Friday 20 February 2015

The Little Prince: "La existencia abierta"

[Image description: the front cover with illustration of the Little Prince]

Regular readers of this blog will probably recall my list of favourite books and that my all-time most admired is The Little Prince/Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In Spanish the work is entitled El Principito. Like Alice in Wonderland, an ostensible children’s work, it can be argued that The Little Prince is in fact aimed squarely at adults. Antoine became exasperated that the themes of his novels were not being latched onto by their ‘grown-up’ readers, and so created one of literature’s most loved characters.

I have discovered two Castilian books referencing the latter: El Principito se pone la corbata: Una fábula sobre crecimiento personal para redescubrir lo que de verdad importa by Borja Vilaseca and La existencia abierta: Para lectores de El Principito by Rafael Tomás Caldera. The first I am only part-way through; but the second I have finished.

The title in English would be something like The Open Existence: For Readers of The Little Prince. The use of ‘the’ is very definitive and to an Englander’s ear ‘an’ would more likely be used. However, Rafael is very specific, in the just under one hundred pages, that life not open to new experiences, to otherness and to others is no life at all but merely survival.

Whilst I am not au fait with the nuances of the adjective ‘abierto’ in Spain, the term ‘open’ has multiple meanings in English: receptive; unlocked; ajar; untied; navigable; wide; free; vulnerable; honest; unreserved; transparent; manifest; moot; available;…… The list may not be quite endless, but no doubt the reader can think of many other synonyms. In most cases, I suspect Rafael would accept such descriptors as adding to what he is attempting to convey.

Whatever personality type we happen to be, Caldera iterates and re-iterates that no-one is an island living in isolation; we all need other individuals to aid us in our personal development. Above all, we need others in order to love - which is not to imply solely romantic love. Quite the opposite in fact, as Rafael in one chapter analyses the different loves Saint-Exupéry describes in The Little Prince and the rest of his œuvre.

Caldera’s work is backed up with occasional quotations from some of the aforesaid works along with those of other commentators on the subject matter. Whilst Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was raised a Roman Catholic, it his deep Humanism for which he is renowned. I am certain, however, that he would take no umbrage at works by religious voices being cited, as Rafael has been careful only to use quotations that help elucidate the issues.

Each chapter is very short. I found that I was reading one at a time and then contemplating the matters raised in a sort of meditation or at least cogitation. However, I was reading the book at a beach café-bar sitting in brilliant sunshine and enveloping warmth!

As with most printed works in Spain, the book comes with a pretty hefty price-tag; €10 for a very physically small, slim and lightweight edition. Nonetheless, for me it has been worth every penny… erm, cent. %)

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