La Petite Princesse
I’ve finally worked out who Noukie, my friend, and the child star of my previous post reminds me of: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s hero, The Little Prince. I have ‘7 Pieces of Wisdom from The Little Prince’, by GPS Guide, which I stumbled upon yesterday, to thank for this insight.
‘Le Petit Prince’ was first published in 1943, and has since become the most read and most translated book in the French canon. It has been translated into 250 languages and sold 80 million copies: as my much-thumbed copy is in France, I went for a wander in Sherborne this afternoon to make this 80,000,001. And at Winstone Books, a lovely little independent bookshop on Cheap Street, I found this particularly pretty pocket-sized edition, published by Collector’s Library.
Re-reading it this afternoon has confirmed my intuition: Noukie really does resemble the Prince, sharing his innocence, profundity and charm. “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” says the Prince (One can see only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye): a sentiment that could have come straight from Noukie’s lips.
‘Bye, bye,’ she said once (in English), adding ‘Je vais grandir,’ in French (I’m going to grow up / I’m going away to grow up). It’s an insightful and whimsical observation, suggestive of the focus, space and time needed to develop as a person as well as to physically grow.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Noukie asked her mother, my friend Pascale, to ‘parle m’encore de la mort‘ (speak to me more about death), just as the Little Prince, having been bitten by the snake, speaks to the pilot about death…
‘And when you have found consolation – as people always do – you will be glad you have known me. You will always be my friend. You’ll want to laugh with me. And sometimes you will open your window, just like that, for the pleasure…and your friends will be astonished to see you looking at the sky and laughing.’
The fox tells the little Prince: ‘To me, you’re just a little boy exactly like a hundred thousand other little boys. I don’t need you, and you don’t need me. To you, I’m a fox exactly like a hundred thousand other foxes. But, if you tame me, we will need each other. To me, you’ll be absolutely unique, and to you, I’ll be absolutely unique.’
Connecting with Noukie is like that. She sees the uniqueness in you, and demonstrates her own uniqueness in everything she says and everything she does.
Even if you’re just watching a film together, her observations are never mundane: ‘Regarde les oreilles de Peter Pan: elles sont pointues. C’est un ange.’ (Look at Peter Pan’s ears: they’re pointed. He’s an angel.)
I love these photos from the GPS Guide article of quotes from Le Petit Prince, painted onto buildings in rural France.
I dislike wanton graffiti in rural areas – it’s so often crass and ugly – but these are poetic and beautiful. They remind me of this ‘casot’ (a stone hut in which those who own vineyards or orchards keep their tools and a cot to rest on) with its mural of a Catalan shepherd tending his flock that I photographed last week.