Calling all writers who are fans of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”! If at all possible, you must get yourselves to the lovely Morgan Library here in New York before April 27, when an exhibit titled “The Little Prince: A New York Story” will close.
“It may come as a surprise,” the Morgan’s website tells us, “that this French tale of an interstellar traveler who comes to Earth in search of friendship and understanding was written and first published in New York City, during the two years the author spent here at the height of the Second World War.” The exhibit focuses on this period, exploring “the creative decisions Saint-Exupéry made as he crafted his beloved story that reminds us that what matters most can only be seen with the heart.”
Perhaps my favorite exhibit discovery was a set of sentences that Saint-Exupéry considered before he settled on the very famous line, “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (“What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” or less literally, “What is most important cannot be seen with one’s eyes”–part of a key lesson that the fox imparts to the Little Prince when he tells him that “what matters most can only be seen with the heart.”)
Excuse me for sticking with the original French as presented at the exhibit:
I was drawn to this little piece of the exhibit for a lot of reasons. Mainly, I think, because it happens to come from one of my very favorite moments in the book. But I was also fascinated by the way it shows how Saint-Exupéry struggled the way all of us writers do–seeking the very best way to express something difficult to articulate. (Never mind the added layer of complexity-imagination-magic that’s introduced with translation.)
The evening also included a wonderful presentation by one of my favorite writers: Adam Gopnik. Having had the opportunity to hear Gopnik speak at a conference of French historians a long time ago, I was confident that he’d do a great job here. And he did. I wish I could do more than show you his title slide. All I can say is that if you ever have the chance to hear him speak, carpe diem!