Translating takes the emotion out of it


I first read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in a high school French class and spent so much time translating the relatively simple story that not much stayed with me. Except that it was charming. I saw a thin copy of the book in a bargain store months ago and snatched it up. I forgot how sweet and sad it is.

It was the fox that did me in.
‘That’s right,’ said the fox. ‘To me, you are still just a little boy like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. To you, I am just a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we shall need one another. To me, you will be unique. And I shall be unique to you.’ (page 77)
‘But if you tame me, my life will be full of sunshine. I shall recognise the sound of a step different from all others. The other steps send me hurrying underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like the sound of music. And look yonder! Do you see the cornfields? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. Those cornfields don’t remind me of anything. And I find that rather sad! But you have hair the colour of gold. So it will be marvellous when you have tamed me! Wheat, which is also golden, will remind me of you. And I shall love the sound of the wind in the wheat . . .’ (page 78)
Thus it was that the little prince tamed the fox. And when the time came for his departure, the fox said: ‘Oh! . . . I shall cry.’

‘It is your own fault,’ said the little prince. ‘I wished you no harm but you wanted me to tame you.’

‘Yes, indeed,’ said the fox.

‘But you are going to cry!’ said the little prince.

‘That is so,’ said the fox.

‘Then it has not helped you in any way!’

‘It has helped me,’ said the fox, ‘because of the colour of the wheatfields.’ (page 80)
‘Goodbye,’ he said.

‘Goodbye,’ said the fox. ‘Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye . . . Men have forgotten this basic truth,’ said the fox. ‘But you must not forget it. For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever.’ (page 82)
The best mediation on love I’ve read in a long time.
And when the Pilot who encountered the little prince needs to let him return to his star, the Pilot finds himself tamed and unwilling to leave the prince. And the snake bites the prince. And the prince goes home.
This just crushed me on the train. I had remembered the charming little prince. I hadn’t remembered the Pilot’s love and anguish.
Makes the case for rereading certain books during a lifetime.
Bonus devastating fact: The little prince’s reassurance to the Pilot that his dying body is only an empty shell resembles the last words of Antoine’s younger brother Francois: “Don’t worry. I’m all right. I can’t help it. It’s my body.” (Airman’s Odyssey) Thank you, Wikipedia.
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