“Which English translation of The Little Prince should I read?”

First published in 1943 in the US in French and English, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery is the most translated secular book in the world.

The Little Prince: English translations

The following 10 translators are the ones responsible for the most prominent English editions:

  1. 1943 – Katherine Woods
  2. 1995 – Alan Wakeman
  3. 1995 – Irene Testot-Ferry
  4. 1995 – T. V. F. Cuffe
  5. 2000 – Richard Howard
  6. 2010 – Ros & Chloe Schwartz
  7. 2011 – David Wilkinson
  8. 2018 – Joseph Laredo
  9. 2018 – Michael Morpurgo
  10. 2019 – Gregory Norminton

Despite convoluted copyright issues, all 10 of these translations of The Little Prince are currently available.

The Little Prince: Translation Comparison

Extracts have been included below so that you can see how the different translations sound.

The Little Prince: Illustrations

If you do not yet own a copy, I highly recommend getting one that contains the author’s illustrations in color! They lose a lot of charm when reproduced in black and white.

 
1943 · Katherine Woods · The Little Prince

Who was Katherine Woods?

She was an author, editor, and translator.

» 1968 New York Times obituary for Katherine Woods

About the Woods translation of The Little Prince

  • It was published the same year as the French original.
  • It was the only English translation for over half a century; generations of readers feel strong nostalgia for it.
  • Many people love the poetic writing style.
  • It is famous for using the word “sheep” in one place where the French text uses “friend”. This error is used to determine whether the Woods translation (and not the original French) was used as a source for translations in other languages; this is called the “sheep test”.

Inverse: “A Battle Rages Over ‘The Little Prince’ Translation” by Matt Kim
“Woods, as someone who lived in the same time as Saint-Exupéry, translated the text, meander and all, to capture the same lyrical spirit of the age when it was written…. Woods’s version includes French-to-English translations like ‘spring of fresh water’, ‘primeval forest’, and ‘tippler’. Howard translates the same words as, ‘water fountain’, ‘jungle’, and ‘drunkard’.”

World Literature Today: “The Matter of Forking Consequences: Translating Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince” by Yu-Yun Hsieh
“Katherine Woods’s first take set a high bar, less for textual accuracy than for creativity, and became the invincible classic translation. When Richard Howard’s 2000 translation was touted as the new standard, the changes he made, despite correctness, stirred up a public (online) outcry and collective nostalgia for the old one…. Katherine Woods’s poetic rendering of Saint-Exupéry’s text has been lauded for fifty-seven years, but it has also been criticized for its inexactitude.”

Pedagogical University of Cracow: “The Challenge of Simplicity” by Joanna Dybiec-Gajer
“English-speaking readers… seem to have been socialized with this version
of The Little Prince and taken it for granted as the sole manifestation of the
author’s intention…. Wood’s work is praised for her stylistic achievements.
Reviewers describe her language as “tender”, “soft” and “graceful” that beautifully
“captures the feel” of the original. Summing up, they clearly point to a poetic simplicity as one of most relevant features of this translation.”

Editor Eric: “The Little Prince: Translations”
“It was felt by some later English-language publishers that Katherine Woods’s original 1943 translation of The Little Prince was too stiff. There is some truth to this…. However, Woods’s prose also gives a slightly old-fashioned feel to the story, reminiscent of the childhood fiction many mid-twentieth century readers had cut their literary teeth on…. In any case, for five decades the Woods translation was the one most English speakers were familiar with and the one that helped make the story a worldwide modern classic—so how bad could it have been?”

Translation and Readership: Readers’ Opinions and Preferences in Two Translations of The Little Prince by Axelle Chazal
This is a masters dissertation built on a survey of opinions about the Woods translation and the Wakeman translation. “The survey results indicate that we should accept and encourage the possibility of several translations of the same text, instead of selecting and excluding.” I.e., translations should collaborate, not compete, in the process of making meaning for readers.

Extract from the the Woods translation of The Little Prince

Get the Farshore/Egmont Woods translation of The Little Prince

Illustrations are in color.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781405288194, 96 pages).

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Get the Amereon Woods translation of The Little Prince

Illustrations are in black and white. This is a digital reproduction.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780891903314, 113 pages).

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1995 · Alan Wakeman · The Little Prince

Who was Alan Wakeman?

He was a writer, teacher, vegan, and gay rights activist.

» 2015 Guardian obituary for Alan Wakeman

Who is Michael Foreman?

He is a prolific, award-winning British author and illustrator of children’s books.

