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on August 30, 2005
Katherine Woods' simple and beautiful translation is the only one that does justice to The Little Prince. Published by Harcourt in 1943 and 1971, her English translation is the essential --- the translation loved and quoted by English-speaking people around the world, even by members of English- and French-speaking Canadian Parliament! But hers is OUT OF PRINT by Harcourt (who copyrighted her translation in 1943), so snatch up used copies while you may, or be certain you are getting hers in any new or used publication!

Beware of the "new translation" out by Richard Howard, first published in 2000; I accidentally got one. Ouch! His "new" translation purges meaning and is not worth the money. It gives a falseness to one of the most sincere stories ever written. Howard's lacks beauty and is at times unintelligible: It simply does not make sense. Since Howard has no apparent understanding of the truths expressed in The Little Prince, this is not to be wondered at.

Near the end (Chapter XXVI, the Woods translation), the little prince says, "You -- you alone will have the stars as no one else has them"..."In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night...You -- only you -- will have stars that can laugh!" (quoted by actor Robin Williams' daughter Zelda, age 25, in tribute at his passing). Howard's translation cannot match that for meaning, poignancy, or interpretation of de Saint Exupéry's words. Howard's lacks not only meaning but also heart, while Katherine Woods' translation captures both -- a matter of great consequence ("matters of consequence" being one theme that runs through the book) since Le Petit Prince is full of heart.

One example says it all: The fox's "secret" told to the little prince in parting (Chapter XXI) ---

Katherine Woods' translation reads: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." She uses the beautiful rhetorical mode: "What is essential..." In the original French: "...on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." In English, "l'essentiel" might be rendered "the essential things" or be put, as Woods does, in the rhetorical form: "What is essential..."

Howard's "new" translation of the same line reads: "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." Huh? "Anything essential is invisible to the eyes"? Far from expressing Antoine de Saint Exupéry's meaning, this generalization means, in effect, nothing. And it is obviously not true: Water is essential, and you can see it (more or less).

Katherine Woods' exquisite translation captures the essence of this line: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Quintessential, no line in the book is more important. It epitomizes her entire translation. (Woods employs the poetic English idiom "eye" for "les yeux", a superior choice of wording.) It is ironic that, in translating The Little Prince, Richard Howard should lose "that which is essential" and that he should be unable to "see with his heart."

Amazon.com's Editorial Review on HOWARD'S translation once said that "Katherine Woods sometimes wandered off the mark, giving the text a slightly wooden or didactic accent. Happily, Richard Howard...has streamlined and simplified to wonderful effect."

This would have been more accurately written thus:

"Katherine Woods uses poetic devices and a didactic accent to wonderful effect, capturing the essence and meaning of Antoine de Saint Exupéry's classic tale in a timeless translation. Unhappily and unfortunately, Richard Howard...has streamlined and simplified in a words-only translation, and he wanders off the mark, obscuring what were otherwise truths both simple and profound, giving the text a wooden effect."

Woods' translation is the one that I read and re-read, and which helped me to understand why I grieved so when my great-grandmother died. We'd spent so much time with her. As the fox says to the little prince in explaining why HIS rose is so significant to him, "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important." He explains that HIS rose is "unique in all the world" ("unique du monde" which Howard translates, in toto, as "the only rose in the world" -- another bit of nonsense). This passage in Woods' translation also helps me keep in mind what I'm doing with my time, and why. If I watch T.V. the most, then T.V. becomes the most important. If I pass the time with my family, they become the most important.

Another always-to-be-remembered example of a passage from Woods' translation occurs when the little prince must say goodbye to the fox:

The fox says, "Ah, I shall cry."

"It's your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

Before the little prince tamed the fox, the wheat fields (les champs de blé) had "nothing to say to" the fox. "But," he had said to the little prince, "you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."

Once I disliked giant sunflowers. Then I discovered that someone I love liked them very much. So we planted some and cared for them together. Now, when I see giant sunflowers, I remember him and my heart is happy. I understand....because of Katherine Woods' translation of Le Petit Prince. It is as beautiful, profound and timeless today as it was over 70 years ago.

--------------
NOTE: There is another publication by Wordsworth Classics: The Little Prince (Wordsworth Children's Classics) (Wordsworth Collection) with a translation by Irene Testot-Ferry which is ALMOST identical to the Woods translation, at least in the places I've checked. The pictures are in grayscale, not color, and the paper is similar to newsprint.

There are downloadable PDFs of the Woods translation online. Find one that includes the translator, though. It's not a bound-book-in-hand, but it's at least Woods' superior translation and it's free.

