I just finished reading Le Petit Prince. How amazing is this book? I will tell you. It is quite amazing. I just loved it. I just love it. I read it in its original French, of course. But deeper than just the innate beauty of the language, the story is so profound with its clear, simple snapshots of humans in all their blind stupidity, and all their beautiful fragility.
My top nineteen favourite quotes from ze book follow here. I tried to limit it to a cool ten, but like life, and all things good, it didn’t turn out to be that neat and perfect, did it?
UN (Chapitre X)
“Les grandes personnes sont étranges.” Grown-ups are strange.
Yes. They are! They forget that at their core they are just children who grew in size. They completely leave behind their childhood and become Such Adults. That is only one side of who they are. What a shame to leave that wide-eyed, fun and silly child behind!
DEUX (Chapitre X)
How about this statement from the king whom the little prince finds on the first planet he visits:
“Si j’ordonnais à un général de se changer en oiseau de mer, et si le général n’obéissait pas, ce ne serait pas la faute du général. Ce serait ma faute.” If I ordered a general to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not obey, it would not be his fault. It would be my fault.
And if you did not understand the king’s meaning, he later clarifies:
“Il faut exiger de chacun ce que chacun peut donner.” We must demand of others what they can give.
I just love this.
TROIS (Chapitre XIII)
Or, when the little prince met the streetlamp lighter on the fifth planet he visits, he says of him:
“…c’est le seul qui ne me paraisse ridicule. C’est, peut-être, parce qu’il s’occupe d’autre chose que de soi-même. » He is the only one that does not seem ridiculous to me. Maybe it’s because he concerns himself with things other than himself.
Exactly. The best way to forget, minimize, even solve our own problems, or to find deep satisfaction from life, is to concern ourselves with the problems of others!
QUATRE (Chapitre XVII)
How about this exchange between the little prince after he lands on the seventh planet, Earth:
- Où sont les hommes? reprit enfin le petit prince. On est seul dans le désert.
- On est seul aussi chez les hommes, dit le serpent.
- Where are the people? The little prince begins again. One is so alone in the desert.
- Even when one is among men, one is still alone. The snake responds.
Ah, yes. We are all alone. There is both sadness and salvation in this knowledge, n’est-ce pas?
CINQ (Chapitre XXI)
The fox says to the little prince:
“Mais comme il n’existe point de marchands d’amis, les hommes n’ont plus d’amis.” And as there is no market for friends, man no longer has them.
We have chosen money over each other. In the worst case, Man’s true motivations lie in what we can gain for ourselves. In the least case, we are so busy chasing the mighty dollar that we do not see our fellow Man. We have forgotten to be kind.
SIX (Chapitre XXI)
And on the same page, this:
“Le langage est source de malentendus.” Language is the source of misunderstanding.
Perhaps actions would serve as a better option. Brilliant.
SEPT (Chapitre XXI)
It was a treasure of a page, because there was also this :
“Il eût mieux valu revenir à la même heure, dit le renard. Si tu viens, par exemple, à quatre heures je commencerai d’être heureux. Plus l’heure avancera, plus je me sentirai heureux. À quatre heures, déjà, je m’agiterai et m’inquiétera : je découvrirai le prix du bonheur! Mais si tu viens n’importe quand, je ne saurai jamais à quelle heure m’habiller le cœur…Il faut des rites.” It would have been better if you’d come back at the same time, the fox said. If you come, for example, at four o’clock, then close to then I begin to be happy. The closer the hour advances, the happier I feel. At four o’clock, I am both excited but then also worried: in this way I discover the price of happiness! But if you come at any time, I never know when to prepare my heart. Certain rites are necessary.
A gift anticipated is well-appreciated. A love you can count on does the heart well. A “sometimes love” does quite the opposite.
HUIT (Chapitre XXI)
The little prince speaks of his rose, back on his planet:
“Mais j’en fait mon ami, et il est maintenant unique au monde.” But I made it my friend, and now it is the most unique rose in the world.
Love begins in that moment when you can suddenly see how that one person is different from the rest, stands out in the crowd, is special; the most special person in the entire world, in fact. The entire world, incredibly. Ah…l’amour!