» See art by Michael Foreman

About the Wakeman translation of The Little Prince

  • The version illustrated by Foreman is out of print.
  • The text translated by Wakeman is available as an ebook.

Translation and Readership: Readers’ Opinions and Preferences in Two Translations of The Little Prince by Axelle Chazal
This is a masters dissertation built on a survey of opinions about the Woods translation and the Wakeman translation. “The survey results indicate that we should accept and encourage the possibility of several translations of the same text, instead of selecting and excluding.” I.e., translations should collaborate, not compete, in the process of making meaning for readers.

Amazon review by John Lederman
Lederman’s review says Wakeman’s translation deserves more attention for both its text and its illustrations.

Extract from the Wakeman translation of The Little Prince

 

Get the Pavilion Classics Wakeman translation of The Little Prince

Contains illustrations by Michael Foreman. Out of print.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781862050662, 105 pages).

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Get the Pavilion Classics Wakeman translation of The Little Prince

Contains illustrations by Michael Foreman. Out of print.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781857932881, 96 pages).

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Get the Fantastic Books Publishing Wakeman translation of The Little Prince

With illustrations by the author.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781909163881, 93 pages).

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1995 · Irene Testot-Ferry · The Little Prince

Who is Irene Testot-Ferry?

Apart from being the translator that Wordsworth chose for The Little Prince, I have no idea.

About the Testot-Ferry translation of The Little Prince

Amazon review by John Lederman
Lederman does not approve of the text or illustrations in the Testot-Ferry translation.

Editor Eric: “The Little Prince: Translations”
“[The Testot-Ferry translation] eliminates some of the stiffness. It’s not exactly an updating of the style though, as many of the slightly ponderous constructions are retained and a few are even added. The biggest problem with this edition though is not with the translation…. At least one glaring typo mars Little Prince for me and the illustrations are in dull black and white.”

Extract from the Testot-Ferry translation of The Little Prince

Get the Wordsworth Testot-Ferry translation of The Little Prince

Part of the Wordsworth Exclusive Collection of books with "stunningly atmospheric covers, complete with gold foiling". (I'm not sure but I suspect the interior illustrations are black and white.)

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781840228137, 112 pages).

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Get the Wordsworth Testot-Ferry translation of The Little Prince

Illustrations are in black and white. Wordsworth calls this the "adult edition", but as far as I can tell the only difference between this one and the white one is the cover design.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781840227604, 112 pages).

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Get the Wordsworth Testot-Ferry translation of The Little Prince

Illustrations are in black and white.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781853261589, 112 pages).

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Get the Wordsworth Testot-Ferry translation of The Little Prince

A Wordsworth Collector's Edition. Clothbound with matching colored endpapers, embossed gold and colored blocking. Small size. Cover illustration by Claire Shorrock. Interior illustrations are in black and white.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781840227864, 144 pages).

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1995 · T. V. F. Cuffe · The Little Prince

Who is TVF Cuffe aka Theo Cuffe?

He is a translator who has produced English versions of works by Voltaire and other writers. He was educated in Dublin and at the Sorbonne.

About the Cuffe translation of The Little Prince

Some editions (not the Puffin ones, which are targeted at children) also contain “Letter to a Hostage”, an open letter to Leon Werth, a Jewish intellectual in hiding in occupied France and the man to whom The Little Prince is dedicated.

Extract from the Cuffe translation of The Little Prince

Get the Puffin Clothbound Classics Cuffe translation of The Little Prince

To be published February 2022. Gift edition.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780241444313, 144 pages).

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Get the Puffin Clothbound Classics Cuffe translation of The Little Prince

To be published February 2022.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9780241465769).

Get the Penguin Clothbound Classics Cuffe translation of The Little Prince

To be published December 2021. Cover design by Coralie Bickford-Smith. Also contains "Letter to a Hostage".

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780241508664, 160 pages).

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Get the Penguin Modern Classics Cuffe translation of The Little Prince

Includes a brief author bio, a 26-page introduction, a brief list of books for further reading, and a brief note on the translation. Also contains the author's 22-page "Letter to a Hostage". Illustrations are in color.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780141185620, 160 pages).

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2000 · Richard Howard · The Little Prince

Who is Richard Joseph Howard?

He is an American critic, writer, Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet, and prolific award-winning translator educated at the Sorbonne. He has translated works by Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Charles de Gaulle, Stendhal, and Jules Verne, among others.