One way to get the Katherine Woods' translation is to make sure you are buying ISBN: 0-15-246507-3 (0152465073). As for Howard's translation, "NEW" is not better; it's just "new." Sometimes you can tell the difference between the two translations simply by the covers. Woods' shows the little prince on a white background; Howard's is on midnight blue, but check the ISBNs and, most of all, double check the translator and make sure you're getting the Katherine Woods translation. More Howard translations continue to be published in various, different editions and bindings. It is easy to lose track of one's search for the Katherine Woods translation amidst the plethora of "same-Howard-new-wrapping" publications.

Be aware that ISBN 978-547-97884-0 The Little Prince is the Howard translation with a very long forward/introduction by Gregory Maguire (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), a writer who doesn't speak French, although he says his "husband" does, pokes fun at the author's French name and the French language for a gimmick, hasn't researched the author much at all, and who seems not to know he isn't reading the translation that he (as he says) read in high school, which had to have been Woods' given that Maguire is 60 years old -- this, even though he is about to write a forward requested by the publisher. His at times inappropriate, pages-long forward -- which is more about Maguire by far than about The Little Prince -- is a good reason NOT to by that edition, if Howard's translation isn't reason enough.

Near the top right front corner of this Howard/Maguire edition's brown cover is imprinted the example of Howard's "nonsense" that I quoted above: "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." A clue, that. What a difference from Woods' rendering: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Quintessential. THIS is what Antoine de Saint Exupéry's original French text means.

SOURCES:

Katherine Woods' superior translation: NY: Harvest/HBJ Book, Harcourt, 1971, pp. 83, 86, 87. (Katherine Woods, translator).

Richard Howard's inferior translation: 2 San Diego, CA: A Harvest Book, Harcourt Inc., 2000, p. 63. (Richard Howard, translator).

Howard's Translator's Note, by the way, illustrates why he should NOT have undertaken a re-translation of Le Petit Prince.

The Thorndike Large Print translation is little better than Howard's. I have never, EVER found a decent copy of any translation by Barnes and Noble of a non-English work. A good rule when dealing with translations of The Little Prince: If the translator's name is not given, don't buy it!

[Note: Review revised slightly in August 2014 to include Zelda Williams' quotation of the Woods translation.--Allie J.]
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on March 21, 2004
This is just a note to say beware of the new translation if you've previously read and enjoyed the Katherine Woods version. Mr. Howard makes the argument in his "translator's note" that the language has changed since the 1940's and that a new translation is needed. I couldn't disagree more. And I [do] speak with some experience on this subject: I read this title at school in the original French language for three different classes, as well as numerous times in English (the Woods version). Katherine Woods beautifully captured the feel of the French original. The new, Howard translation is in a more modern English which mostly succeeds at removing the poetry that previously existed and little else that I can find. It does not make the story any more clear or nuanced than it previously was, rather less so. I find the arguments for a new translation indefencible.
Three stars is not a review of the book, but of the translation. This title is beyond excellent, but you might do yourself a favor and find a used copy with the Woods translation (there are many copies out there). Enjoy!
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on May 23, 2006
Why in the world did the publisher accept this horrific and unnecessary new translation. Judge for yourself. From the 1943 Katherine Woods translation: "'As for me,' said the little prince to himself, 'If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.'" The new Richard Howard translation: "'If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked,' the little prince said to himself, 'I'd walk very slowly toward a water fountain.'" I mean ... really.
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on August 19, 2014
The Little Prince Nov./14

A review of five translations

In 2000, the Richard Howard translation of The Little Prince was released to supercede the original of Katherine Woods from 1943. When a publisher comes to one to translate such a classic how does one ever turn them down and say the last translation was good enough! I guess one doesn't. Money and ego prevail.

But `good enough' is the debating point. Is it good enough? Howard writes in his preface "...it must be acknowledged that all translations date." Do they? Would one clean up and modernise the language of A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh? or of Kenneth Grahame in the Wind In The Willows? Of course not. Then Howard modernises Katherine Woods' rendition, "cry" with his "weep" during the departure from the fox. And he thinks this is more `modern?' What self-contradictory nonsense translators can write to justify themselves and their publishers.

I grew up on Katherine Woods' translation and prefer it over the Howard, but I must admit, when I look at my French copy, the Woods too has some elisions in translation. During the farewell from the fox, she translates: "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important." Howard translates: "It's the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important." The French actually states: "C'est le temps que tu as perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante." Literally this translates far more meaningfully and philosophically than either of the Woods or the Howard as "It is the time which you have lost for your rose which makes your rose so important." So that leaves me thinking both translations have their flaws. I am not sure why both of them would dilute the original like they have, for it has surely been diluted from what St. Exupery wrote and intended, but the Woods translation is very close to St. Exupery's text and meaning and brings a layer to think about beyond merely "spent" time.

