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Book review: The little prince returns as a teenager but the magic is gone

AG Roemmers’s sequel to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic brings back the prince as a grown-up who must rediscover the child in him, but the book fails to create the same connect with readers.

books Updated: Jan 17, 2017 17:05 IST
Prerna Madan
Prerna Madan
New Delhi
Antoine de Saint-Exupery,The Little Prince,AG Roemmers
AG Roemmers, the Argentinian writer who wanted to remind us of the Prince and his enigmatic aura, couldn’t recreate the magic in his sequel to the classic.

He was a boy who looked at the stars that laughed like 500 million bells.

He was a boy who was trying not to be so serious.

He was a boy who loved his only rose.

He was a boy whose rose withered away.

He was a boy sure that happiness derived out of the simple things of life.

He was a boy trying not to become a ghost.

He was a boy who helped a friend.

He was always a boy who helped a friend.

It was The Little Prince who returned to Earth, but he wasn’t a little boy any more.

It is perhaps time to acknowledge I didn’t know The Little Prince properly before. Bear with me, dear Reader. I’ll explain why.

Not so long ago, I had read about him, but I’m afraid I never really knew him. So my journey began. Before The Return of the Young Prince, I had to visit the child in him because if I remember correctly, he taught us that all grown-ups were children once.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic, The Little Prince, soothed tumultuous hearts with its pure inquisitiveness and its soft simplicity. Was it a fable, a children’s book, a parable or even a war story, wondered all. Yet, none had the answer. The Prince delighted his audience and captured their imagination with his perceptive questions and delicate truths. The Prince was a creation, not just for boys and girls, but for everyone lost and confused.

On my way, I made a new friend whose name was AG Roemmers. He told me the story of the Prince’s return to Earth. But this Prince didn’t look like him. Neither did he talk like the Prince who lived alone on an asteroid with his only rose. He didn’t arouse the kind of warmth lent by the hearth on a cold, wintry night. He was older, his blonde hair a little different, the lines on his adolescent face finely etched where the silky cheeks had faded away.

It was suddenly clear why there were two different princes. The Little Prince roamed the expansive African desert because his creator (Exupery) was once a pilot who fought in the terrible war last century. It was this French artist’s experiences, his loneliness and the problems of his time that made his story absurd and romantic. Exupery’s Prince was his savior.

What’s that? Why, you ask.

He realized that everything becomes a little easier when you listen to your heart.

But Roemmers, the Argentinian writer who wanted to remind us of the Prince and his enigmatic aura, couldn’t recreate the magic. The Prince who returned to Earth had outgrown the children. He was a savior too but his lessons were not simple, instead resembling long speeches dished out in self-help books. The teenage Prince was grappling with his new reality: that of a grown-up. He too had to evoke his memory to seek the child in him and find his way back home.

Dear Reader, there’s a reason you’ve held on this long to the Prince, however he may have turned out. In his childish sincerity, the Prince told us that a friend is always unique. A friend is always there. The Prince who returned may not be the best version of him, but remember how he used to say: ‘Grown-ups really are very strange!’ Well, of course he’s a grown-up now.

The Return of the Young Prince
By AG Roemmers
Publisher: Oneworld
Pages: 156
Price: Rs 199

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First Published: Jan 17, 2017 17:04 IST