Wednesday, 2 March 2011

My favourite books...

On my way to and from work today I read one of the most amazing books. It’s propelled itself into one of my top ten favourite books of all time.

I’ll post a few immediate thoughts on it in the twenty minutes I need to wait for my sardines with chili, parsley and lemon to cook! 

The Little Prince or Le Petit Prince was written by the French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943. Since its publication, it has sold more than 200 million copies worldwide – making it one of the best selling books of all time. Yet, I’ve never come across it until now, which is strange. Perhaps I’m not the only person. Which is why it makes the perfect subject for a blog post.

Outwardly a children's book, The Little Prince makes various profound points about life and humankind. It looks at how and why we find joy in friendships, nature and the things around us and reconcile ourselves with the inevitability of death and loss.

In it, the narrator tells of being stranded in the Sahara Desert (which actually occurred to the author on a pioneering flight) where he meets a young extraterrestrial prince. In their talks, the author reveals his own views about simple truths and the follies of mankind.

The book's essence is in the famous line uttered by the fox to the Little Prince: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

The fox and the Little Prince had been discussing why we need to establish ties – to have our hearts tamed – to love life, friends and things.

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you,” explains the fox.

“And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”

The fox talks about being bored with his life. With hunting chickens and being hunted by men.

“But if you tame me,” he says, “I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me? The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.”

When The Little Prince is about to pass away, or return to his own extraterrestrial planet as he frames it, he asks the narrator to look at the stars and know that he is laughing there. The Little Prince promises that,

"And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me.”

I came across The Little Prince as it was mentioned in the funeral service of my very dear friend Niki who prompted me to start this blog in the first place. I suddenly remembered that Niki had been reading this book to her little boy - my godson - in the very last holiday we took together in Cornwall. I also found that The Little Prince was the very first book Niki gave to her husband. It seemed to be very important to her so I thought I'd read it and I'm glad I did.

One of the times when Niki had to cancel a visit from me because she had to go to hospital she said, "it's not fair, there was so much I wanted to do this month". 

It's very sobering to measure out your life in months. It’s why I started this blog. I wanted to define the things I really love. Many of these things have been introduced to me by dear friends like Niki and remind me of them. I wanted to understand why I like them so much and make them a central part of my life. I thought it would help me find new related things too - like a cross-genre version of The idea was that people might say…”oh you really like X, I think you’d like Y too.” It's all too easy to amble along in life and not focus on the things that really matter.

Anyway, the oven’s just pinged so I’m going to go eat. It’s really difficult to do justice to such a profound…albeit whimsical book as The Little Prince. So I’ll just have to urge you to go away and read or re-read it.

Have a nice evening everyone.

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