Aug 5, 2016

The Little Psycho...I mean the Little Prince

When I was in college, Adam's Bookstore had six copies of The Little Prince, a "beloved children's classic" on the shelf, in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Latin (it has been translated into over 250 languages).

"It will be good for your language studies," Adam said. "Read it in English first, then in the other languages."

So I read it.

I have rarely hated a book more.

Published in 1943 by Antoine de Saint Exupery, it tells of an aviator who is trying to fix his downed plane in the Sahara, when he encounters the Little Prince.  The little blond gargoyle claims to be the prince of a planet the size of a house (um...that would be called an asteroid).

My science fiction mind rebelled against this insanity.  How does he eat?  How does he breath?  There would be no gravity on such a small asteroid, so why doesn't he float away?  Is he orbiting a star, or careening through space?

Question after question. Where are his parents?  Where are his subjects?

Finally I concluded that this kid is psychotic.  Maybe tomorrow he'll claim to be Tintin.

Back on his hallucination planet, the Little Prince grows a garden and falls in love with a rose.

A real rose.  He wants to have sex with one of those red thorny things.

But he gets jealous, dumps her, and decides to go exploring.  He visits 6 other asteroids, occupied by characters just as misbegotten and unpleasant as he is, involved in Sisyphean tasks in their own horrifying Twilight Zones: a vain man, a drunkard, a businessman (who keeps trying to count the stars), a lamplighter (who keeps lighting and extinguishing the same lamp), and a geographer (who doesn't own any maps).

The, I mean Prince...then lands on Earth, where he bonds with the Aviator and saves him from dying of thirst.

Any novel that's primarily about two men bonding in the desert has to have a gay subtext.  Since the Little Prince can travel through space without parental supervision, he must be at least eighteen.

I've always assumed that Antoine de Saint Exupery was gay.  I just discovered on wikipedia that he had a wife.

However much he likes the Aviator, the Little Prince still wants to go home to his rose.  But birds, his usual mode of transportation between asteroids, won't give him enough lift to break free of Earth's gravity: he's stuck.

A horrifying Snake offers a suggestion: let me bite you, and then you will ascend.  Oh, not your body, which is too heavy.  But trust me, you won't be here anymore.

You idiot, can't you see that the Snake wants to kill you?

The Aviator doesn't approve of this plan, but the Prince is determined to go through with it.  He just asks that the Aviator not watch, as seeing a dead body will make him sad.

Ya think?

So the Snake kills the boy!

And kids were supposed to read this paeon to suicide?  I can see it now, kids all over the world killing themselves in a hapless attempt to ascend to the Little Prince's asteroid.

If this is French literature, I'll stick with Stephen King.

If you're not traumatized enough by this horror, there have been numerous sequels by other, more sane writers (who let the Little Prince live).

Plus stage plays, ballets, and films, most recently a Netflix version with Paul Rudd as the grown-up Little Prince.