April 24, 2004


From the Murky Depths: Fathoming the lasting appeal of Saint-Exupéry and "The Little Prince." (BENJAMIN IVRY, April 15, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Sampling the readers' opinions of his books on amazon.com, one finds admirers hardly less passionate and devout than readers of the Bible and "Das Kapital." After all, the story of a Little Prince from another planet who enlightens a downed pilot about the real meaning of life is in the domain of spiritual philosophy, however blatantly expressed, belying "The Little Prince's" perplexing reputation as a book for children.

Saint-Exupéry's popularity is based on swimmingly vague musings like the ones above, and most elements of his life remain vague as well. We may never know just why his plane crashed, and theories ranging from suicide to accident remain equally plausible. Even biographical facts are oddly insubstantial, like a broken engagement with the French writer Louise de Vilmorin, described as enchantingly irresistible by biographers. Never mind that Evelyn Waugh, who knew de Vilmorin well, described her in a letter to Nancy Mitford as "an egocentric maniac with the eyes of a witch. She is the spirit of France. How I hate the French." To which Ms. Mitford replied, "Oh how glad I am you feel this about Lulu--I can't sit in a room with her she makes me so nervous."

The Little Prince couldn't be a more straightforward Christian allegory.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 24, 2004 7:24 AM

Also widely known among engineers for the brilliant one-liner:

"Perfection in design is reached not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more that can be taken away."

Posted by: mike earl at April 24, 2004 10:20 PM