He continues :
“Bien sûr, ma rose à moi, un passant ordinaire croirait qu’elle vous ressemble. Mais à elle seule elle est plus importante que vous toutes, puisque c’est elle que j’ai arrosée. Puisque c’est elle que j’ai mise sous globe. Puisque c’est elle que j’ai abritée par le paravent. Puisque c’est elle dont j’ai tué les chenilles (sauf les deux ou trois pour les papillons). Puisque c’est elle que j’ai écoutée se plaindre, ou se vanter, ou même quelquefois se taire. Puisque c’est ma rose.” Of course my rose would seem no different than any other rose to the average passer-by. But she and only she is the most important of all roses, because it is her that I water. It is her that I place under a globe. It is her that I shelter with the screen. It is for her that I kill the caterpillars (except two or three so that we may have butterflies). It is to her that I listen complain; or brag; or sometimes even be quiet. She is unique because she is mine.
How beautiful. I love her because I care for her. Or, I love her because she loves me. Or, I love her because she allows me. This is the most innocent and selfless and virtuous love. A love of love itself? Oh, where is my little prince?
NEUF (Chapitre XXI)
“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” We can only see with our hearts. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
This sentiment echos in chapter twenty-five when the little prince says :
“Mais les yeux sont aveugles. Il faut chercher avec le cœur.” The eyes are blind. We must search with our hearts.
What truer words were spoken? This book is my bible.
DIX (Chapitre XXII)
The traffic controller to the little prince:
“On n’est jamais content là où l’on est.” We are never happy where we are.
We are always searching for more. Bigger! BETTER! We are always striving for a goal, and not enjoying what we have now. The grass is always greener…, as the saying goes. True, to the core, unbridled happiness, is the opposite of this.
ONZE (Chapitre XXII)
The traffic controller again to the little prince, about the train full of people, kids and, what I like to call Such Adults, passing by :
“Ils ne poursuivent rien du tout. Ils dorment là-dedans, ou biens ils bâillent. Les enfants seuls écrasent leur nez contre les vitres.” They aren’t pursuing anything at all. They are sleeping in there, or they are yawning, at least. It is only the children that squish their noses against the glass to peer out the windows.
Oh how I love the profound truth in this little quote of the aiguilleur, translated as traffic controller or pointsman. What a terrific analogy. There is Man, bustling along, rushing about, but where is he really going, hey? Into that bigger house, perhaps? And what waits for him there? Contentment, finally? The simple, stress-free, joy of childhood that will grant them the time, both in length of life and in the moment, to see it, appreciate it, and enjoy it all? Yes, this is another way of saying “The grass is always greener…,” of course. But it bears repeating.
And the little prince agrees : “Les enfants seuls savent ce qu’ils cherchent.” Only children truly know what they are looking for.
This sentiment is not much different than quote UN at the beginning of the book, is it? We never really grow up, The Ex said (see my very first post: The Poster Girl For Getting Over It), in a rare moment of lucidity. We just think we do. True. So stop thinking and start living already, would you!?
DOUZE (Chapitre XXIII)
The little prince, after learning about a pill invented by man that, taken once a day, allows you to circumvent the need to drink water, thus saving you fifty-three minutes a week:
“Moi, si j’avais cinquante-trois minutes à dépenser, je marcherais tout doucement vers une fontaine…” Myself, if I had fifty-three extra minutes to spend, I would quietly walk over to a fountain…
C’mon. This is funny. And brilliant. It is the little things in life. “The best things in life are free,” as they say.
This sentiment is later repeated in chapter XXV when the little prince says :
“…ce qu’ils cherchent pourrait être trouvé dans une seule rose ou un peu d’eau…” What we look for can be found in a single rose, or a drop of water.
God I love this book!
TREIZE (Chapitre XXIIII)
The pilot is moved by the fragility of the little prince in his love for and fidelity to his rose, back on his planet. A love that he says shines in him like the flame of a lamp.
“Et je le devinai plus fragile encore. Il faut bien protéger les lampes : un coup de vent peut les éteindre.” And I guessed him even more fragile still. It is necessary to protect lamps: a simple gust of wind can extinguish them.
A flame, like love, is both very powerful and very vulnerable. The temperature of one candle can mean the difference between life and death. It either burns or it doesn’t; there is no in between. That is how The Ex was. Immensely and deeply in love with me. Or gone. Inexplicably. Feast or famine.
In the end, I starved; though humiliation and bewilderment kept me company.
QUATORZE (Chapitre XXV)
The pilot asks the little prince some questions to which he does not respond, but simply blushes. The pilot notes:
“…quand on rougit, ça signifie “oui,” n’est-ce pas?”
It’s funny. And true.
QUINZE (Chapitre XXVI)
The pilot, reflecting on never again seeing the little prince:
“…je ne supportais pas l’idée de ne plus jamais entendre ce rire. C’était pour moi comme une fontaine dans le désert.” I could not stand the idea of never again hearing his laughter. For me, it is like a fountain of water in the middle of the desert.
