When you seen the following illustration, would you describe it as:
a. a hat
b. a mountain
c. a fruit cake gone bad
d. a boa constrictor digesting an elephant
If you answered “d”, I have no need to convince you to run to the Morgan Library and Museum as quickly as possible to see The Little Prince: A New York Story exhibit, because you’ve probably already gone. Twice.
But if you answered “a, b, or c”, well my friends, waste no more time flipping around the internet and go order this book. Right now.
The Little Prince has long been a staple on my shelf, so adored in fact, my husband centered his marriage proposal around the story, and we read a passage from it during our wedding ceremony. But what I didn’t know until visiting the exhibit was just how tied the story was to NYC (fun fact: the original manuscript had six references to New York in it).
Saint-Expery left his beloved France to come live with his wife in NYC on the last day of 1940. It was in New York that his friend Elizabeth Reynal prompted him to turn the waifish figure that Saint-Expery often doodled in notebooks and letters into the character of a children’s book. And he did just that, in his apartment in the heart of the city, 240 Central Park South. In fact, it was this building right here where the Little Prince magic happened:
Reynal’s husband was a partner at the literary firm Reynal & Hitchcock, which of course is the firm that published The Little Prince in 1943, in both French and English (this timeless book didn’t get published in France until three years later…!)
And like any good writer of his time, Saint-Expery was smitten with his New York muse, Silvia Hamilton. We learn on the exhibit’s tour that the fox character in the story is actually modeled closely after her (lesson learned: don’t take the time to tame something/someone unless you’re in it for the long haul, people.) The story goes that when the book was finished in 1943 and Saint-Exupery was running back to Europe to rejoin his air force squadron, he tossed a rumpled paper bag onto Hamilton’s entryway table. In it contained 140 pages of Le Petit Prince and its drawings, with the parting words from Saint-Exupery, “I’d like to give you something splendid, but this is all I have.”
While Hamilton may have preferred something a bit more sparky (a ring? a commitment from the one she loved, perhaps!?), I think we can all agree that this was the second most splendid thing she could have been given. And certainly the most splendid for the rest of us.
WHAT: The Little Prince: A New York Story WHERE: The Morgan Library and Museum 225 Madison Avenue New York, New York WHEN: Through April 27th, 2014 NOTE: Admission is free on Fridays from 7pm to 9pm.
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By: Jessica Tiare Bowen
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.