I’m back today to tell you about a great exhibition currently on at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris : À la rencontre du Petit Prince, the famous character created by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
I must confess one thing : I had never read The Little Prince before going to see the exhibition. #I have since bought a copy from the museum shop. It’s a very poetic book, both funny and sad. It’s a quick and easy read so if you haven’t read it yet, go for it!
The museography is very simple and I really appreciated that the walls are rather neutral in colour. The works on display are mainly drawings and pages from the original manuscript, so the lighting is limited. The only negative point was the spotlights that were reflected in the protective glass.
The circulation is very good and I was happy to see that this was not an exhibition where visitors were crowding around and you couldn’t see anything. The pages on display are rather small so it’s nice to be able to get close to them and look at them quietly. I still advise you to book your ticket to avoid queuing at the cash desk. We arrived about 20 minutes before the opening and it was just the right time as the queue started to form just then. As I had booked the tickets, we were able to go directly into the exhibition. There was no one in the rooms yet, so it was nice.
The exhibition tells the story of Saint-Exupéry, from his childhood to the Little Prince and aviation. Born on 29 June 1900 in Lyon, he grew up in an aristocratic family. He was passionate about poetry and aviation, both of which feature strongly in his work.
In the first part of the exhibition, you can see letters he wrote (often accompanied by drawings) and poems.
The following page is taken from a 1919 collection, Poésie de Jeunesse. The collection is calligraphed and illustrated in Indian ink by Saint-Exupéry. At that time he still imagined himself as a poet before his passion for aviation led him to abandon poetry for modern prose close to contemporary novels.
The exhibition reveals completely new documents, such as this notebook of drawings taken on the spot during his military service in Casablanca in 1921. In this notebook he documents small details of daily life.
His adventures on the Casablanca-Dakar line of the Aéropostale, as a station chief in the Sahara, etc., enabled him to create thrilling stories. He became a major author with his first novel, Courrier Sud, in 1929, and then with Vol de Nuit, which received the Prix Femina in 1931. Saint-Exupéry then became involved in air raids and campaigns to promote the aeroplane as a means of transport, with Air France. He recounts this experience in Terre des Hommes, published on the eve of the Second World War.
At the end of December 1935, Saint-Exupéry and his mechanic André Prévot hit a dune in the Libyan desert in Egypt. Their supplies exhausted, they decided to try their luck in the desert heading East. For three days, they encountered only a few sand foxes, before finally being rescued by some Bedouins. This episode is related in Terre des Hommes, but is above all one of the major sources of inspiration for The Little Prince.
The most interesting part of the exhibition is obviously the part where we see the sketches and the various developments of the character of the Little Prince. It is a great opportunity to see the original manuscript, which is conserved in New York. If you have the opportunity and you love the Little Prince, don’t miss it.
The book was published in April 1943 in the United States, in French and English. It was not until the end of the war that Gallimard published the French edition in Paris in April 1946, after Saint-Exupéry’s death.
One hundred and twenty foreign language editions are on display in the last room. The Little Prince has been translated into over five hundred languages and dialects!
I hope that this post has made you want to go and see the exhibition, or will console you for not being able to get there. You can find lots of interesting information on the museum’s website.
There are many other interesting exhibitions in Paris at the moment. I hope I will have time to see them.
See you soon!