Book Review: The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943

It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
- The Fox

Much has been said about The Little Prince, so I'll keep this as short as possible.

Saint-Exupéry's celebrated fable is a simple children's story for the children in all of us.

In The Little Prince, a pilot — obviously modeled after Saint-Exupéry himself — looks back at an accident he had six years ago. The pilot was stranded in the Sahara desert after his plane crashed. Out of the blue, a little boy approaches him: "If you please—draw me a sheep!" "What!" the aviator exclaimed. "Draw me a sheep!" the boy demanded.

(For a moment there I wanted to tell The Pilot: For f*ck's sake, just draw him a sheep!)

Discombobulated at the sight of a lone child in the middle of nowhere, the unnamed aviator thought he was experiencing some sort of mirage, he asked the boy: "But—what are you doing here?" To which the boy repeated: "If you please—draw me a sheep."

And then the boy introduces himself as a prince from another planet, a tiny asteroid called B-612. The rose is the pivot of the little prince's planet. Just like any other curious child, the little prince asks questions as often as he avoids answering questions.

The little prince later talks about a variety of adult characters, all of which seemed silly for the title character.

Most of the quotable quotes from the novel are by The Fox. Through this character, Saint-Exupéry aims to tell us the book's central message: love.

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important...
You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose...

In a candid manner, the author acknowledges his watercolor illustrations with a self-deprecating tone, accusing the adults for discouraging him from pursuing an art career when he was six years-old.

Saint-Exupéry said that he is the little prince, drawing inspiration from his own child self. That makes sense because the little prince's "farewell" is allegorical to that coming-of-age era, the loss of innocence, the transition from childhood to adulthood.

At once Saint-Exupéry explores the simplicity of life and the complexity of "simple" things like the warfare between the sheep and the flowers. He also contemplates on how adults make simple things complicated, and how them adults fail to appreciate the ubiquitous beauty surrounding their "complicated" existence. In some ways, this book can be seen as "anti-adult." But nay it's not, it can be accurately described as a "love letter from a child to his adult self."

Translated from French to English by Katherine Woods, the 1943 edition is simple with a little touch of poetry in it.

Divided into 27 chapters, the novella's narrative is generally first-person singular, occasionally swaying to second-person. A thoughtfully affectionate letter to a special person — that's how The Little Prince looked like to me. It was as if Saint-Exupéry is casually speaking to the little prince through us, the readers.

The Little Prince is a timeless philosophical work in the guise of a children's book.

DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. I don't own or claim to own any of the photos used.

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