Thursday, 23 July 2015

Caroline vs. The Little Prince

I stopped by Kinokuniya a couple weeks ago, and joyfully found that they were having a summer sale.  Clem and I rooted through the boxes of books on offer and brought home a few good deals, including a wrinkled copy of The Little Prince, which I'd never read before.  Many of my friends in high school read it in French class, but it wasn't offered in the course I took, so this was really the first time I'd thought to read it.

It is a children's story and its pages are adorned with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's famous illustrations, but closer reading as an adult reveals major themes and its allegorical nature.  The story is thought to be partly autobiographical, and the Prince acts as a means to critique society and demonstrate the strangeness of the adult world.

The book I purchased also included Letter to a Hostage, an open letter for Saint-Exupéry's Jewish friend Léon Werth, who was trapped in Europe and awaiting passage to the United States.  The Letter was published in 1943, just two months before The Little Prince and is a similar critique of society, though less fantastical.

Some striking passages:
"All grown-ups started off as children (though few of them remember)." p.3
"This asteroid has only once been seen through the telescope: by a Turkish astronomer, in 1909. At the time, this astronomer made a grand presentation of his discovery before an International Congress of Astronomy. But since he was wearing Turkish national costume nobody would believe him... In 1920 our astronomer repeated his demonstration, wearing elegant evening dress. This time everyone accepted his proofs." p.14, 16
"To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend." p.17
"'But you are so beautiful!' 'Aren't O, just?' replied the flower, sweetly." p.29
"My flower perfumed my whole planet, but I was unable to appreciate her... And I was too young to know how to love her." p.31
"For what this king fundamentally insisted upon was that his authority be respected. He would not tolerate disobedience. He was an absolute monarch." p.35
"'Don't leave, I shall make you a Minister!' 'Minister of what?' 'Of – of Justice!' 'But there is nobody here to judge!'" p.38
"But the conceited man did not hear him. Conceited men only ever hear praise." p.40
"However, he is the only one who does not seem to me ridiculous. Perhaps that is because he is preoccupied with something other than himself." p.51
"'One is never happy where one is,' said the pointsman." p.73
"And so I said to myself: 'The main thing is that, somewhere, what one has lived through should be preserved intact. Customs. Family reunions. A house and its memories. The main thing is to live for the return.'" p.103
"If the traveller following his star across the mountain becomes too absorbed in pondering ways of reaching the top, he risks forgetting which star it is that guides him. If we act merely for the sake of action, we will get nowhere." p.115
xx, C.

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