The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Review

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No, I hadn’t read it before. Or I had and I’d forgotten it. And I don’t know how either of those is possible.

I’d read about Antoine de Saint-Exupery in Sven Lindqvist’s Exterminate all the Brutes. And I am just reading Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way (about sailing round the world, and keeping going), which seemed to have a little Little Prince in – so, I went to track it down. About forty years too late.

I’m sure most of the comments here are adoring. Deservedly. This is an excrutiatingly loveable book. If you have a child, read it to them. Then re-read it. It will be better the fifth time through.

However, I’m going to say one thing that might be controversial. As a Creative Writing tutor, I’m fairly sure this wouldn’t now be published as it is – and that would diminish it. What I mean is, the narrative (such as it is) tumbles out with pure dream logic. The ecology of the Little Prince’s world is painful. The episodes on earth towards the end feel rushed, and unillustrated, compared to those in space, earlier on. The bit about the tippler would be cut as inappropriate for young children, and underdeveloped.

Any good Disney or Pixar script doctor would sort this out with reference to The Hero’s Journey. And what’s wonderful in the book would be normalized into some tedious triumph over adversity. What’s the Little Prince’s motivation? He wants a drawing of a sheep. No, let’s work that some more. How about a lion? And why does his scarf keep changing colour?

This isn’t to say that great, eccentric, unlogical children’s books aren’t being published. (One from not too long ago that’s wonderful is Beegu by Alexis Deacon.) It’s just to say I fear that we’ve all – all of us writers – imbibed a good deal of How To Plot Properly and, sometimes, especially, it’s would be better to be left with How to Dream Anarchically. This is a genuine dream of a book.

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