It is so good that the champagne corks are popping in France and around the world this week. Celebrations are raging in recognition of the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of the wonderful classic, The Little Prince. The stage play, Le Petit Prince, is running in Paris and a special opera, Der Kleine Prinz, is in full swing in Germany’s Karlsruhe. With 500 different editions and a range of stationery, mugs, glasses and toys The Little Prince is quite an enterprise.
The idea of the book emerged in 1942 as a drawing on a paper napkin in a New York restaurant. From this small beginning and the encouragement of the publisher it has sold more than 80 million copies around the world and has been translated into 160 different languages. There have been 11 million copies of the book sold in France making Le Petit Prince the most popular French book in the world.
The author, Antoine Saint-Exupery, was a pilot living in exile in the USA before taking to the skies again against the Nazi occupiers of his native France. When the story was published in France in 1946, sadly the author was not alive to see it as he disappeared in his plane over the Mediterranean Sea.
Children love this book perhaps because grownups are made out to be narrow and unimaginative whilst children are shown to be sensitive, enquiring and besotted with the beauty and mystery of the world. However, it is not for children alone. The book has important themes that adults need to be reminded of‑the broadening of the mind, the arousal of curiosity and the encouragement to explore the world in all its richness.
I am grateful to have been introduced to this book by a Spiritual Director who was prodding me to explore the richness of the spiritual dimension [thanks John!]. He was encouraging me to make a deliberate time each day to meet with God and to illustrate his point he shared with me this wonderful excerpt from The Little Prince:
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a distance from me—like that—in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”
The next day the little prince came back.
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you came at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you…”[i]
Image: Front Cover, The Little Prince.
[i] Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince. London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1945, 65-66