On Love & Asteroids: The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Little Prince. 1943. French novella.

Little PrinceOne of the bestselling and best-loved books of all time, Le Petit Prince is a heartachingly beautiful and wise story that tenderly traces the contours of the human heart. Narrated by a pilot who’s crashed in the Sahara, the story centers on a child-prince who dwells on a tiny planet (Asteroid B-612), where he tends his beautiful but touchily vain rose (O, women!) and uproots invasive baobab shoots (Nazis), but eventually visits neighboring planets to keep busy.

On each new asteroid, he meets grown-ups who are fools: a delusional king, a drunk, a self-described “serious person” (a money-counter), a lamplighter who obeys pointless orders, and a geographer who never desires to glimpse the mountains and rivers he so diligently records. Yet the author’s fervent anti-materialism is motivated not by moralistic or politically egalitarian doctrines but rather because such grown-up, material, “serious” preoccupations inhibit loving relationships. “One sees clearly only with the heart,” affirms the fox. “Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”

Deeply, exquisitely French, this simple faith of love enriches the little prince’s encounters with three creatures of nature: the flower (Chapter VIII), the fox (XXI), and the snake (XVII). When the prince lands in the Sahara and meets the narrator, he also meets and “tames” a fox , eliciting the “wind in the wheat” speech, and encounters a deadly asp that solves all riddles. This intrusion of the world’s singular absolute into human relationships establishes two things: that the best of this world is ephemeral (see Ch. XV), and that the little prince is pure—not innocent, I mean pure, for he experiences what is wrong with the world and sustains his immaculacy still.

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