Aimez-vous le Petit Prince ? (*)
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgNo, I don’t like The Little Prince, the book written by French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which is one of the best-selling books ever.
Not that I really don’t like it. I am neutral. I have no feelings toward The Little Prince, except a slight anger maybe, because I don’t understand it. I am angry because it is a challenge for me: I just don’t get it.
There are two kinds of people on this planet: Those who get the deep meaning of The Little Prince, and those who don’t. I fall into the second category. It is a children’s book; it’s a fairy tale (and quite a lame one) for me. Nothing further, no matter how hard I try. Imagine how relieved I was when later in life I learned that I was not alone. Just like “not liking sushi,” it has become perfectly acceptable nowadays to say you don’t like The Little Prince.
In April 2013, France marked the 70th anniversary of this fantastic book about the adventures of the wise boy from Asteroid B-612. “Le Petit Prince” was first published in New York on April 6, 1943, in English and in French.
I decided to write about the prince for the week of April 6, 2013. See, how prompt I am. (Yes, I did think of postponing the subject to next year’s April 6 – when I’m sure the French will also make a big deal out of its 71st anniversary- but I will take a few days off work for a stay-at-home vacation; so there you go.)
As this young prince meets a pilot in the Sahara desert, somehow the book touches the lives of scores of readers. I really can’t understand what moves people in this book. Don’t tell me about the hat or the boa digesting an elephant. I mean, I only feel very sorry for the poor elephant. It’s a dead elephant, guys, right?
A little bit of personal history: (I know you’re tired of my life stories but all other columnists talk about themselves. Why don’t you let me do it also? It’s authentic. It gives people the pleasure of the sense of peering into another person’s life, sharing small secrets… It’s nice. Isn’t it nice? Say it’s nice. I need a short vacation, say it.) Well, this might just as well be my last personal history sharing with you because I will switch to writing Turkish foreign policy next week – that’s exactly what our paper needs.
Anyway, you may or may not know that I am married to the love of my life. It has been quite a number of years since we got married. It has been sooo long that it has stopped being a marriage. Or love. Or a meaningful relationship. Listen, I’m just kidding. I hate to mention that I have a happy marriage because whenever I do so; BAM, something happens to prove the opposite. What we call “nazar” in Turkish, the evil eye. Speaking from experience.
Dumb and dumber
Anyway, on our first date (remind me to tell you how we met), which was not an organized “date” at all – it was more like bumping into each other and asking “Do you have time? Let’s drink something over there” – kind of an impromptu event. (Ask my pounding heart.)
Well, we went into a café in Ankara; in its garden, under the shade. (That café does not exist anymore like so many reminders of our past in Ankara and in Istanbul.)
At some point, and that point was very close to the beginning of our date, he started talking about The Little Price. Have I read it? Of course, I have. Then he started talking about the book and it immediately dawned on me that it must have been a different book. There were some resemblances, like everything, but he was talking about something else…
He went on and on about the deep meanings in the book and I felt dumber and dumber. (But somehow more in love with him.)
Layers of philosophy
I promised to myself to grab the book and read it with a different point of view to find these layers of philosophic and symbolic connotations. It never happened. I mean those layers never opened up for me.
I still retain an open mind. Please give me a link, an address or sign me up for a course or seminar where I can be enlightened about The Little Prince. I’m a pretty clever woman. I’ll get it, once I get it.
Well, back to my little prince who is an old prince by now: I never kept my promise when I said “I swear I will read that book over and over until I get something out it, or I will need to break up with this guy.” Well, you know the end of the story: I did not understand the book no matter how hard I tried and I did not break up with him. Actually, he broke up with me, but we got back together again… (Remind me to tell you this also.)
Now, my old prince is calling me from the next room, offering me a cup of Turkish coffee… I guess there is some kind of a charm in that awful book that comes after layers and layers of a long life lived together…
(*) Do you like the Little Prince?