Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of "The Little Prince", in New York.

     This charming building with blue trim, and over-flowing window boxes sits on East 52 just less than a half-block from  5th Avenue. There is a plaque on the building that says that  several chapters of  “The Little Prince”  by Saint-Exupery  were written in a studio on the second floor.  On the ground floor of the building was “La Vie Parisienne” (The Parisian Life), a French restaurant.  

     Today restaurant “La Grenouille” occupies the first and the second floors – you can book upstairs lovely semi-private area. 


      Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (29 June 1900 – 31 July 1944), was a French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator. He had been working in Argentina as a director of the airmail Argentina airline- this period of his life is briefly explored   in the first 3-D IMAX fiction film “Wings of Courage".     

     Saint-Exupéry won the U.S. National Book Award for his book memoir “Wind, Sand and Stars”, that he was able to receive  a year later, in  1941 here in New York , in the hotel Astor. The hotel was on Times Square and was turned down in 1967. The French and English versions of this book were different. The author removed sections from the French and added new material specifically written for American readers.

     In 1940's the studio on the second floor was a place where Paris-born artist Bernard Lamotte lived. LaMotte attended the Art school at the Sorbonne, Paris  where he met   Antoine de Saint-Exupéry . In 1932 the artist moved to New York City.

     This studio, called ”Le Bocal” (“The Fishbowl”)  was one of the places where the famous  French writer Saint-Exupéry worked on  “Le petit prince” (The Little Prince”).

      Saint-Exupery sailed from Lisbon to New York on the last day of 1940. He planned to stay in New York for four weeks but remained for more than two years. He had travelled there on a personal mission to persuade its government to quickly enter the war against Nazi Germany.

     The writer was isolated by his inability to speak English and had little news of his family or friends. He survived a number of airplane crashes in the previous 20 years and  his health was  poor.

     Saint-Exupery wrote and drew "The Little Prince" during the second half of 1942. The writer had for years sketched the  little figure on letters, manuscript pages and restaurant tablecloths. This novel, beginning with a crash  of a plane in the Sahara desert  in 1935, in is based on his own experience.  On the fourth day after the crash,   Bedouin on a camel saved him from the dehydration.

   The novella is the most read and most translated book in the French language, and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France. It was translated into more than 250 languages with sales more than 140 million copies. “Le petit prince” is  one of the best-selling books ever published.

     The original autographed manuscript of The Little Prince are in The Morgan Library & Museum,  in Manhattan, New York City.

     Only weeks after his novella was first published in April 1943 the author-aviator joined the Free French Forces - the resistance organization founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1940 in London.  Some of   Saint-Exupéry philosophical writings were created during  his lonely flights – he often took a notebook with him.

     Saint-Exupéry took off in an unarmed P-38 on his last spy mission from an airbase on Corsica  and did not return. An unidentifiable body wearing French colors was found several days after his disappearance and buried in Carqueiranne in September.

     In September 1998 a French fisherman  found a silver identity bracelet with the names of Saint-Exupéry and of his wife Consuelo. In May 2000 diver found the partial remains of a plane near to where the bracelet was previously found. After a two-year delay imposed by the French government, the remnants of the aircraft were recovered in October 2003. In June 2004 the fragments were given to the Air and Space Museum in Paris, France.

     In April 2012 a Parisian auction house announced the discovery of two previously unknown draft manuscript pages of “The Little Prince” that had been found and which included new text. 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” was almost too busy to speak to his inquisitive interlocutor, saying he’s looking, in vain, for a missing six-letter word. 

These two pages are the only pages from "The Little Prince" in the world apart from the manuscript in the New York "Morgan library.”

Visit Restaurant: "La Grenouille" , classic French cuisine
The Little Prince (Wordsworth Children's Classics) (Wordsworth Collection)