From 2011 another translation is on the scene, by Ros and Chloe Schwarz, and it needs comment too. First of all, the illustrations: it is anything but sensitively rendered as its publicity blurb asserts. The colors have been filled in like old cellular film animation, and are just flat, losing St. Exupery's delicate drawing and watercolour washes. The hunter, as another example, has had circles drawn completely around his eyes now making him look like a goth caricature. The drawing of the fox in his lair has completely lost all the grass that was so delicately drawn by St. Exupery. The beautiful sense of all his drawings, that they flowed, without borders, right off the page, conveying their own meaningful addition to this borderless story, has been lost on many many of the drawings by the illustrator putting boxes around drawings that don't originally have any. The boa constrictor for instance. The sheep, for instance. Here the baobab trees and the weeding of Asteroid B-612 are now set against the dark background of space, not the daylight of the originals. The tiger no longer looks fearsome; it looks like a cute questioning pussycat, its line-work tampered with as it has been on most of the drawings. This illustration tampering is unforgiveable and reason alone not to buy this book.

The Schwarz translation has a third perspective on the French, but still, for example, loses the quote mentioned above from the fox. "Perdu pour" is translated here as "spent on" again. St. Exupery chose "perdu pour" for a reason; he did not write "passé," or any other verb. "Perdu pour" brings many other things, more layers of meaning, to mind. Then these translators do other things. They do things so blatantly wrong like alter his word "mouton" into "little lamb." If St. Exupery had meant little lamb he would have written "petit agneau" but he didn't. The little prince is not so dumb to not know little lambs grow up into bigger sheep. Also, in the geographer chapter, St. Exupery explains "ephemeral" as "menace de disparition prochaine," "a menace which disappears soon." The Schwarzs translate that phrase as "likely to die very soon." Clearly they completely don't get St. Exupery's thought and subtlety and at the same time possess the unbelievable arrogance to write words that St. Exupery did not.

They clearly don't have the soul of poets or philosophers ideally necessary, nor even the workman-like craft to simply translate what is there. Their approach to translation, like Howard's is unforgivable, and is another reason this book too should absolutely just sit on the rubbish heap until someone re-does it properly. The book itself is charming: tiny, hardcover, with gilt page edges and a ribbon marker. Full marks for being sturdy and beautifully portable, but otherwise... do yourself a favour and stay away from it too.

I recently found another translation of which I was unaware, from Alan Wakeman, 1995 (hardcover), illustrated from St. Exupery by Michael Foreman. Michael Foreman is one of my favourite illustrators and I have many of his books. Works in beautiful watercolours. I wondered. When it arrived I knew I was in for something special. Wakeman (he says in the preface), started translating in 1979, not under contract, but simply because he was not satisfied with the Katherine Woods' translation. He worked in his favourite retreat by the sea, overlooking the Golfe de Giens, which turned out, from the beginning discovery in 1993 of St. Exupery's sunken plane, to overlook the crash site in the sea where St. Exupery was lost. It took another decade or so to absolutely confirm that this is where St. Exupery went down, but Wakeman was apparently eerily in touch with something from St. Exupery through their labours of love.

Wakeman's translation is pretty accurate. He still translates "perdu pour" as "spent on," but okay. He translates "ephemere" as "doomed to disappear soon." Nice, and with a layer of fate the Schwarz's miss, but which Woods captures, albeit a bit more clumsily with "in danger of speedy disappearance." Wakeman has his quirks though. He translates "blé", the colour of the little prince's hair, as "corn." Technically correct, but an odd choice usually considered much more a secondary meaning to the more common one of "wheat." While a kernel of corn may be the colour of the little prince's hair, the kernels are not seen under the corn husks in a field of corn. The tassels, while colour correct, are overwhelmed in a corn field, especially from a fox's point of view, by all the green and are not really seen either. Wakeman seems to have never spent any time by a corn field to know that, unlike the fox who lives there, so Wakeman does not get that his quirky translation allusion is a stretch in reminding one of the little prince's hair colour. I find it rather a clash, or at the very least a break in the lovely flow St. Exupery spent so much time and talent composing, and work editing to create in his original work.

Foreman's illustrations are what is special about this Wakeman translation. All of the St. Exupery ones used, which is most of them, have been taken and re-worked. The line work and watercolour is far more skilful than St. Exupery, but extraordinarily faithful, and retains that childlike naiveté. It really takes a second look to realize it is not actually St. Exupery's line work with better color. All drawings have been given color, which brings a satisfaction absent from some, even in the original publication, where for example, I have been sorely tempted to pull out my own paint box for the little prince watching the sunset. This drawing is clearly a watercolour originally, but has only ever been published in black and white. (Why?) Here all the drawings are now shown in colour.

But where Foreman has really excelled is in introducing 8 beautiful full page or double page paintings of the little prince and the pilot: comforting the little prince when he was sad, walking with the little prince in his arms when exhausted to find water, sharing his drawings with the little prince, running with his revolver to kill the snake if he could... whole new enhancements to the story, bringing more forward the relationship that it was, not just story-telling about the little prince. For it is not just the story of a special individual, but also one of a special relationship, and the special place in our lives of special relationships and what makes them special.

