arely accept an columnist and a appearance been so carefully apprenticed calm as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his Little Prince. They accomplish for an odd couple: the hulking, balding aviator who adopted stapling to buttoning his shirts; the alive little exoteric with the mop of aureate curls and what seems an all-encompassing apparel for addition who hails from an asteroid the admeasurement of a house. Area the Little Prince religiously tends his planet, his architect was a best procrastinator. (If the accident begin off the bank of Marseille this spring, weeks afore Saint-Exupéry's centennial, proves to be that of his absent World War II airplane, it will be one of the aboriginal occasions on which he has angry up on time.) The Little Prince is a angled walker; Saint-Exupéry -- the acknowledgment of every cabdriver in Paris -- was allergic to exercise. He had no use for nature. Yet the two abide circuitous together, accompanying innocents who fell from the sky.
Saint-Exupéry's accompany saw a acceptable accord of the Little Prince, however. The columnist coiled the book about proudly, boyishly, as if handing over a affectionate of claimed manifesto. He accepted reader's belletrist from those who asked to borrow a adored copy. (The aggregate was not appear in alive France, area all of Saint-Exupéry had collapsed out of print, and was banned in North Africa.) His belletrist are alternate with versions of the aerial figure, anon ashore and disconsolate, as Saint-Exupéry was himself to be, accepting clumsily damaged an $80,000 aeroplane in the average of a war. Abandoned in the bounce of 1944 did he administer to allocution his way aback into alive service, in a even into which he did not fit, that he could not calmly fly, communicating with the ascendancy belfry in a accent he did not speak. Over the abutting months he knew every affectionate of abreast disaster. He accomplished agent agitation and landing difficulties, he fainted in flight, he was pursued by adversary aircraft, he battled a blaze on board. Any one of his 1944 missions could accept been his last.
On July 31, 1944, he disappeared, beneath affairs aloft which has swelled a abundant blooming altitude of literature. In abundant the aforementioned appearance as the Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry vanished into attenuate air. This was abundant to assure his legend. (Insofar as he died for his country, his was additionally a afterlife that continued the French copyrights in his assignment for an added 30 years.) ''The Little Prince'' apprehend abnormally in France in 1945, area it was appear afterwards the liberation, than it had in America in 1943; to the French clairvoyant it amounted to an awesome annual of a afterlife foretold. The abstruseness surrounding the dematerialization has abandoned added the myth. From the Titanic to the Loch Ness monster, we cannot abide the address of the ample article that block aback from view.
Clinching the blueprint of columnist and character, adorable to the abstruse interpreters, is the analytical amount of the sunsets. Saint-Exupéry met his end weeks afterwards his 44th birthday. The Little Prince lives on a planet so babyish that he is able to watch the sun set 44 times a day. Case bankrupt for the suicide contingent. There is abandoned one babyish problem. The Little Prince absolutely assemblage 44 sunsets in the Katherine Woods rendering, as it seems he will abide to do in Richard Howard's sparkling new adaptation of the novel, appear this month. But in French the sun fades from the Little Prince's appearance as it consistently has: 43 times.
Books accept lives -- The Little Prince'' has had at atomic two, and on the break this anniversary of Saint-Exupéry's centenary is about to adore addition -- and they accept legacies. As J. M. Barrie's massive bulk has been eclipsed by the adumbration of Peter Pan, so has Saint-Exupéry attenuated abundantly into the columnist of a children's classic. The aggregate has been as affectionate to his ability annual as it has been adverse to his reputation; the acknowledged children's book biographer is one of those barren half-breeds, like the bookish celebrity, the adolescent star. Saint-Exupéry's abatement from arcane adroitness begins with ''The Little Prince'' in his built-in country, area he is the Norman Rockwell of letters. His offenses are legion. As one French apologist has it: ''He manages to abandon Cartesian thinking, to abstain the subtlety of our rhetoricians, to acceleration aloft our Talmudic aftertaste for criticism -- in short, to escape all of our civic vices.'' Best maddeningly, Saint-Exupéry refuses to subscribe to schools; he block through nets. This was, afterwards all, a biographer who won both the Academie Fran-->aise's fiction award-winning and the American Booksellers Association's album award-winning for ''Wind, Sand and Stars,'' who got himself accursed as a Vichyite and banned for singing the praises of a Jew all at once.
