Rajat Ubhaykar's Reviews > The Little Prince

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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Nov 13, 12


Written as a children's book, I find myself unable to pin down firmly as to what makes The Little Prince such a universally likeable book, be it children or grown-ups. What makes it the Hotel California of literature?

Is it because most grown-ups secretly love being treated like kids? I think as a grown-up you ought to know better than that. Grown-ups like to be petted around now and then in jest, but that's the end of it. Often, when grown-ups are indeed treated like kids and they're not in the mood, there is a tiny matchstick inside each one of them, an insecure ego which flares up angrily like it has been wildly struck against a matchbox. In my experience, grown ups like to be taken very seriously. Very very seriously.

Is it the clear, simple language? No, it can't be just that. There have been books that have been written with clarity and have been criticized by pedants and pontificating bores for their simplicity. Grown ups like to feel wise and learned by having claimed to read complicated texts that engaged them at an 'intellectual' level. They don't like important things being pointed out to them in simple language, after all they're the know-it-all grown-ups and don't need anybody patronizing them.

Is it because the book is so short and grown-ups are always keen on finishing books real quick? No, it can't be just that either. I know grown-ups who believe that a good book, like a well-mixed drink, must be held between the fingers and tended to lovingly at length to let it get to your head.

Is it the timeless lessons that the book cushions behind layers of delightful story-telling? Is it the sense of wonder that the book inspires in the most cynical, world-weary adult, if not for posterity then for a day or an hour? I don't know, could be, could be. Worthy contenders they are, but I think I'm not still not home.

If I had to lay a bet on it, I'd say everyone adores The Little Prince because we are tired of meeting people from Earth everyday who speak the same dry language of numbers and would love to encounter a sunset-loving, wise prince from the room-sized planet of Asteroid B-612 who talks animatedly about butterflies, baobabs and volcanoes to the child inside us that we've buried long ago underneath the grey tomb of grown-up babble.

Kurt Vonnegut once expressed how laughable a critic taking himself too seriously is in these memorable words,
"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”

That is exactly how ridiculous critics who despise The Little Prince are. For The Little Prince is that hot fudge sundae garnished with generous toppings of lost innocence, shared loneliness, deliciously recycled perspective and lessons worth repeating to yourself to keep from succumbing to the unsavoury, contagious disease of adulthood.

To make your job easier, here are some lessons from the book worth remembering and repeating:

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

"People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed."

"One only understands the things that one tames,' said the fox. 'Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me."

"“Grown-ups love figures... When you tell them you've made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? " Instead they demand "How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? " Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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Janhavi your review makes me want to read this one asap..


Rajat Ubhaykar Go ahead with it! It's a short book so it shouldn't take you more than a couple of hours and it'll set your mood straight. :)


Janhavi That's perfect!...I'll pick it up soon :)


Manny I love the Vonnegut quote! Hadn't seen it before.


message 5: by Garima (new)

Garima What makes it the Hotel California of literature?

I like that. Though keeping in mind it's a children book I would say what makes it The Cuppycake song of literature. Nice review.


sanny The fox is the cutest and most sincerest character ever!


Rajat Ubhaykar I love that Vonnegut quote too. It's fair warning to overzealous reviewers on GR.


Rajat Ubhaykar Thanks Garima! Hotel California has that ageless, universal quality about it that I find astounding. Also, its openness to interpretation. Till date I've listened to a Reggae version, a Spanish guitar version, an Arabic version, a sitar version, each of them equally mesmerising. Couldnt resist the analogy. :)


Rajat Ubhaykar One of the most enduring characters in literature indeed Sanshow. He comes up with such awesome quotes!


Shish I think what I really love about he Little Prince is a quality that all science fiction/speculative fiction aspire to: strangeness. Or as grownups might call it, cognitive dissonance (adbhut-rasa in the classical Indian poetics of Natyashastra). Like children, it's fundamentally subversive, like a newly installed light that makes a familiar room feel weird and unsettling. It does what only the greatest literature can: destabilize.

Incidentally, I would vehemently disagree with Vonnegut. Books are weapons, culture is material. A thousand men in bullet-proof vests may be no match for a novel. If people rage at The Little Prince, that is probably because it's a good novel - losing the comfort of the familiar makes people angry.

By the way, that last quote is largely a paraphrasing of Marx.


Rajat Ubhaykar I thought The Little Prince was more life-affirming than destabilizing. A book that propounds such a clear path of action could hardly be disturbing. It tells us things that we know to be true but don't remember to follow. Unsettling literature would be something along the lines of 1984 or Steppenwolf which leave you without a solid ground to stand on.


Rajat Ubhaykar Anyway Shish, this is why Goodreads needs you. Your opinions are certainly unsettling. :)


Sadie-jane (sj) alexis nunis interesting review and nice liner there with the hotel california bit


Rajat Ubhaykar Thanks Sadie-jane! :)


message 15: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Saltarelli Metaphors-France was occupied by the Germans. This is what is the real meaning behind this authors intention, i was taught by a native french person.


Rajat Ubhaykar That's an interesting perspective! Could you please elaborate on that Maureen?


Karma Gurung Well said.


Anissa Corn For anyone interested, look into The Tale of the Rose. I'm struggling to find a copy, but even the synopsis gives you insight into the author's history and its impact on the work.


Rajat Ubhaykar Anissa wrote: "For anyone interested, look into The Tale of the Rose. I'm struggling to find a copy, but even the synopsis gives you insight into the author's history and its impact on the work."

Added to my tbr pile! :)


Priyanka " I'd say everyone adores The Little Prince because we are tired of meeting people from Earth everyday who speak the same dry language of numbers and would love to encounter a sunset-loving, wise prince from the room-sized planet of Asteroid B-612 who talks animatedly about butterflies, baobabs and volcanoes to the child inside us that we've buried long ago underneath the grey tomb of grown-up babble"
Aww Rajat, I wish I could write down my feelings about this book as clearly as you. :)


Rajat Ubhaykar Thank you so much Priyanka! :)


Cassandra In complete agreement with Priyanka. Your review is wonderful and like a great review, makes me want to read that beautiful book all over again. :)


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