Paris exhibit brings ‘The Little Prince’ home

The iconic novella was penned by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery in New York during World War II, and now 30 handwritten pages of the original manuscript are on display at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.

The original manuscript sits alongside hundreds of other items that celebrate many facets of the author’s life and work. They include watercolors, sketches, drawings, photographs, poems, newspaper clippings and correspondence.

“The exhibition is called ‘An Encounter with the Little Prince’ and the goal is to really encounter Little Prince,” Thomas Rivière, great-grandnephew of Saint-Exupery, told CNN.

“It’s been a dream (of mine) for such a long time,” Rivière added.

Born in the French city of Lyon in 1900, Saint-Exupery was a writer, pilot and journalist who joined the French air force in 1940. That year, he flew to New York on a mission to persuade the United States to enter the war and fight alongside France.

While in the United States, he finished writing “Le Petit Prince,” which was eventually published in New York in 1943 in both English and French.

Some 600 items related to "The Little Prince" are featured in the exhibition.
The simple tale, which has sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, is about a child who travels the universe gaining wisdom. Since its initial publication, it has been translated into nearly 500 languages, according to the Museum of Decorative Arts, making it one of the most translated works in the world.
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Saint-Exupery, however, did not live to see that reach. He went missing while flying a mission in 1944 and was declared dead in 1945.

It took Rivière, who is the head of Saint-Exupery’s estate, three years to bring the exhibition to the public — partly because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. His efforts were supported by publishers and collectors, including the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which houses the manuscript.
Photographs, poems and newspaper cuttings about the book are featured in the exhibition.

Saint-Exupery wrote and drew on razor-thin paper nicknamed “onion skin.” This made the task of transporting the pages of the manuscript, which were all the more fragile due to their age, even more challenging, Rivière said.

To ensure their safe transportation, the pages were carefully and professionally framed in New York by the Morgan Library and Museum, he said.

The exhibition opened February 17 and is set to run through June 26.

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