Literature Reviews

‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra - From the looks of it, it appears to just be a children’s book short enough for a bedtime story. But the content inside is enough to blow your mind. The Little Prince...

By Soyeenka Mishra

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

From the looks of it, it appears to just be a children’s book short enough for a bedtime story. But the content inside is enough to blow your mind. The Little Prince, being one of the most popular and widely translated classics of all time, was translated into English by Katherine Woods. This one-hour-read is one of the best reads that I’ve had in awhile; it’s a tangle of valuable life-lessons and morals cleverly and intriguingly disguised as a frolicking adventure.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers.

(Right) 1943 edition of The Little Prince. (Left) Aesthetic book display created by Soyeenka showing a re-printed edition of the book.

The book starts off with a childhood memory of the author from when he was six, when he notices how the ‘grown-ups’ are simply just not wise enough to understand things the way that he does. That mentality sticks with him as he himself transitions into adulthood, and I’d even go as far to say he’s still a child at heart. All of his thoughts towards the grown-ups have a condescending taste to them, and albeit this book probably comes nowhere near the comedy genre, I found things quite humorous at times. The breaking of the fourth wall made the read very comfortable and amusing as well.

“It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.”

As mentioned in the blurb, “…this book is also a deep reflection on human nature.”  Every page, every chapter, will give you something to think about – something to contemplate on. Heavy on the symbolism, there are numerous gems of lines that’ll make you go “Aha!” as you realise how deeply and truthfully they resonate within you. The main message that the story conveys is to look beyond the surface level, since “what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The key is to go deeper, to read between the lines and use your intuition to sense what the purpose the bigger picture could be serving. It also tells us that we need to move forward no matter what happens. Time heals all wounds, and therefore even though it might take some time, you will get over it, and you have to trudge ahead. 

Rife with illustrations by the author himself, at no point will this book make you feel as if you’re doing some serious heavy reading. It will teach you life lessons as you follow the curious conversations of two unlikely friends: one with a knack for art but only knowing how to draw a boa constrictor from the outside and a boa constrictor from the inside, and another inquisitive soul from another planet who never lets go of his questions, shall they go unanswered.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

I’ll just mention a little about the ending without spoiling it. It is primarily tragic, but in a way, it doesn’t have to be, you know? After the narrator and his Little Prince’s story ends, the former has pondered what would have happened to the latter in these six years that have passed since their journey ended. It is up to the reader to assume if the inevitable truly happened, or if following the flavour of fantasy, the Little Prince truly found his way back home. It’s up to you to believe if the rose lived after all this time, or the missing leather strap of the muzzle led the sheep into eating the flower. But most of all, the readers need to realise how different the outcomes of each possibility would be, how vast and far-reaching the consequences would be. The narrator is still hopeful and on the optimistic side of the sitch, which is why he has asked the reader to be on the lookout for a little man with golden curls who laughs and doesn’t answer questions; to inform him at the earliest if we do since it’d comfort him.

Before diving headfirst into this small but power-packed bundle of classic literature, I’d advise readers to be ready for loads of introspection and rumination, all while reading it from a child’s point of view. Though largely marketed at children with the cartoonish illustrations and the childlike POV of writing, it is meant for the older generation as well. From little kids to adults, perhaps it’ll give you different messages depending on your age and maturity, but in one way or another, I’d say it’ll save you. Me? I was left with the strangest sense of contentment and restless agitation after I finished it, as hours later I still reflect on all of the things that I read.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra and Wikipedia

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