Friday, December 25, 2015

A Prince of a GIft

"I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seen them at close range ... which hasn't much improved my opinion of them."

Donna-Lane surprised me with a Christmas gift I had not asked for, but which encompasses such richness of meanings, perhaps more than she might have realized when she chose it.

From time to time over the past couple of years, she has pointed out some imagery or reference in popular culture as deriving from Le Petit Prince. I had never read the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which is the third most translated book in the world - more than 250 languages and over 140 million copies sold worldwide.

Clearly my literary education has been lacking.

The novella is an allegory; each reader will interpret it differently. To me, a key message of The Little Prince is that it is essential to look at things with your heart and not just your eyes. Your eyes may miss the hidden meaning of what's truly important, whether an unseen sheep in a box or a flower that represents friendship and love.

D-L thought I might like the book because Saint-Exupéry was an aviator, and the setting of the story is from an emergency landing in the desert.

What she may not have realized also is that, as a writer, Saint-Exupéry's work habits seem to very much parallel mine: "The French author frequently wrote at night, usually starting about 11 p.m. ... he related to his American English teacher, Adèle Breaux, that at such a time of night he felt 'free' and able to concentrate, 'writing for hours without feeling tired or sleepy.' Saint-Exupéry stated it was the only way he could work, as once he started a writing project it became an obsession."

Next time we come across a Little Prince reference, I'll have a context. Next time I am writing about aviation in the middle of the night, perhaps a little of Antoine's spirit will be with me.

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