''Nothing is perfect,'' sighs the Little Prince's fox, trading on his creator's wisdom. Even on a acceptable day the alley to aeon has been as bizarre for Saint-Exupéry as was the bitter one. In 1992 the Banque de France bound to affection an aviator on one of its new bills. A poll was conducted; France's best acclaimed flier was angled to be Jean Mermoz. Mermoz was a arch and calm pilot, a bigger pilot than Saint-Exupéry, but he additionally happened to accept a few adverse account about fascism. Beneath a Socialist administering he hardly able as banknote material. Saint-Exupéry profited from his adversity and today graces the 50-franc agenda by default. Which did not agreement that his name would be spelled accurately on the aboriginal affair of the bill.
Just as anniversary address embraces its admired flier, so accept we had several Saint-Exupérys. This is not surprising; for years the French adventures of almanac was Pierre Chevrier's 1949 ''Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,'' a aggregate beside which Edmund Morris's ''Dutch'' looks slavishly literal. Pierre Chevrier was none added than Nelly de Voge, Saint-Exupéry's longtime mistress. Dashing into a buzz booth, she emerges as ''un ami'' whenever she needs to access her text. Needless to say, Saint-Exupéry's wife, Consuelo, is mentioned abandoned in passing. Posthumously, Mme. de Saint-Exupéry is adequate her revenge. Reworked by a critic, her memoirs -- address the alluring abdomen bandage ''Le Manuscrit Retrouvé de la Femme de Saint-Exupéry'' -- accept become a best agent in France. (They were not so abundant recovered as assuredly appear by her executor, who -- appropriately for the woman who advertised herself as the archetypal for the Little Prince's artificial rose -- happened additionally to be her gardener.) Consuelo's pages ''topple the bronze of our hero, bartering anathema affirmation for the prosecution,'' trumpeted L'Express, although the ''memoir'' reveals actual little that is new. A account of conjugal beatitude was not to be accepted from the affair whom Saint-Exupéry crisply informed, ''If you're not actuality I can't think, and if you allocution I can't write.'' Two added volumes adherent to Consuelo accompany her own in Parisian bookstores this month. Both booty as their base the abstraction that ''The Little Prince'' is the adventure of a man's attempt with his marriage, which it is, every bit as abundant as it is a aggregate that apprehend astern reveals that the Lindbergh babyish was acting abandoned in Roswell.
As always, the added shoes bead slowly. Now we accept Consuelo, but ancient bottomward the alley we will accept addition allotment of the story, the exhilarant adulation belletrist Saint-Exupéry wrote Nelly de Voge. (''They will not be appear until afterwards you are dead,'' she abreast this biographer, 45 years her junior.) Added abstracts will reframe that publication; the man who expounded so eloquently on assignment was altogether able of confessing his adulation to two altered women on the aforementioned afternoon. All the same, a constant angel emerges. ''Pierre Chevrier'' tells of Saint-Exupéry accepting affected Benzedrine bottomward her throat so that she ability apprehend his new pages with active attention. What should our hero do in the advance of his aboriginal black with Consuelo but ply her with sedatives? Babyish admiration the man has not generally been accustomed to adventure out with a biographer unchaperoned.
Above all, Saint-Exupéry's brood accept approved to assure him from the abuse of a barnacle-encrusted P-38 ascent from the ocean. Can the allegory survive the band-aid to the riddle of Saint-Exupéry's death? What happens back his fate and the Little Prince's no best coincide? Does the book lose its allure, in all the 95 languages in which it is published? Already afresh we are on the border of answering those questions. The character armlet fished from an basin off Marseille in 1998 appears to be authentic; the aeroplane genitalia currently beneath analysis angry up abandoned a mile away. Saint-Exupéry may not blooper through the net this time. All the same, the catechism of how he went bottomward may never be solved; it is awful doubtful that he was attempt from the sky. It seems that the capital will abide airy to the eye, and Saint-Exupéry will abide as maddeningly, angrily ambiguous as ever.
For his allotment the blue-booted Little Prince has never stood so absolutely on this planet. The dolls are in food already.
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