'Little Prince' manuscript visits France for first time
The philosophical tale of a prince's intergalactic travels has sold some 200 million copies worldwide STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN AFP

The manuscript of "The Little Prince" travels to France for the first time this week as part of an exhibition about its legendary author Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

The pilot-explorer wrote his beloved tale about an alien prince and his interstellar travels while in exile in the United States in 1942, having fled France after the Nazi invasion.

He left the US the following year to fight on the North African front, leaving the manuscript with his mistress, journalist Sylvia Hamilton, who sold it to the Morgan Library and Museum in 1968.

Its first visit to Paris is part of an exhibition, "Meeting the Little Prince" at the Museum of Decorative Arts that runs from Thursday until June.

Among the treasures on display are the original watercolors of the Little Prince's asteroid home and the hero wearing his trademark long coat with red lapels.

Saint-Exupery disappeared during a mission over the Mediterranean in July 1944, never to know of the worldwide success of his book, which had been published only in the US.

But he had found his voice -- after being initially reluctant to illustrate the story himself.

The exhibition shows how long the story was in gestation, with a letter to his future wife in 1930 in which he shares his idea about "a child who discovers a treasure and becomes melancholic".

We also see what was left on the cutting-room floor: characters including a snail, a butterfly collector and an old couple that chase him from his home.

Or a discarded opening in which the narrator admits he doesn't know how to draw an airplane.

"There is always mystery around this work. Any single sheet brings up some enigma," said curator Alban Cerisier.

© 2022 AFP