The Woods translation is still head and shoulders above the new ones, except for the Wakeman. Both are far more evocative of what was intended. The Foreman illustrations with the Wakeman translation I think makes it even better. The Woods translation hardcover is now a collectors item and can often be very expensive and harder to find in the U.S. Easier in Britain (and isn't that a whole other very interesting essay on the lovely differences it indicates). The Woods edition appears to be available economically as a paperback (white cover, usually pre-2000 publishing date), but with no color illustrations.

The Howard translation, both hardcover and softcover (blue cover), both with color illustrations (and some black and white), is easily available at a quite reasonable price. The Schwarz translation is available in England and Canada easily, but hard to locate and has very poor notes on amazon.com. The Wakeman/Foreman collaboration (hardcover) can still be found used, in good shape, economical, for now, but also as a very expensive collectors item. (There are, I think, copyright issues until 2044; another interesting essay). I cannot vouch for the paperback version, publications of which often get cheap and sometimes are done with black and white illustrations only, like the Katherine Woods paperback and the Testot-Ferry translation (see below and see my review of Michael Foreman's Arthur High King Of Britain for more.).

My recommendation is buy the best available, the Wakeman/Foreman hardcover edition, or the Woods hardcover, (or both; each have their merits and shortcomings), and if your French is alright, get a French version too. It is worth working through Le Petit Prince. You will learn more about life and language and different cultures in doing so than in many larger weightier, more adult tomes and our children will too from this timeless story with so many layers and such depth in its simplicity.

The ratings:
Le Petit Prince: 5 stars
English translations to date:
Wakeman/Foreman: 4.5 stars
Woods: 4.25 stars
Howard: 1 star
Schwarz: 1 star
Testot-Ferry: 1 star

P.S.
I have also discovered there is enough of the Irene Testot-Ferry translation (Wordsworth) on the amazon "read inside" feature to render an opinion on it too. Cumbersome. Archaic, and not in a good way like the Katherine Woods. The Testot-Ferry is awkward, incorrect: e.g. "un peu," "a little," is translated as "more or less." "I flew more or less all over the world." Seems to lack the modesty intended by St. Exupery and the pilot here in the story which "a little" conveys. So she doesn't really get it. (And by the way, Wakeman leaves out "a little" completely. Rather a short-coming).

The Testot-Ferry translation is awkward. She opens a paragraph with: "As a result of which I have been in touch, throughout my life, with all kinds of serious people." for "J'ai ainsi eu, au cours de ma vie, des tas de contacts avec des tas de gens serieux." which more correctly and simply translates as "I have had, through the course of my life, lots of contact, with lots of serious people." Also, all the drawings in this edition are the most abysmal black and white hack reproductions. So avoid this translation despite its bargain basement price. You get what you pay for. There are better (more accurate) translations and more richness and layers of meaning in the Wakeman and the Woods translations, which are missing and awkward in the Testot-Ferry, and which such a classic piece of literature deserves.

