May 4, 2012

New pages discovered of The Little Prince


Newly-found pages of The LIttle Prince

“Newly-discovered draft pages of Antoine de Saint-Exupery‘s The Little Prince — that may shed new, political insight on the classic book — have been put on display at a Paris auction house for the first time,” and will be auctioned off next week,  according to this Associated Press report.

Just two months ago, in a surprise discovery, manuscript pages were found in private hands. Two translucent onion skin sheets, bearing the watermark of Saint-Exupery’s signature paper, covered with barely readable annotated text, are the extent of the discovery. But the excitement has been great. “It’s incredible. No one knew they even existed two months ago, and now someone can own them,” auction specialist Benoit Puttemans told the AP. “They’re the only pages from The Little Prince in the world apart from the manuscript in the New York (Morgan) library.”

According to the AP report:

The first page contains a piece of text that’s partly retained in chapter 19 of the published work. But the second leaf of the work is completely original. The little prince arrives on Earth and meets the first person on the planet, a completely new character, who’s described as an “ambassador of the human spirit.”

This “ambassador” is almost too busy to speak to his inquisitive interlocutor, saying he’s looking, in vain, for a missing six-letter word. The meaning of this is not immediately clear….

There is speculation that the new pages indicate a more overt political sentiment underlying the text, than has been thought. Manuscript expert, and Saint-Exuerry enthusiast, Olivier Devers told the AP, ”He was a dreamer, he dealt with the war by floating up and dreaming. The six-letter word the “ambassador” is looking for but can’t find has a humanist meaning. If you look at the context, you see that the word he can’t find is “guerre,” (or “war”). It’s even more powerful because he doesn’t say it.”

 Artcurial auction house will auction off the page in Paris on May 16.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.