‘The Little Prince’ may be aging fast, but its youthful idealism remains as pertinent as ever.
First published in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s popular novella is getting ready to celebrate its 70th anniversary.
And to mark the occasion, aficionados of the pioneering poet’s work can see the original manuscript, complete with Saint-Exupéry’s infamous watercolour sketches, at an exhibition in Paris.
Olivier d’Agay, director of the Succession Antoine de Saint-Exupery-d’Agay the organisation that manages Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s author rights, explains the bounty awaiting potential visitors.
“We find ourselves inside a treasure-trove. I mean we are in a vault, we come in, and here is the treasure. And this treasure is the soul of ‘The Little Prince’. That is to say, of the expression evoked through drawings – not just the drawings in the book but also those made before and after the book. Saint-Exupéry has always sketched this Little Prince as an expression of himself, a representation of himself, an extension,” d’Agay said.
Drawing on his experiences as an aviator in World War II, Saint-Exupéry’s tale is one of a pilot who, stranded in the desert, meets a young prince, who has also fallen from the heavens.
Poking fun at the absurdity of the adult world, the book continues to sell over one million copies a year, reaching new audiences wherever it can. This has also involved attempts to bring Saint-Exupéry’s pictures to life for those who otherwise, would not be able to access them – the blind.
As Nicolas Delsalle, Secretary General of the Foundation Antoine de Saint-Exupery for Youth, explained: “The Little Prince is the most translated book in the world and there are several versions of the book in braille but the drawings had never been made into three-dimensional drawings. So it is a technique of braille publishing that transcribes the drawing in order to make it readable for blind readers by touching it.”
Whilst the recent spike in interest surrounding the book is in part thanks to the discovery of the crashed plane the author died in, the chief explanation remains his story’s enduring charm.