About the Howard translation of The Little Prince

The publisher is touting Howard’s translation as the definitive one. While the three previous translations seem to have been largely ignored, Howard’s sparked a polarizing debate. Some cling to the poetic Woods translation, others say it was long past time to replace it with something more natural.

Inverse: “A Battle Rages Over ‘The Little Prince’ Translation” by Matt Kim
“Howard’s translation is noted for its more colloquial rendering of the original French text, modernizing and streamlining the often meandering French lyricism for plain English…. Woods’s version includes French-to-English translations like ‘spring of fresh water’, ‘primeval forest’, and ‘tippler’. Howard translates the same words as, ‘water fountain’, ‘jungle’, and ‘drunkard’.”

SFGate: “A Charmless New Version Of ‘Prince'” by David Kipen
“Sadly, reading Richard Howard’s new translation of The Little Prince resembles walking at one’s leisure toward a lukewarm can of New Coke…. To be fair, retranslation of a beloved book is always and forever a mug’s game…. That this reviewer once played the pilot in a stage production, and came to know Woods’ translation by heart, only magnifies a problem that most rereaders will already find insuperable…. The Little Prince is a masterpiece inseparable from Katherine Woods’ matchless original translation. A different version in 1943 might — just might — have lasted as long or moved as many. A different, inferior version 57 years later doesn’t have a prayer.”

World Literature Today: “The Matter of Forking Consequences: Translating Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince” by Yu-Yun Hsieh
“Even though Howard has provided a translation closer to the source text, his naturalized language, compared to Woods’s meandering style, is often read as a lesser rendering…. Unlike Woods, Howard chose to retrieve the author’s simplistic language and nonjudgmental tone without imposing his interpretation onto this book for all ages…. Retreating in his role to that of an invisible translator, Howard demonstrates trust in his readers, adults and children alike, who are to take something serious from the book on their own.”

Pedagogical University of Cracow: “The Challenge of Simplicity” by Joanna Dybiec-Gajer
“Howard’s translation receives credit for being more accurate and precise when
compared with the original and for making the language simpler and more child-like
and thus, as assumed, more suitable for children…. The Howard rendering is
referred to as ‘bland’, ‘impoverished’, ‘drained of charm’ and ‘of soul’. The
modernization of language undertaken by Howard receives criticism as an attempt
to unnecessarily simplify the source text.”

Editor Eric: “The Little Prince: Translations”
“[Howard’s] is the best translation at any rate—unobtrusively colloquial. He uses contractions, where appropriate, he drops every unnecessary “that”, and he modernizes punctuation and paragraphing.”

Amazon review by John Lederman
Lederman prefers other translations but likes the artwork in the pop-up so much that he still recommends getting one.

Extract from the Howard translation of The Little Prince

Get the HMH Mariner Howard translation of The Little Prince

Gift edition. Illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780544671645, 96 pages).

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Get the HMH Wadsworth Howard translation of The Little Prince

The "definitive" English-language edition. Illustrations in color.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780156012195, 96 pages).

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Get the HMH Harcourt Children's Books Howard translation of The Little Prince

The "definitive" English-language edition. Illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780152023980, 96 pages).

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Get the HMH Mariner Howard translation of The Little Prince

The "definitive" English-language edition. Illustrations in color.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780156012072, 96 pages).

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Get the HMH Clarion Howard translation of The Little Prince

75th Anniversary edition. Includes the history and making of this beloved story. Illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781328479754, 224 pages).

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Get the HMH Clarion Howard translation of The Little Prince

Anniversary edition gift set. Hardcover book and complete, unabridged text on both CD and exclusive downloadable audio read by Viggo Mortensen. Illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780547970486, 96 pages).

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Get the HMH Clarion Howard translation of The Little Prince

Deluxe pop-up book with downloadable audio. Illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780544656499, 72 pages).

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Get the Folio Society Howard translation of The Little Prince

Two clothbound volumes in a slipcase. Includes an introduction by Stacy Schiff and a separate commentary volume by Christine Nelson. Features the author's original illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover.

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Get the Farshore/Egmont Howard translation of The Little Prince

The "definitive" English-language edition.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781405216340, 96 pages).

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Get the HMH Mariner / Wadsworth Howard translation of The Little Prince

The "definitive" English-language edition. Illustrations in color.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780156012195, 96 pages).

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Get the Everyman's Library Children's Classics Howard translation of The Little Prince

2020 edition. The Penguin USA page lists Howard as the translator… Morpurgo is the translator for the 2017 edition, which looks the same in the stock images. Illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781101908280, 96 pages).

