By Emma Kantor – November 10, 2022

‘The Little Prince’ Comes Of Age

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s cherished tale celebrates its 80th year in print in 2023

Certain books are boundless. They traverse time and space, capturing the imaginations of readers across generations and geographies. Such is the case with Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by French aviator-author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944). Written in 1943 at the height of World War II, the book is part interstellar fairy tale, anti-fascist fable, autobiographical adventure, and more. There are, quite possibly, as many interpretations as there are readers—and there are many. Available in more than 500 languages and dialects, it’s the most widely translated book in print after the Bible.

The book has been enshrined as a classic work of children’s literature, one that pays tribute to the creativity and compassion of young people. Saint-Exupéry dedicated The Little Prince to his “best friend in the world,” fellow writer and critic Léon Werth, specifically to Werth “when he was a little boy.” He wrote, “All grown-ups were once children—although few of them remember.” Werth, he said, was one of the few.

First edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, translated by Katherine Woods (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943).

While in some ways the book and its titular character remain forever young, time marches forward; 2023 will mark the 80th anniversary of the book’s publication. Celebrations are already underway in New York City, where Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince before he was redeployed with his air force squadron, joining the Allied forces. He vanished in 1944 while on a reconnaissance mission over Europe.

Marking a Milestone

On October 13, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Villa Albertine hosted a twofold ceremony in New York tied to The Little Prince. As part of the occasion, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Saint-Exupéry biographer Stacy Schiff was inducted into the French Order of Arts and Letters for her scholarship. In addition, sculptor Jean-Marc de Pas unveiled his plans for a sculpture of the Little Prince, which will be installed in Villa Albertine’s courtyard on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in fall 2023.

Olivier d’Agay, great-nephew of the author and general secretary of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Foundation, spoke with PW about the lasting legacy of The Little Prince. Although he never had the opportunity to meet Saint-Exupéry, d’Agay grew up hearing “stories about this fantastic and very enigmatic uncle.” His family recalled Saint-Exupéry’s visits to their home on the Riviera in his plane, often bringing interesting gadgets to show, including an early voice recorder. Saint-Exupéry would also share tales of his travels, much like his aviator-narrator relates his encounter with the Little Prince.

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