The Little Prince, 60 years among the stars

3rd April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 2, 2006 (AFP) - He may have been around for 60 years, but 'The Little Prince' is unlikely to grow old any day soon, with Antoine Saint-Exupéry's tender tale of the power of love winning new hearts every year.

PARIS, April 2, 2006 (AFP) - He may have been around for 60 years, but 'The Little Prince' is unlikely to grow old any day soon, with Antoine Saint-Exupéry's tender tale of the power of love winning new hearts every year.

What began as a drawing on a paper napkin in a New York restaurant has to date sold more than 80 million copies around the world — some 11 million in France — making it the most popular French book in the world.

And the history of the book and its author is almost as extraordinary as the tale of the yellow-scarfed little prince from outer space who falls to Earth after leaving his beloved rose to travel around the planets.

The book was first published in English and French in 1943 in the United States, where Saint-Exupéry, a daring pilot, had sought refuge before once again taking to the skies against the Nazi occupiers of his native France.

His story was only published in France three years later in April 1946, but Saint-Exupéry never lived to see the occasion after his plane disappeared over the Mediterranean in mysterious circumstances in 1944.

*sidebar1*Although the book is an essential part of every child's book collection, the allegorical tale has a universal appeal to adults, and has now been translated into 160 different languages and dialects, the latest being Berber.

"All grown-ups were children first. (But few remember it)," so the author says as the little prince meets the narrator in the Saharan desert.

So unfolds the extraordinary tale of the prince's travels and the unforgettable, and ultimately flawed characters he meets, such as the lamplighter, the drunkard, the fox and the snake.

'The Little Prince' began as a sketch of a blond boy drawn on a napkin during a lunch in 1942 with the American editor Eugène Reynal, who convinced Saint-Exupéry to turn the character into a children's story.

Many of the adventures are semi-autobiographical with Saint-Exupéry drawing inspiration from his own childhood, and illustrating the book himself.

A lonely man, rejected by many of his fellow countrymen living in exile, he also bore the scars of several plane accidents. A complex wartime aviator and adventurer, he was also an intellect, idealist and a passionate humanist.

In 'The Little Prince', adults are shown as essentially flawed, narrow-minded, and lacking in imagination, while children are creative and sensitive, open to the mystery and beauty of the world.

Today the story has become a profitable business for its publishers, with at least 400 to 500 different editions and a host of Little Prince products — everything from stationery to mugs, toys and glasses. A major animation film is also in the works.

The revenues from the sales are shared between the heirs to the author's literary estate, and the heir of his widow Consuelo Suncin who is widely believed to have been the model for the little prince's rose.

A week after the book was published in the US, Saint-Exupéry left on a mission to north Africa. He went missing on July 31, 1944 at the controls of his P38 Lightening on a mission to overfly occupied southern France to prepare for an Allied landing in Provence.

Two years ago a French archaeological team found pieces of the plane in the waters off Marseilles, but failed to solve the mystery of how the aviator met his end.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, What's On, Paris exhibitions

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