The Little Prince has long been one of the world’s favorite French exports. Published in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s charming little story about a prince who fell to earth still sells almost 2 million copies every year in over 250 languages.
The Paramount adaptation of the story in 1974 with Gene Wilder was one of the first movies I ever saw in a theater and one of my earliest memories. It’s kind of a weird memory — Bob Fosse plays a persuasive, jazz-dancing snake in the movie, to give you an idea.
The movie made me very sad. The little prince lets the snake kill him, essentially committing suicide, so he can return to his planet. It was basically a horror show for a melancholy child like myself, and it makes me feel quite heavy-hearted to think of. I’ve never forgotten it.
But, Le Petit Prince enchants. And, as it turns out, the little book was not written and illustrated in Paris, as francophiles love to imagine, but in New York City.
A new exhibit at the Morgan Library Museum examines the creative process of the pilot-writer, Saint-Exupery.
The Little Prince was first written (in French), and published in New York during the two years the author spent there during World War II. After the book was published, Saint-Exupery left the city to fly reconnaissance missions for the Allies. Unfortunately, he disappeared only a year after the book came out during a mission on July 31, 1944. Years later parts of his plane, a silver bracelet with his name, the address of his publisher, and the letters “NYC USA” were found by a fisherman near Marseilles. Discovering this leaves me feeling heartbroken as well.
No matter where this book was written, or how it saddened me as a child, it is filled with lovely, thoughtful words like this: “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
Photo Source: Amazon