I’ve just finished reading this book from French author Antoine de Saint-Exup้ry. In it, an aviator (modelled on the author himself) marooned in the desert and awaiting rescue meets a child from another planet. This visitor from outer space shares his story of adventure and lessons are learnt about people, the things around us, and the important things in life.
Written as a children’s fable, de Saint-Exup้ry actually had adults in mind. On the face of it, this is a simple tale of childlike wonder. But it is full of ideas and expositions on adult behaviour and the nature of the world. Take these examples, passages from the book (along with my comments, some of them totally irreverent):
If you tell grown-ups, “I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof…,” they won’t be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, “I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs.” Then they exclaim, “What a pretty house!”
[Adults (like ourselves) tend to see things in quantifiable – and monetary – value.]
“Language is the source of misunderstandings.”
“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
[And so beauty is only skin-deep. Profound, very profound… ]
“Only the children know what they’re look for,” said the little prince. “They spend their lives on a rag doll and it becomes very important, and if it’s taken away from them, they cry…”
[Another way grown-ups are different from children.]
What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that it hides a well somewhere…”
[Despair not of the desolation, but seek the half-full glass of water in the desert wastes…]
“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…”
“They don’t find it,” I answered.
“And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”
[’And I stiiiiill haven’t fooouuund, what I’m looking for..’ – U2 ]
You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed.
[Ah-hah. An old university lecturer used to so something quite similar about exam preparations too…]