P.P.S.
A recent comment elsewhere prompted this post script:
If you have a Cuffe translation of The Little Prince it too is very rare and likely will never be re-printed. The Wakeman edition is becoming such too, sadly. The reason for this is that the Little Prince fell out of copyright in England after fifty years, so Penguin and Pavillion, actually anticipating this, did the Cuffe version and the Wakeman version respectively. What they didn’t anticipate was that later in 1995 the UK harmonized its copyright law with the EU where copyright is 70 years and St. Exupery is allowed an additional 30 years due to his premature death in exceptional service to his nation and The Little Prince, like a handful of other titles, fell back into copyright there. Hence The Little Prince will not now fall out of copyright in Europe or England until 2045. This means, alas, likely no Folio Society edition or any other UK or European one for quite some time. In the U.S. of course, they ignore all this, and do their own thing, hence the Howard translation in 2000. Additionally, as I understand it, there are some differences among the family. St. Exupery’s birth family appears to have approved of the Wakeman translation, but St. Exupery’s wife Consuelo (and now her family), I believe, own the copyright, and my guess is, have a pretty strict and exclusive agreement with Harcourt Brace in North America. Why would HB not, for this incredible money-maker that most publishers would love a piece of. Which means yes, the Katherine Woods version is still available in England where it is beyond HB’s taste and control, thankfully.
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on December 7, 2000
I was excited that a new translation of this lovely book was out... until I read it. This translation has eliminated most of the poetry of language that made Katherine Wood translation of Saint-Exupery's book a classic in the first place. This includes a translator's note that sounds exceedingly pompous once you have read this new translation. I would not stock this book in my library, give it as a gift, or even donate it. What a disappointment!
In contrast, the Katherine Woods translation of this book is one of the finest books to ever come my way. In beautiful, spare poetry, she relays Saint-Exupery's lessons about life, teaching us that "what is essential is invisible to the eyes."
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on November 13, 2002
First of all, this is my favorite book, ever, and gets five stars. When I'm very sad or going through a difficult time, reading this little book always cheers me up and makes me feel happy. It makes the world seem right again and makes me see with my heart. And it makes me cry in that very good way we all (those who cherish this book) love so much.
However, the new translation is simply dreadful, and gets one star. It somehow manages (with a few exceptions) to miss the charm of the original at every step. The original English translation, by Katherine Woods, is a classic, and Harcourt's attempt to "improve" it seems ill-informed and gratuitous to me. I see from a number of other reviews that I'm not the only one who feels this way, so I hope that Harcourt comes to their senses and goes back to the original before it's too late. I'd hate to think that future generations will know this book only by its new translation, and will never know how exquisite it was before that.
If you've never read this book or are going to buy a copy, please get an old one (Woods translation) so as to maximize your enjoyment while at the same time foiling Harcourt's dastardly plot to destroy a classic.
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on June 16, 2000
Can't get enough of this book. When faced with the prospect of having to buy -another- copy (I always give them away), I finally bought the hard cover. The illustrations are incredible. Spend the extra money just for them. You miss so much by having to relate to the paperback, much smaller, illustrations.
This is not a children's book. The work is, in fact, far too tragic for younger children, even if they don't grasp all of the imagery presented in the story. The ending is simply too difficult to try to explain to small children.
But, aside from that...this book is so beautiful. It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. Each planet may be a thinly disguised political lesson, but who cares. The prince's experiences are touching and at times heart-rending.
This book is also best for reading out loud. It'll take a little time, perhaps about an hour and a half, but it's worth it. The translation just rolls right off the tongue, the images become much easier to picture, the dialogues between the prince and the other character seem easier to internalize.
He may have been writing a religious/spiritual statement, it may be a social-political commentary, _The Little Prince_ may be an anti-science manifesto. Point is, it doesn't matter what the "intent" of the story was. The book is so accessible, so deftly written, the story so compelling and honest, that any reader can intepret it in a deeply personal way. Every time you read the book, a different scene will leap out at you. A different line will strike your heart. The fox, the rose, the tippler, the prince, each character is fantastically vivid. As you change in your life, the book will change too. It is a rare and treasured book, indeed.
A note on the translation: There is a new translation coming out, with cleaned illustrations (which are brilliant). While more "accurate", the language in the new version is not as soft, not as texture-based. The new translation seems to lack a lot of the tenderness of the original translation; many of the greatest and most memorable phrases come across as harder and less childlike. Interesting to read, but only a pale comparison to the first job.
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on August 19, 2014
In 2000, the Richard Howard translation of The Little Prince was released to supercede the original of Katherine Woods from 1943. When a publisher comes to one to translate such a classic how does one ever turn them down and say the last translation was good enough! I guess one doesn't. Money and ego prevail.

But `good enough' is the debating point. Is it good enough? Howard writes in his preface "...it must be acknowledged that all translations date." Do they? Would one clean up and modernise the language of A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh? or of Kenneth Grahame in the Wind In The Willows? Of course not. Then Howard modernises Katherine Woods' rendition, "cry" with his "weep" during the departure from the fox. And he thinks this is more `modern?' What self-contradictory nonsense translators can write to justify themselves and their publishers.

I grew up on Katherine Woods' translation and prefer it over the Howard, but I must admit, when I look at my French copy, the Woods too has some elisions in translation. During the farewell from the fox, she translates: "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important." Howard translates: "It's the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important." The French actually states: "C'est le temps que tu as perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante." Literally this translates far more meaningfully and philosophically than either of the Woods or the Howard as "It is the time which you have lost for your rose which makes your rose so important." So that leaves me thinking both translations have their flaws. I am not sure why both of them would dilute the original like they have, for it has surely been diluted from what St. Exupery wrote and intended, but the Woods translation is very close to St. Exupery's text and meaning and brings a layer to think about beyond merely "spent" time.

From 2011 another translation is on the scene, by Ros and Chloe Schwarz, and it needs comment too. First of all, the illustrations: it is anything but sensitively rendered as its publicity blurb asserts. The colors have been filled in like old cellular film animation, and are just flat, losing St. Exupery's delicate drawing and watercolour washes. The hunter, as another example, has had circles drawn completely around his eyes now making him look like a goth caricature. The drawing of the fox in his lair has completely lost all the grass that was so delicately drawn by St. Exupery. The beautiful sense of all his drawings, that they flowed, without borders, right off the page, conveying their own meaningful addition to this borderless story, has been lost on many many of the drawings by the illustrator putting boxes around drawings that don't originally have any. The boa constrictor for instance. The sheep, for instance. Here the baobab trees and the weeding of Asteroid B-612 are now set against the dark background of space, not the daylight of the originals. The tiger no longer looks fearsome; it looks like a cute questioning pussycat, its line-work tampered with as it has been on most of the drawings. This illustration tampering is unforgiveable and reason alone not to buy this book.

