It's the 70th anniversary of the book that surely you've read as a child, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, the most translated book originally written in the French language. Its plot, involves a pilot whose plane crashes in the Sahara desert (Saint-Exupéry drew from his own experience of a crash in the Sahara for the story) and "the little prince" whom he meets there, and who asks him to draw him a sheep. As the pilot tries to fix his plane, the prince shares the story of his life on his home planet, and his love for a rose, as well as his journeys beyond. After eight days, the prince and the pilot find a well, which the pilot drinks from, and the prince allows a snake to bite him so that he "can return to his home planet." Of course, the plot is merely the shell encasing a much-more-than fairy tale. It's a reflection upon the meaning of life and death; it's sharp-yet-poignant social criticism about loneliness, friendship, and the way we choose to lead our lives.
As an added note about love and loss, Saint-Exupéry himself was lost in action while involved in a spy mission in July of 1944, some three weeks before Paris was liberated.
In the 70 years since the novella was published, The Little Prince has been voted the best book of the 20th century in France, translated into more than 250 languages and dialects, and has become one of the best-selling books ever published, with more than 200 million copies sold. It has a website and an iPad app, and one can purchase pretty much any sort of Little Prince-themed merchandise one might desire, mugs and plates and toys and watches and totebags and more. The little prince: He is so cute! There's an entire showroom in Paris, a theme-park ride, an edition especially for young adult readers, a graphic novel, and a range of products on the book's Facebook page, too. There have been performances on screen and stage—some of you may remember a TV show bearing the name that ran on Nickelodeon and had quite the jazzy opener?
Earlier this month, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released a 70th anniversary edition package, which includes the book and the unabridged two-CD audiobook read by Viggo Mortensen. The clip below gives you a taste of the Mortensen-read.
Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to have to explain things to them always and forever.
When you’ve finished getting yourself ready in the morning, you must go get the planet ready.
Language is the source of misunderstandings.
Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.
Submissions must be no more than 800 words and are due to BookRiot by 11:59 p.m. Eastern next Monday, April 1 (follow the guidelines on the site). Three finalists will get 70th anniversary editions of the book, and the winner will also take home a $50 gift card to a favorite bookseller.
Whether you have a story to tell or not, one of the many versions of The Little Prince is probably worth putting on your re-read list in honor of its 70 years on this planet. I'm planning on it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.