by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In The Little Prince, an unnamed narrator crashes his airplane in the middle of the Sahara Desert. With a dwindling supply of water, he works frantically to repair his craft, but is met unexpectedly by a small boy who doesn’t seem to understand the urgency of the situation. The boy questions him, and tells his story of how he got to Earth from a faraway planet, teaching profound lessons to the pilot about life in the process.
This one surprised me. I mean, seeing how many people love, love, love this book made me hopeful that it would be a good one, but I didn’t expect to fall into that same category after getting through it. Quite honestly, The Little Prince is clever, concise, and effective in its delivery. It very much put me in the mind of an abridged Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in that it largely focuses on how modern culture has lost sight of what matters in life, causing people to not live well as a result. One main difference (of many), however, is that the author takes a satirical bent, poking fun at people’s misguided drive for “importance”––people striving for power or wealth, slaves to their egos, or unquestioningly performing useless tasks just out of a sense of tradition or duty. And Saint-Exupéry portrays the absurd so clearly that I often laughed out loud, frequently enough for my wife to ask me what the heck was so funny.
But it’s not all funny. As we proceed, The Little Prince morphs from a lighthearted glimpse into the world of those who just don’t get it into a sober look into meaningful connections people build, about friendship and love, and about coping with loss. Here it made me think of one of my favourite Modest Mouse songs, Life Like Weeds, not just because of the similar concepts presented, but also because both made me cry. And I find that astounding, that Saint-Exupéry does so much with so little, that he so effectively triggered such strong emotions in me with what I was expecting to be a simple children’s book. Read this one.