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2010 · Ros & Chloe Schwartz · The Little Prince

Who are Ros and Chloe Schwartz?

Ros is a Francophile and prolific, award-winning translator; Chloe is her daughter.

» Follow Ros Schwartz on Twitter

» Find Ros Schwartz on Linkedin.

About the Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

  • Some (but not all) of the Schwartz editions have illustrations that have been re-colored (see list below).

Words and Pictures “Interview with Ros Schwartz”
“[M]y daughter Chloe, aged 18 at the time… has a wonderful ear for music and was my sounding board and ferocious critic…. Every translation is a fine balance between paying careful attention to what the author has written, and creating an enjoyable reader experience…. Sometimes you have to prioritise music over meaning to replicate the effect. For instance, when the pilot tells how he’d crashed his plane in the Sahara desert, ‘à mille milles de toute terre habitée’, that translates literally as ‘a thousand miles from any inhabited land’ which loses the alliterative musicality of the French. So I translated it as ‘miles and miles from any living soul’…. I was aiming for what I hoped was a timeless, neutral English.”

Carol’s Adventures in Translation: “Greatest Women in Translation: Ros Schwartz”
“I had to decide whether or not to look at the existing translations. I chose not to. I knew that if I did, they would lodge in my mind, and everything I wrote would be either be a reaction against my predecessors’ strategies, or it might seem that they had found the best solution and whatever I did would not measure up. So my first key decision was to treat this as a completely new translation and to ignore what had gone before. A peek at readers’ hostile reviews on Amazon of a third translation by Richard Howard, published in 2000 and which offered a streamlined, modern take, eliminating the quaintness of the 1940s language, set my alarm bells ringing. People retain a fondness for books they loved as children, no matter how weird or wooden the translation.”

Ros Schwartz reads from her translation of The Little Prince
Watch Schwartz read the part where the fox explains the meaning of ‘tame’ to the Little Prince and imparts the main message of the book.

Extract from the Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

Get the Macmillan Collector's Library Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

Clothbound book with slipcase. Author's original illustrations in color.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781529047967, 128 pages).

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Get the Macmillan Collector's Library Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

This is a clothbound, pocket-sized book with gold foiled edges, a ribbon marker and small font. Interior illustrations by the author are re-colored by Barbara Frith (kind of like the illustration on the cover).

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781909621558, 136 pages).

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Get the Macmillan Collector's Library Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

This is a clothbound, pocket-sized book with gold foiled edges, a ribbon marker and small font. Illustrations are in black and white.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781909621565, 136 pages).

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Get the Picador Classic Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

Includes an eight-page introduction by Kate Mosse. This paperback has a cover with flaps that fold in like a dust jacket. Illustrations are in black and white.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781509811304, 128 pages).

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Get the Picador Classic Schwartz translation of The Little Prince

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781509811311, 144 pages).

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2011 · David Wilkinson · The Little Prince

About the Wilkinson translation of The Little Prince

Wilkinson in 2012 posted on Facebook that his translation was a labor of love, intended for use by language students.

Amazon review by Christopher Brewster
Four stars; useful book with some production flaws.

Extract from the Wilkinson translation of The Little Prince

Get the Omilia Wilkinson translation of The Little Prince

French/English bilingual edition with text in two columns on each page. Includes a CD with MP3 audio in both French and English. Illustrations in black and white.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780956721594, 109 pages).

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2018 · Joseph Laredo · The Little Prince

Who is Joseph Laredo aka Joe Laredo?

Joe Laredo is a linguist, writer, copy-editor, proofreader and translator of works from French to English, including The Stranger by Camus.

Extract from the Laredo translation of The Little Prince

 

Get the Arcturus Laredo translation of The Little Prince

Illustrations in black and white.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781784284244, 112 pages).

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Get the Arcturus Laredo translation of The Little Prince

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781398807549, 112 pages).

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2018 · Michael Morpurgo · The Little Prince

Who is Sir Michael Morpurgo?

He is an award-winning British children’s author.

» Visit the Michael Morpurgo page of the British Council

» Visit the official website of Michael Morpurgo

About the Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

The Guardian: “The Little Prince review – the visitor from B-612 reinterpreted” by Samuel Earle
“[I]t’s tempting to ask: do we really need all these different translations? Or are publishers just trying to cash in (say, by adding a celebrity author)? But on a deeper level, Saint-Exupéry’s style is notoriously hard to replicate, and so perhaps a worthy translation requires more than good French. Morpurgo’s version certainly suggests so, a few strange decisions aside. As with his own work, there is a clarity and directness, an affinity with the animal world, all underlined by emotional force.”

