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ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY (1900-1944) was born in Lyons, France. He took his first flight at the age of eleven, and became a pilot at twenty-six. He was a pioneer of international commercial aviation and flew in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. His writings include The Little Prince; Wind, Sand and Stars; and Southern Mail. In 1944, while serving with his French air squadron, he disappeared during a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean.
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.Read more ›
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!
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.
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."
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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