The Schwarz translation has a third perspective on the French, but still, for example, loses the quote mentioned above from the fox. "Perdu pour" is translated here as "spent on" again. St. Exupery chose "perdu pour" for a reason; he did not write "passé," or any other verb. "Perdu pour" brings many other things, more layers of meaning, to mind. Then these translators do other things. They do things so blatantly wrong like alter his word "mouton" into "little lamb." If St. Exupery had meant little lamb he would have written "petit agneau" but he didn't. The little prince is not so dumb to not know little lambs grow up into bigger sheep. Also, in the geographer chapter, St. Exupery explains "ephemeral" as "menace de disparition prochaine," "a menace which disappears soon." The Schwarzs translate that phrase as "likely to die very soon." Clearly they completely don't get St. Exupery's thought and subtlety and at the same time possess the unbelievable arrogance to write words that St. Exupery did not.

They clearly don't have the soul of poets or philosophers ideally necessary, nor even the workman-like craft to simply translate what is there. Their approach to translation, like Howard's is unforgivable, and is another reason this book too should absolutely just sit on the rubbish heap until someone re-does it properly. The book itself is charming: tiny, hardcover, with gilt page edges and a ribbon marker. Full marks for being sturdy and beautifully portable, but otherwise... do yourself a favour and stay away from it too.

I recently found another translation of which I was unaware, from Alan Wakeman, 1995 (hardcover), illustrated from St. Exupery by Michael Foreman. Michael Foreman is one of my favourite illustrators and I have many of his books. Works in beautiful watercolours. I wondered. When it arrived I knew I was in for something special. Wakeman (he says in the preface), started translating in 1979, not under contract, but simply because he was not satisfied with the Katherine Woods' translation. He worked in his favourite retreat by the sea, overlooking the Golfe de Giens, which turned out, from the beginning discovery in 1993 of St. Exupery's sunken plane, to overlook the crash site in the sea where St. Exupery was lost. It took another decade or so to absolutely confirm that this is where St. Exupery went down, but Wakeman was apparently eerily in touch with something from St. Exupery through their labours of love.

Wakeman's translation is pretty accurate. He still translates "perdu pour" as "spent on," but okay. He translates "ephemere" as "doomed to disappear soon." Nice, and with a layer of fate the Schwarz's miss, but which Woods captures, albeit a bit more clumsily with "in danger of speedy disappearance." Wakeman has his quirks though. He translates "blé", the colour of the little prince's hair, as "corn." Technically correct, but an odd choice usually considered much more a secondary meaning to the more common one of "wheat." While a kernel of corn may be the colour of the little prince's hair, the kernels are not seen under the corn husks in a field of corn. The tassels, while colour correct, are overwhelmed in a corn field, especially from a fox's point of view, by all the green and are not really seen either. Wakeman seems to have never spent any time by a corn field to know that, unlike the fox who lives there, so Wakeman does not get that his quirky translation allusion is a stretch in reminding one of the little prince's hair colour. I find it rather a clash, or at the very least a break in the lovely flow St. Exupery spent so much time and talent composing, and work editing to create in his original work.

Foreman's illustrations are what is special about this Wakeman translation. All of the St. Exupery ones used, which is most of them, have been taken and re-worked. The line work and watercolour is far more skilful than St. Exupery, but extraordinarily faithful, and retains that childlike naiveté. It really takes a second look to realize it is not actually St. Exupery's line work with better color. All drawings have been given color, which brings a satisfaction absent from some, even in the original publication, where for example, I have been sorely tempted to pull out my own paint box for the little prince watching the sunset. This drawing is clearly a watercolour originally, but has only ever been published in black and white. (Why?) Here all the drawings are now shown in colour.

But where Foreman has really excelled is in introducing 8 beautiful full page or double page paintings of the little prince and the pilot: comforting the little prince when he was sad, walking with the little prince in his arms when exhausted to find water, sharing his drawings with the little prince, running with his revolver to kill the snake if he could... whole new enhancements to the story, bringing more forward the relationship that it was, not just story-telling about the little prince. For it is not just the story of a special individual, but also one of a special relationship, and the special place in our lives of special relationships and what makes them special.

The Woods translation is still head and shoulders above the new ones, except for the Wakeman. Both are far more evocative of what was intended. The Foreman illustrations with the Wakeman translation I think makes it even better. The Woods translation hardcover is now a collectors item and can often be very expensive and harder to find in the U.S. Easier in Britain (and isn't that a whole other very interesting essay on the lovely differences it indicates). The Woods edition appears to be available economically as a paperback (white cover, usually pre-2000 publishing date), but with no color illustrations.

