The Little Prince, first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the French aristocrat writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944).
The novella is both the most read and most translated book in the French language, and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France, maintaining sales of over one million copies per year worldwide. Translated into more than 250 languages and dialects, with sales totaling more than 200 million copies, it has become one of the best-selling books ever published.
An earlier memoir by the author recounted his aviation experiences in the Sahara desert. He is thought to have drawn on those same experiences for use as plot elements in The Little Prince. The novella has been adapted to various media over the decades, including audio recordings, stage, screen, ballet and operatic works.
Though ostensibly a children’s book, The Little Prince makes several profound and idealistic observations about life and human nature. For example, Saint-Exupéry tells of a fox meeting the young prince during his travels on Earth. The story’s essence is contained in the lines uttered by the fox to the little prince: “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Other key thematic messages are articulated by the fox, such as: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” and “It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important.”
All of the novella’s simple but elegant watercolour illustrations, which were integral to the story, were painted by Saint-Exupéry.