I just read a book that was written and published in 1945, takes less than 90min to read and has more wisdom per page (WPP) than any other fiction book I’ve come across.
Or, as it was originally published in 1943, Le Petit Prince.
This little Penguin classic follows the journey of a Little Prince (who’d have thought) whose adventures take him to six different planets to meet six different people.
The book explores the six people through the eyes of a curious child narrator, each of whom has a specific quirk.
The scary part?
Over 70 years since the book was written and the quirks still ring true. I mean, check out these fictitious characters and try and not relate on some level.
Claims to rule his planet, demanding obedience from the surrounding environment and its inhabitants (of which, there are none).
Seeking an example of such power, the visiting Prince asks the King to produce a sunset, to which he replies:
“You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But according to my science of government, I shall wait until conditions are favourable… about twenty minutes to eight. And you will see how well they obeyed me.”
Ever the politician.
The Conceited man
Whose quest for admiration, self-worth and ego seem the sole reason for his existence.
Conceited man: “To admire means that you regard me as the handsomest, the best-dressed, the richest, and the most intelligent man on this planet.”
Prince: “But you are the only man on your planet!”
Conceited man: “Do me this kindness. Admire me just the same.”
Now, who’s got the selfie stick?
Who drinks to forget the shame that he drinks.
Need I say anymore?
This guy is caught up in “counting stars” in order to own them so that he can “write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then put this paper in a drawer and lock it with a key.”
Prince: “And what good does it do you to own the stars?”
The Businessman: “It does the good of making me rich”
Prince: “And what good does it do you to be rich?”
The Businessman: “It makes it possible for me to buy more stars”
That’s right, even in the 1940s BC* people were obsessed with material wealth.
*BC= before cryptocurrency.
The Lamp Lighter
One guy. One lamp. He follows orders to light the lamp and put it out again.
Despite becoming increasingly overwhelmed and depressed about the orders he sees no room for deviation, for innovation or daring to disobey the orders.
“The orders have not been changed… That is the tragedy! From year to year the planet has turned more rapidly and the orders have not been changed.”
Ah, the bureaucracy.
Sits atop a big grand chair, on his oversized, spacious planet. He gets excited at the prospect of meeting the Prince, who he labels “an explorer”, as he thinks it’ll help with his Geography work.
It quickly becomes evident that the Geographer isn’t in touch with anything beyond his desk, unable to say whether his planet has any oceans, towns, rivers or deserts.
“The geographer is much too important to go loafing about”.
The old busy and important boss. This guy reminded me of an old war saying that “generals die in bed”.
Enter, the fox
Naturally, having met these six “grown-ups” the Prince finds his way to Earth, where he meets a fox and learns there are:
“111 kings… 7,000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7,500,000 tipplers, 311,000,000 conceited men… 462,511 lamplighters”
It’s at this point the WPP starts to dawn on me.
The fox helps the Prince see that, while there are hundreds upon thousands of seemingly identical people, plants and animals in the solar system, it is connection, or “to establish ties”, that makes them unique.
That is to say:
“… when I met him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
All this in just 107 pages.
Yeah, alright, this fiction thing ain’t so bad.