The Howard translation, both hardcover and softcover (blue cover), both with color illustrations (and some black and white), is easily available at a quite reasonable price. The Schwarz translation is available in England and Canada easily, but hard to locate and has very poor notes on amazon.com. The Wakeman/Foreman collaboration (hardcover) can still be found used, in good shape, economical, for now, but also as a very expensive collectors item. (There are, I think, copyright issues until 2044; another interesting essay). I cannot vouch for the paperback version, publications of which often get cheap and sometimes are done with black and white illustrations only, like the Katherine Woods paperback and the Testot-Ferry translation (see below and see my review of Michael Foreman's Arthur High King Of Britain for more.).

My recommendation is buy the best available, the Wakeman/Foreman hardcover edition, or the Woods hardcover, (or both; each have their merits and shortcomings), and if your French is alright, get a French version too. It is worth working through Le Petit Prince. You will learn more about life and language and different cultures in doing so than in many larger weightier, more adult tomes and our children will too from this timeless story with so many layers and such depth in its simplicity.

The ratings:
Le Petit Prince: 5 stars
English translations to date:
Wakeman/Foreman: 4.5 stars
Woods: 4.25 stars
Howard: 1 star
Schwarz: 1 star
Testot-Ferry: 1 star

P.S.
I have also discovered there is enough of the Irene Testot-Ferry translation (Wordsworth) on the amazon "read inside" feature to render an opinion on it too. Cumbersome. Archaic, and not in a good way like the Katherine Woods. The Testot-Ferry is awkward, incorrect: e.g. "un peu," "a little," is translated as "more or less." "I flew more or less all over the world." Seems to lack the modesty intended by St. Exupery and the pilot here in the story which "a little" conveys. So she doesn't really get it. (And by the way, Wakeman leaves out "a little" completely. Rather a short-coming).

The Testot-Ferry translation is awkward. She opens a paragraph with: "As a result of which I have been in touch, throughout my life, with all kinds of serious people." for "J'ai ainsi eu, au cours de ma vie, des tas de contacts avec des tas de gens serieux." which more correctly and simply translates as "I have had, through the course of my life, lots of contact, with lots of serious people." Also, all the drawings in this edition are the most abysmal black and white hack reproductions. So avoid this translation despite its bargain basement price. You get what you pay for. There are better (more accurate) translations and more richness and layers of meaning in the Wakeman and the Woods translations, which are missing and awkward in the Testot-Ferry, and which such a classic piece of literature deserves.

P.P.S.
A recent comment elsewhere prompted this post script:
If you have a Cuffe translation of The Little Prince it too is very rare and likely will never be re-printed. The Wakeman edition is becoming such too, sadly. The reason for this is that the Little Prince fell out of copyright in England after fifty years, so Penguin and Pavillion, actually anticipating this, did the Cuffe version and the Wakeman version respectively. What they didn’t anticipate was that later in 1995 the UK harmonized its copyright law with the EU where copyright is 70 years and St. Exupery is allowed an additional 30 years due to his premature death in exceptional service to his nation and The Little Prince, like a handful of other titles, fell back into copyright there. Hence The Little Prince will not now fall out of copyright in Europe or England until 2045. This means, alas, likely no Folio Society edition or any other UK or European one for quite some time. In the U.S. of course, they ignore all this, and do their own thing, hence the Howard translation in 2000. Additionally, as I understand it, there are some differences among the family. St. Exupery’s birth family appears to have approved of the Wakeman translation, but St. Exupery’s wife Consuelo (and now her family), I believe, own the copyright, and my guess is, have a pretty strict and exclusive agreement with Harcourt Brace in North America. Why would HB not, for this incredible money-maker that most publishers would love a piece of. Which means yes, the Katherine Woods version is still available in England where it is beyond HB’s taste and control, thankfully.
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on December 14, 2012
This Harvest book 1971 edition is the Katherine Woods translation, first published in 1943. Katherine Woods' simple and beautiful translation is the only one that does justice to The Little Prince. Published by Harcourt in 1943 and 1971, her translation is the essential --- the translation loved and quoted by English-speaking people around the world, even by members of English- and French-speaking Canadian Parliament! But hers is OUT OF PRINT, so snatch up used copies while you may!

WARNING: there is a "new translation" out by Richard Howard, and I accidentally got one. Ouch! His "New" translation purges meaning, and is not worth the money. It gives a falseness to one of the most sincere stories ever written.

