Not many people can relate to The Little Prince as much as Olivier d’Agay does.
After all, he is a grand nephew of the French aristocrat Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who wrote the children’s classic in the 1940s.
Yet, when his grandmother first read it to him, d’Agay wasn’t impressed. He did not understand it in the first place.
“It didn’t occur to me that it’s a children’s book,” he said.
It was not until he was 16 that d’Agay began to appreciate it. He went on to read other works by Saint-Exupéry.
But The Little Prince, one of the world’s most widely translated books (it has been translated into 250 languages and dialects as well as Braille) holds d’Agay in great awe.
He said it’s the key to the grown-up world and there’s something in it that will continue to resonate with older people.
For instance, a 20-year-old in a romantic relationship can relate to the young prince’s love for the rose in the novel, he said.
And when the person gets older, thoughts of responsibility take over, just like in the book.
D’Agay likes the fox who teaches the young prince the importance of love and relationships.
His favorite line from the fox is “you’re responsible forever for what you have tamed”.
D’Agay is building on his great uncle’s legacy to bring The Little Prince to movie audiences in this internet generation.
He has tapped American director Mark Osborne who helmed the animation hit Kung Fu Panda to bring The Little Prince to life.
But why not a French director?
D’Agay said the movie is meant to have a worldview and Osborne can help fashion it for major markets such as the US.
But it will have a focused theme in keeping with Saint-Exupéry’s vision such as that children should grow up in a free and open world where they can explore their own life.
Freedom of choice is what children need, d’Agay said.
D’Agay was in Hong Kong to promote the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation.
He visited Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired and presented a check to the school and a Braille edition of the book to the schoolchildren.
An exhibition of The Little Prince Art Collection and related works are on display in Pacific Place in Admiralty until Jan. 1, 2016.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 15.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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