"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 128
Did you know it would be so hard to say goodbye to the little prince? I hadn't--and I had read the book before! (In English. Does it really make that much of a difference?) The narrator was dropping hints in early chapters, so even first-time readers could have sensed this ending coming. So really, the narrator is the only one whom it totally blindsides. No one expects to find a soulmate in the desert and then lose him after eight days.
Thanks to Bat, Brandon, and Itinerante for joining the discussion! And I hope you know, Mrs. Darwin, that you were missed! ;-P
The ending of Der Kleine Prinz was very difficult for me to read. There is an emotional rawness to the German translation that I've just never found in the English version, which is mostly playful to me. Well, there's nothing playful about the little prince's goodbye here. And as if that rawness weren't bad enough, there is a sustained buildup of it.
When the narrator sees the little prince talking to the snake, and immediately goes for his gun, we see just how important they have become to each other. Yes, though it has been little more than a week. While even a disinterested armed adult might draw his weapon to defend a child from a dangerous wild animal, there is a quality to the narrator's reaction which first reminded me of two people newly in love, for whom it would be devastating to lose each other. But during the little prince's last night on earth, the real "type" of their relationship finally emerged: parent and terminally-ill child. And so heartbreaking is the child's leave-taking that I wondered whether it was an idealised depiction of something Antoine de Saint Exupery endured in real life. But if he had any children of his own, they're the best-kept secrets of French literary biography.
They're not such an odd father-son pair, if you think about it. The little prince is definitely a child, just beginning to peek out of the tiny world of the nursery (perfectly symbolised by an asteroid), and feeling bewildered by the grosse Leute he meets in the big world. (Long-time "Two or Three" Book Club members may want to compare his interactions with the inhabitants of the other asteroids to Laura Ingalls's first encounter with the Sunday school teacher Mrs. Towers.) And don't children often ask their parents to draw for them what they cannot draw themselves? If the narrator is our father, then this first meeting is like the first moment a father sees that he can begin to interact with his son on a more intelligent level. How much like himself and unlike himself his son has turned out to be! Almost like a better version of himself! And what a mystery!
(The idea of der kleine Prinz as a real-life child brings its poignant light to his friendship with the Fuchs as well.)
This is probably the saddest "Two or Three" Book Club pick we will ever have. We began with a narrator who didn't really care that he was lonely, until he met someone whose need for companionship matched his own . . . and now we end with a narrator who is as lonely as ever, but this time achingly aware of it. It's not the character arc we might have wished for him, because it rubs us raw as well, but the story ends on a perfect note. The narrator turns to us, the readers, whom he has "tamed" through his story, and shows us just how much we have learned to love the little prince, too.
As for my last note . . . I simply can't conclude this readalong of Der Kleine Prinz without bringing up the French serie from just a few years ago . . .
As you can see, the show reunites the little prince and the fox, who travel from star to star in search of adventure. And yes, the villain does appear to be the sinister Schlange! (Hey, did anyone else notice that snakes figure both at the start and at the end of the little prince and the narrator's time together?! Was bedeudet das???) I don't know if the narrator will show up along with his plane, but he will be glad to know that the Blume is alive and well! For sure, we also see a quite a few Schaefe in that teaser, so perhaps that war between the sheep and the flowers (der Kampf der Schaefe mit den Blumen!) will figure in a later episode as well!
Those of you who joined the readalong with Le Petit Prince may be interested in continuing your French studies with this new media. I'm certainly thrilled that it is also available auf Deutsch and in Italiano! Now my darling Grisu has some competition. LOL!
Totally Optional Discussion Questions:
1) Not that there's anything wrong with just being friends, but did the narrator and the little prince remind you of another type of relationship?
2) If you could learn one thing about the little prince's life after he takes leave of the narrator, what would it be?
3) Overall, how did you find the experience of reading a familiar book in another language?