Howard's lacks beauty, and is at times unintelligible: It simply does not make sense. Since Howard has no apparent understanding of the truths expressed in The Little Prince, it is not to be wondered at. One important example says it all: The fox's "secret" told to the little prince in parting ---

Woods' translation reads: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." She uses the beautiful rhetorical mode: "What is essential..." Compare, if you know French, Antoine de Saint Exupéry's original French text: "...on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." "L'essentiel" is in the same mode as is "Les Misérables" -- neither translate exactly into English. "Les Misérables" may be translated as "The Miserable Ones," with less poetic effect. Likewise, "L'essentiel" might be rendered literally "The essential things" or put in the rhetorical form "What is essential..."

If Richard Howard wanted to make the statement "clearer" it would have to read: "That which is essential is invisible to the eye" --- wordy, and prosy, but it keeps the meaning. But Howard doesn't do that; his "new" translation of the same line reads: "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." Huh? "Anything essential is invisible to the eyes"? Far from expressing Antoine de Saint Exupéry's meaning, this generalization means, in effect, nothing. And it is obviously not true: Water is essential, and you can see it.

Katherine Woods' exquisite translation captures the essence of this line for the English reader. "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." Quintessential, no line in the book is more important. It epitomizes her entire translation. (Note: it is Katherine Woods who employs the English poetic "eye" for "les yeux", a superior choice of wording.) It is ironic that, in translating The Little Prince, Richard Howard should lose "that which is essential," and that he should be unable to "see with his heart."

Amazon.com's Editorial Review on HOWARD'S translation says that "Katherine Woods sometimes wandered off the mark, giving the text a slightly wooden or didactic accent. Happily, Richard Howard...has streamlined and simplified to wonderful effect."

This would have been better written thus:

"Katherine Woods uses poetic devices and a didactic accent to wonderful effect, capturing the essence and meaning of Antoine de Saint Exupéry's classic tale in a timeless translation. Unhappily and unfortunately, Richard Howard...has streamlined and simplified in a words-only translation, and he wanders off the mark, obscuring what were otherwise truths both simple and profound, giving the text a wooden effect."

Woods' translation is the one I read, and which helped me to understand why I grieved so when my great grandmother died. We'd spent so much time with her. And, as the fox says to the little prince in explaining why HIS rose is so important to him, "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important." It also helps me keep in mind what I'm doing with my time, and why. If I watch T.V. the most, then T.V. becomes the most important. If I pass the time with my family, they become the most important.

Another always-to-be-remembered example of a passage from Woods' translation occurs when the little prince must say goodbye to the fox:

The fox says, "Ah, I shall cry."

"It's your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

Before the little prince tamed the fox, the wheat field had "nothing to say to" the fox. "But," he had said to the little prince, "you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."

I used to dislike giant sunflowers. Then I discovered that someone I love liked them very much. So we planted some and cared for them together. Now, when I see giant sunflowers, I remember him and my heart is happy. I understand....because I read again and again Katherine Woods' translation of The Little Prince from the time I was a child. It is as beautiful and profound today as it was 40 years ago.

--------------
NOTE: There is another publication by Wordsworth Classics: The Little Prince (Wordsworth Children's Classics) (Wordsworth Collection) with a translation by Irene Testot-Ferry which is ALMOST identical to the Woods translation, at least in the places I've checked. The pictures are in grayscale, not color, and the paper is similar to newsprint.

There is a PDF of the Woods translation. Search under The Little Prince swan.
It's not a bound-book-in-hand, but it's at least the superior translation of Woods' and it's free.

One way to get the Katherine Woods' translation is to make sure you are buying ISBN: 0-15-246507-3 (0152465073). As for Howard's translation, "NEW" is not better; it's just "new." Sometimes you can tell the difference between the two translations simply by the covers. Woods' shows the little prince on a white background; Howard's is on midnight blue, but check the ISBNs and, most of all, double check the translator and make sure you're getting the Katherine Woods translation. More Howard translations continue to be published in various, different editions and bindings. It is easy to lose track of the search for the Katherine Woods translation amidst the plethora of "same-Howard-new wrapping" publications.

SOURCES:

Katherine Woods' superior translation: NY: Harvest/HBJ Book, Harcourt, 1971, pp. 83, 86, 87. (Katherine Wood's translation) The Little Prince (Harvest, 1971).

Richard Howard's inferior translation: 2 San Diego, CA: A Harvest Book, Harcourt Inc., 2000, p.63. Richard Howard's translation.
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on July 3, 2003
Please, people, do not waste your time on the Richard Howard translation. It is childish, simplified, and simply awful. I really think that Richard Howard took this phenomenal, amazing book and tried to make it as devoid of meaning as he could. The new translation is almost like how a five year old would tell it- small, small words and small, small ideas.
However- I had the Katharine Woods translation before I bought this one. Do not blame this new error on the author. The Katharine Woods translation is superb. Richard Howards- Not so much.
This review has nothing to do with the book, just its differing translations.
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