Literary Miscellanea: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Dedicates The Little Prince to His Friend

It is no secret that Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) is my favorite book of all time. It has also been one of the most influential books in my life as it made me fall in love with the French language. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote a heart-warming dedication to his friend Léon Werth. He clearly had a great respect and love for children.

Below is the original dedication followed by my translation.

A LÉON WERTH

Je demande pardon aux enfants d’avoir dédié ce livre à une grande personne. J’ai une excuse sérieuse: cette grande personne est le meilleur ami que j’ai au monde. J’ai une autre excuse: cette grande personne peut tout comprendre, même les livres pour les enfants. J’ai une troisième excuse: cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a bien besoin d’être consolée. Si toutes ces excuses ne suffisent pas, je veux bien dédier ce livre à l’enfant qu’a été autrefois cette grande personne. Toutes les grandes personnes ont d’abord été des enfants. (Mais peu d’entre elles s’en souviennent.) Je corrige donc ma dédicace :

A LÉON WERTH

QUAND IL ÉTAIT PETIT GARÇON

_____________________________________________________________________________________

TO LÉON WERTH

I ask children to forgive me for having dedicated this book to a grown-up. I have a serious excuse: this grown-up is the best friend that I have in the world. I have another excuse: this grown-up can understand everything, even books for children. I have a third excuse: this grown-up lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He is in great need of consolation. If all of these excuses do no suffice, I would like to dedicate this book to the child whom this grown-up once was. All grown-ups were once children. (But only a few of them remember it.) I, therefore, correct my dedication:

TO LÉON WERTH

WHEN HE WAS A LITTLE BOY

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10 thoughts on “Literary Miscellanea: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Dedicates The Little Prince to His Friend

    • I am thinking of hosting a read-along at the end of the year. I have read this book so many times but it never ever gets old. There is always something new to discover and cherish.

  1. I really enjoyed your post, Fariba. Can I ask you a couple of French grammar questions?

    Why is it “elle” but the translation is “he”? Is it because “personne” is feminine? If so, they how would you know in French whether it’s a male of female?

    Also, the sentence: “…. je veux bien dédier ce livre à l’enfant qu’a été autrefois cette grande personne.” sounds like it should translate to “I would like to dedicate this book to the child who had been at another time this grown-up.” It feels like “enfant” and “grande personne” should be switched around. I think this is a tense issue for me. Whatever tense it’s in, I probably don’t recognize it. 😉

    Thanks for giving me some French practice and thanks, in advance, for playing my French teacher! 🙂

    • No problem. “Elle” here refers to “personne” which is feminine. If Antoine’s friend was named Marie, the pronoun would still be “elle” because it refers to a feminine noun, not to the gender of the person.

      “cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a bien besoin d’être consolée.”

      “elle” agrees with “grande personne”. Now if the sentence was “Léon habite la France…” Then the next sentence would be “Il a bien besoin d’être consolé.” Here, “il” would be correct because it refers to Léon who is a man. “Consolé” would also have only one “e” because everything must agree.

      I prefer your translation of “…. je veux bien dédier ce livre à l’enfant qu’a été autrefois cette grande personne.” Mine was more of a paraphrase than a literal translation. Yours is better.

  2. And…I’ve never read this book!
    It’s on my wish-list though! I never thought that it could be so popular with English-speaking people as well! In fact,I think it’s one of the very few French books which enjoys worldwide popularity!
    And look at this French he used in his dedication: so splendid! 🙂

    • Like I was telling another blogger, I plan on having a read-along of Le Petit Prince in December. It is a fabulous book. I think it is one of those children’s books adults appreciate more than children. It is fabulous.

  3. It is DEFINITELY one of those books that adults appreciate more than children. At least for this adult who was once a child. I read this the firs time when I was about 10…hated it. I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever read. After several people I admire re-recommended it, I re-read it a few years ago…and fell in love with it. Il est superbe, tres magnifique

    • The first time I read it was when I was 10 or so years old. I didn’t fully understand it. I was moved by the words of the fox and loved the dedication but I couldn’t understand the book. The fox has got to be one of the greatest characters in all of literature. Such great wisdom!

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