Jean Kent writes about her 2017 book discovery today.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is my rediscovered gem for 2017. For some time this book has been near the top of the tottering pile beside my bed, waiting for that mysterious moment that the best books have, when it would become just the right one for me to reach for.
I love the gentle wisdom and wit of this story of a pilot who has had to land his damaged plane in the desert and his encounter with a ‘little prince’ who has also fallen from the sky – from a very small asteroid, where he usually lives alone, with one rose for company and the possibility of watching forty-four sunsets in one day for consolation.
Although it has the lovely, simple clarity of a children’s story, there is so much poignant adult experience here as well. I wasn’t very far into the book when I came across a friend whose wife had recently died, sitting beside Lake Macquarie, taking a photo of the sunset. Every day, he said, he did this now. I went home, read a little further and found the little prince saying: ‘You know, when a person is very, very sad, they like sunsets.’
This edition also has all the qualities that make a printed book more special to me than a digital version. It is just slightly larger than my hand, which makes it a pleasure to hold. The paper is silky and white, and the print and line drawings are so crisp it is as if the ink has just dried. The cover, too, with its delicate painting of the wistful, golden-haired boy-prince, is irresistible.
I bought my copy at the Red Wheelbarrow bookshop in the Marais, Paris. So even though this is an English translation, that connection immediately makes me feel as though I’m partly in France while I’m reading. Which, of course, adds to the joy …
Jean Kent has published eight books of poetry. Her most recent book is Paris in my Pocket (Pitt Street Poetry), a selection of poems written during a residency at the Literature Board’s Keesing Studio, Paris. She lives at Lake Macquarie, NSW. She also posts poems and occasional Jottings at http://jeankent.net/