Laughing with Darren. That is my fountain of water in the middle of a desert. A little memory to share. I remember long ago, while at work, still in my first career as, get this mouthful: marketing coordinator of an industrial auction company. I was having a very bad day because of something I can no longer recall. I remember feeling that if anyone dared give me advice or tried to understand, or even worse, gave nauseating words of encouragement, I might off them. The only, only, person I knew would make me feel better was my dear friend Darren. Friends since highschool, he would always say the most shocking, wrong things that would crack me up like nothing or nobody else. That was what I needed. A dose of him. He had me in stitches instantly, problem temporarily forgotten (and always minimized when later returned to). We share that wild, childish beyond words laugh that hurts physically. It has been a long, long time since Darren and I have laughed like that. Darren! One day we will laugh again!
SEIZE (Chapitre XXVI)
This passage is the saddest and the most beautiful of the book. On the verge of leaving Earth and him forever, the little prince says to the pilot:
“Tu regarderas, la nuit, les étoiles. C’est trop petit chez moi pour que je te montre où se trouve la mienne. C’est mieux comme ça. Mon étoile, ça sera pour toi une des étoiles. Alors, toutes les étoiles, tu aimeras les regarder…Elles seront toutes tes amies.” You will look at the night, the stars. My planet is too small to show you where it is. It’s better like this. My star, for you, will be simply one of all the stars. And so, all the stars you will love to look at. They will all be your friends.
When it’s over, it is over, and it is best to break all ties. In this way, the memories of your time together will be all that lives. If only it were that easy!
DIX-SEPT (Chapitre XXVI)
The little prince to the pilot :
“Et quand tu seras console (on se console toujours) tu seras content de m’avoir connu. Tu seras toujours mon ami.” And when you have healed (we always heal) you will be happy to have known me. You will always be my friend.
Um, my heart did not just break, it shattered into a million pieces and each piece was steamrolled over and over and over again. A most poetic way of saying “‘Tis better to have loved and lost…” So painful, so true. The surprising gift of this passage is the sidebar comment, stated without question, that we always heal. Oh, thank heavens for this mercy. The mercy not granted? The ability to forget!
DIX-HUIT (Chapitre XXVII)
The pilot realizes that he forgot to draw the strap onto the muzzle for the sheep so that it would not eat the flower on the little prince’s planet. And he asks us to ask ourselves:
“Le mouton oui ou non a-t-il mange la fleur?”
Despite the many profound and provocative analogies and questions that arise throughout the course of this masterpiece, the pilot states that this is the most important question of all. I understood immediately. My answer?
The power of positive thinking, people! Life is what you make it.
DIX-NEUF (Chaptire XXVI et XXVII)
Three times in chapter twenty-six and once yet again in the last chapter, chapter twenty-seven, in the very last sentences of this great book, the simple, beautiful, last thought to leave you with:
Regardez le ciel.
When I found the tag all over Paris “regarde le ciel…” during the summer of 2012 and then had it tattooed onto my arm before I left, I loved it for its simple, beautiful message. Look at the sky! Yes. Look at it. It’s immense, profound, and incomparably beautiful. Ever since finding this tag, and being reminded of it every time I see it on my arm, you know what? I do. I look at the sky a lot more often than I ever did before. And I am so much more fortunate for it.
Shortly after returning from Paris that summer, I met three Parisian men in Toronto, visiting for the film festival. One of these men told me that this tag was an anti-advertising message. “Don’t look at the ads, look at the sky!” This made me love the tag and my tattoo and all the more. I am very anti-corporate, anti-capitalistic, you see. I accepted this monsieur’s story without question. Being from Paris, he probably knew something that I did not.
Now that I have read Le Petit Prince, I second-guess this version of events. Could “regarde le ciel…” have been inspired from this beautiful novel from Antoine Saint-Exupéry? Somehow, perhaps wishful thinking is involved, I find this new hypothesis on its origin more plausible. Either way, it was such a joy to find These Three Words repeated over and over, so unexpectedly, jumping off the page, like a private fireworks display for the open arms of my mind which is my heart.
In so, so many amazing ways, this book was an absolute gift and is a bible to me.
Gushing over it to my sister, she asked if they publish it in English. Yes! I bought her a copy and gave it to her today. I hope she loves it as much as I do!
Le Petit Prince. Though it’s clear, simple wisdoms require no explanation or justification, at times I gave my connection nonetheless. Either way, their truth simply resonates. Merci beaucoup, Antoine, merci beaucoup.