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The Little Prince : Popular Penguins - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince

Popular Penguins


Published: 28th June 2010
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Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

About The Author

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born into an old French family in 1900. Despite his father's death in 1904 he had an idyllic childhood, shared with his brother and three sisters at the family's château near Lyon. He was educated at a strict Jesuit school in Le Mans and then at the college of Saint-Jean in Fribourg. Against the wishes of his family he qualified as a pilot during his national service, and flew in France and North Africa until his demobilization in 1923. Unsuited to civilian life and deeply hurt by a failed relationship with the writer Louise de Vilmorin, he returned to his first love, flying. In 1926 he joined the airline Latécoère, later to become Aéropostale, as one of its pioneering aviators, charged with opening mail routes to remote African colonies and to South America with primitive planes and in dangerous conditions.

As airfield manager at the tiny outpost of Cape Juby in Morocco his duties included rescuing stranded pilots from rebel tribesmen, and it was there that he wrote Southern Mail, which was well received on its publication in 1929. From a later posting to Buenos Aires he brought the manuscript of Night Flight back to France, together with his fiancée, the beautiful but temperamental Consuelo Suncin. Night Flight was awarded the Prix Femina in 1931, firmly establishing his literary reputation. Flying and writing were inseparable elements in his passionate creativity, but he was not a model pilot; he was nonchalant about checks, and tended to lapse into reveries at the controls.

His career was chequered with near-fatal crashes and in 1936 he came down in Libya while attempting to break the Paris-Saigon record. The story of his miraculous survival in the desert is told in Wind, Sand and Stars. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was too old to fly a fighter but flew in a reconnaissance squadron until the French surrender in the summer of 1940. In exile in America he published the essay Letter to a Hostage and The Little Prince, the enigmatic children's fable for which he is known worldwide. Prior to this he had written of his war experiences in Flight to Arras, which headed the US bestseller list for six months in 1942 and was banned by the Vichy government in France. However, he refused to support de Gaulle and was vilified by the General's Free French supporters. Depressed by this and by his troubled marriage, he pestered Allied commanders in the Mediterranean to let him fly again, and it was in July 1944 that he disappeared, almost certainly shot down over the sea by a German fighter.

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book called True Stories of the Virgin Forest. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast. Here is a copy of the drawing. (See book for image.)

In the book it said: 'Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing. Afterwards they are unable to move, and they digest by going to sleep for six months.'

This made me think a lot about the adventures of the jungle and, eventually, I succeeded with a coloured pencil in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked like this:

(See book for image.)

I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked if my drawing frightened them.

'Why would a hat frighten anyone?' they answered.

My drawing was not of a hat. It was of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. So then I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, for the benefit of the grown-ups. (Grown-ups always need explanations.) My Drawing 'Number Two looked like this: (See book for image.)

The grown-ups now advised me to give up drawing boa constrictors altogether, from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. So it was that, at the age of six, I gave up a wonderful career as a painter. I had been discouraged by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children always and forever to be giving explanations.

I had to choose a different career, then, so I learned how to fly aeroplanes. I have flown all over the world. And geography,I will admit, has served me very well. At a glance I can distinguish China from Arizona. Which is very useful ifyou get lost in the night.

In the course of my life I have therefore had many dealings with many important people. I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have observed them from close up. This has not greatly improved my opinion of them.

Whenever I came across one who seemed to me at all clear-headed, I would try showing my Drawing Number One, which I always kept by me. I wanted to find out if this was somebody with real understanding. But the answer would always be: 'That is a hat.' In which case I would not talk to that person about boa constrictors, or virgin forests, or stars. I would place myself on their level. I would talk about bridge and golf, about politics and neckties. And the grown-up would be very pleased to have made the acquaintance of such a sensible fellow.

ISBN: 9780141194806
ISBN-10: 0141194804
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 118
Published: 28th June 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 17.9 x 11.1  x 1.5
Weight (kg): 0.1
Edition Number: 1