One of my favorite books growing up was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.
I don’t even remember how I got it, but I do know that it wasn’t something that I would have picked out on my own because we didn’t learn about such books at school. It was among the books that my mother stored on shelves above my childhood bed that included a cover-less copy of Harold Robbins’ The Adventurers and the classics such as Black Beauty and Robinson Crusoe.
I still remember how the book felt in my hands. It was small and it was a quick read, but I had to read it a few times because it did not read like all the other classics I had read before. It was almost cryptic at times.
How was I to know, a mere ten year old, what the book was really about? When the fox says to the little prince, “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye,” I understood it because it has since shaped the way I see the world. But I could not understand then what the fox meant when he said, “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” – that it meant more than just the taming of a small animal, of which I probably with my limited experiences, associated that sentence then.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve read The Little Prince and I’m due for a reread. I stumbled across the dedication of the book today, and it brought tears to my eyes. It brought me back to that room with the custom-made bed and the shelves above it, all filled with books about adventures and worlds so different from my own. And one of them, my favorite one, about a little prince stranded in the desert, so far from home.
Leon Werth, a French writer and art critic, was a close friend and confidante to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He would not learn of the book nor the dedication till five months after Saint-Exupéry’s death in November 1944.