The story behind one of the world’s most popular books.
Early on in this intriguing quest to solve the “enigma” of The Little Prince, “a true publishing phenomenon,” child psychologist Lassus notes that the book is fourth on the list of the world’s “most-read” books, after the Bible, the Quran, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung. The favorite book of both Martin Heidegger and James Dean was written in America during World War II at the request of the exiled author’s American publisher. Antoine Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) was experiencing “deep moral anguish” at the time as well as writing a spiritual autobiography, The Wisdom of the Sands, which was posthumously published. Beautifully illustrated with watercolors by the author, this fairy tale for children, as some describe it, is about a little lost boy/prince from another planet who lands in a desert where a pilot is trying to repair his plane. They both want to go home. Saint-Exupéry was an accomplished pilot who wrote a number of hugely popular and award-winning autobiographical books about aviation. He was brought up Catholic in a family dominated by women but never seriously practiced his religion as an adult. Lassus notes that there are no women in The Little Prince and that the author also once crashed a plane in the desert. Lassus goes on to interpret the book as a “metaphor of the author’s life,” identifying real-life parallels for key elements in the book. He focuses on what he sees as the book’s spiritual message, exploring such topics as the annunciation, ascension, and Eden; quotations from the Bible become prevalent. For Lassus, the book seems “more of a parable than a fairy tale.”
Despite the heavy-handed religious reading of the book and some proselytizing, many will enjoy learning about Saint-Exupéry and his life and how he came to write such a beloved book.