Sunday, January 29, 2012

avec le coeur

It is such a secret place, the land of tears. 

the little prince is not a children's book. but perhaps you already knew that. am i the last to know?

which isn't to say you shouldn't read it to your children. on the contrary, luke and i just read it together, and it was wonderful and delightful and such a treat for both of us. but maybe even more for me than for him.

i can't remember the last time i read it. whenever it was, i certainly didn't understand it. i know i read it in high school french class. in french. no need to explain why i didn't understand it then. (did they really expect us to?) i suspect i've read it in english, too, especially since luke has two copies of it on his shelf. but if i did, i certainly didn't understand it. when i pulled it off the shelf to read to luke, he told me he had read it just the other day and didn't get it. so that made two of us who were ready for a rereading.

let me stop here and say that you need to read this book. if you haven't read it--or, like luke and me, didn't get it when you did--go read it. maybe before you keep reading this post. i think you can find the whole thing online, even. in english. it'll only take you an hour. because i'm going to spoil it for you, at least a little bit.

or just keep reading...but don't say i didn't warn you.

the little prince is from another planet, a tiny little planet of which he is the only human inhabitant. there he loves and cares for a vain rose whom he doesn't understand, and whom he is sure is unique in all the universe. he is just a boy, and he goes out on a mission to make friends. along the way, he meets many different people from many different planets, each with his own lesson to teach. he finally ends up on earth, where he spends a year, toward the end of which he meets the narrator and tells him his story. he is a boy of endless curiosity and deep insight, who always asks questions and never answers them. he is wise beyond his (how many?) years, and he teaches our narrator much about love and what really matters. at the end of his year on earth, he needs to return home, leaving behind his too-large and too-heavy body. his leaving looks like dying, but he reassures our narrator that he's really just headed home to his star. thus the narrator will always look at the stars--all of them, as the little prince's is too small to find--and remember his laughter and lessons about love.

a mysteriously wise little child on an inexplicable journey, with many questions to raise and much complicated wisdom to share, loved by a narrator who would never fully understand, who had to leave his heavy earthly body in order to go Home much too soon.

today is eliza's birthday.

for luke, who loved it despite the fact that the ending was "a little sad," the book was probably not about his sister at all. it was about the fallibility of the narrator (do you think he was making it all up?); the lessons the prince learned from the people he met on other planets, the snake who spoke in riddles, the fox with the wise heart (i think that man is greedy); the narrator's broken plane and how he miraculously fixed it (he said he had a wrench); the narrator's age and identity (he's not in any of the pictures!); the little prince's wardrobe (the colors of his clothes keep changing); the pronunciation of the name of the tree that is the the little prince's achilles heel at home (is it bao-BAB or bao-BOB?). he loved it, couldn't wait for anastasia to get down for a nap or for the night so we could curl up and read some more. but i'm pretty sure it wasn't about his sister at all.

which should maybe be part of the very definition of good literature.

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.