and Stars and Night Flight.
Saint-Exupéry was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, working airmail routes in Europe, Africa and South America. At the outbreak of war, he joined the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air), flying reconnaissance missions until France's armistice with Germany in 1940. After being demobilised from the French Air Force, he travelled to the United States to help persuade its government to enter the war against Nazi Germany. Following a 27-month hiatus in North America, during which he wrote three of his most important works, he joined the Free French Air Force in North Africa, although he was far past the maximum age for such pilots and in declining health. He disappeared and is believed to have died while on a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean in July 1944.
The book has 9 chapters
To all appearances The Little Prince is a children’s book. But ever since its original publication in French in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s story has enchanted audiences of all ages. The book’s beloved hero is a small, blond-haired boy from asteroid B-612, which he leaves to journey across the galaxy. Along his way, he visits a number of planets each populated by a sole person with an absurd profession (the little prince ultimately learns that there is no other kind). When he lands on Earth, in the middle of the desert, he is met by a mysterious snake. “Where are all the people?” the little prince asks. “I’m beginning to feel lonely in this desert.” “You can feel lonely among people, too,” replies the snake.
However elusive the story’s meaning, few have matched the universality of its appeal. In April 2017, The Little Prince became the most translated book in the world, excluding religious texts (which enjoyed significant head starts). It now exists in 300 languages, a sum that doesn’t even include the range of translations within languages. In Korean, there are said to be about 50 different versions. Until recently, English could claim only a meagre six. Now, Michael Morpurgo, master storyteller and untested translator, has delivered a definitive seventh.
“To be asked to translate one of the greatest stories ever written was an honour I could not refuse,” Morpurgo writes in his foreword. “And if I am honest, I thought my knowledge of French would be just about up to it. Well, I was wrong about that.” The mistake is easy to make, even if Morpurgo’s modesty deceives. The Little Prince is known for its spare and simple prose, and while it is studied in universities, it is taught to beginners of French at school. Saint-Exupéry worked through dozens of drafts to achieve the final aesthetic. On the surface, it leaves translators little room to manoeuvre and it’s tempting to ask: do we really need all these different translations? Or are publishers just trying to cash in (say, by adding a celebrity author)? But on a deeper level, Saint-Exupéry’s style is notoriously hard to replicate, and so perhaps a worthy translation requires more than good French.
Morpurgo’s version certainly suggests so, a few strange decisions aside. As with his own work, there is a clarity and directness, an affinity with the animal world, all underlined by emotional force. If war was more present in the story – the world in which Saint-Exupéry wrote it, after all, and a theme in Morpurgo’s work – you could almost imagine Morpurgo having written it himself.
Then again, as Morpurgo notes, there is something incontrovertibly French about The Little Prince, even as it appeals across the world. Saint-Exupéry isn’t afraid of suggesting an inherent sadness in the world, or of pointing to the meaningless lives so many lead. “People never have the time to understand anything that is worthwhile,” a fox laments. “They buy everything ready made in the shops. That’s why people don’t have friends, because they can’t buy friends in the shops.” The story’s wisdom on loneliness – in cities crowded with people – and consumerism – in a world replete with natural joys – remains as resonant as ever. Morpurgo’s translation reminds us why.
Age raging: The title may sound like a kiddie story is in store for children ages 4 to 5, but in reality it may seem not even suitable for children below 12
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