Amazon review by John Lederman
Lederman does not approve of the text or illustrations in the Morpurgo translation.

Michael Morpurgo reads his translation of The Little Prince
Watch Morpurgo and others read the entire book, including the foreword.

Extract from the Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

Get the Everyman's Library Children's Classics Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

2017 edition. The Penguin AU page lists Morpurgo as the translator… Howard is the translator for the 2020 edition, which looks the same in the stock images. (I suspect this edition is 96 pages, not 256 pages.)

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781857155242, 256 pages).

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Get the Popular Penguins Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9780141194806, 118 pages).

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Get the Vintage Classics Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781784874179, 96 pages).

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Get the Vintage Classics Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

Includes a letter from Michael Morpurgo.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781784874186, 112 pages).

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Get the Vintage Morpurgo translation of The Little Prince

Includes a letter from Michael Morpurgo.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781473558366, 112 pages).

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2019 · Gregory Norminton · The Little Prince

Who is Gregory Norminton?

He is a British novelist, actor, playwright, and environmental activist.

» Follow Gregory Norminton on Twitter

» Visit the official website of Gregory Norminton

About the Norminton translation of The Little Prince

Norminton: The Little Prince
“The original French text retains a lightness which is not always evident in the rather dated English versions on the market. I have tried to restore some of that lightness, combining as a translator should absolute fidelity to the original with an attempt to preserve its particular flavour.”

The Star (Malaysia): “Charming new English version of Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince” by Lee Me Li
“At a glance, this version doesn’t seem to be much of a departure from older English versions of the text. But read a paragraph out aloud and you will marvel at how much better it sounds…. Norminton has subtly replaced some of the dated expressions with lighter, more fluid word choices that flow along to make each page an easier read.”

Extract from the Norminton translation of The Little Prince

Get the Bloomsbury / Alma Classics Norminton translation of The Little Prince

Includes six pages at the back on the life and work of the author, a four-page guide to the characters and their significance, and 8 multiple-choice quiz questions (with answers) for children. The cover of this paperback has flaps that fold inward like a dust jacket. Illustrations are in color.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781847498243, 112 pages).

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For Discussion

The Fox’s Lesson in French

Et il revint vers le renard :
-Adieu, dit-il…
-Adieu, dit le renard. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
-L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux, répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.
-C’est le temps que tu a perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante.
-C’est le temps que j’ai perdu pour ma rose…fit le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.
-Les hommes on oublié cette vérité, dit le renard. Mais tu ne dois pas l’oublier. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. Tu es responsable de ta rose…
-Je suis responsable de ma rose…répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

Which is the best of all the Little Prince translations?

It depends partly on whether you uphold the classic translation that many people are nostalgic for, or whether you feel there is scope for modernization and improvement. And it depends on how particular words or sentences sound to you.

I don’t think I can choose a favorite; even in a short passage, there are some decisions I like better in one translation and other decisions I like better in a different translation!

  • I think the fox’s lesson should say “one” can only see clearly, and not “we” or “you”.
  • I prefer “Goodbye” or Norminton’s “Farewell” to Howard’s “Good-bye”.
  • I prefer “It is very simple” and not “very simply” or “a very simple secret”.
  • I’m not sure whether I prefer “eye” or “eyes”… it’s plural in the French original but singular in the classic Woods translation.
  • I also don’t know what verb I prefer for the time that is wasted/spent on/for the rose. The French says “lost for”.
  • The French original says “Men have forgotten”; most translators have changed this to “People have forgotten.” Changing it makes me uncomfortable, but probably does so less than leaving it alone.

No matter the words in which the message is conveyed, I think there’s something universal that comes through, especially when the words appear with the illustrations. If you haven’t read the book, there’s treasure in store for you, whichever version you pick up.

Little Prince Collections

I have (approximately?) 18 copies of The Little Prince, seven in English (Woods, Wakeman/ebook, Testot-Ferry, Howard/pop-up, Cuffe, Schwartz, Norminton) and twelve in other languages (French, Laotian, Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese, Singlish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Chinese, Turkish, and Japanese). This is a tiny collection compared to the number of versions out there; Jean-Marc Probst has what seems to be the most comprehensive collection.

For Discussion

Which English translation are you planning to read? What appeals to you about it? Or which one(s) have you read already?