Tuesday, October 25, 2011

toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants

Le Petit Prince was the first book I read completely in French. Which is not much of a feat because it's a children's book. But children's book or not (I'd describe it as a children's book for adults), it's one of my favorite books -- I've read it a good five or six times.

I would love to own a first edition copy of this book. Image from here.

More than once I've encouraged friends to learn French in order to enjoy this book in its purest form. And more than once I've wanted to read it in English just to see if the feeling is the same. But each time I try I end up feeling like reading it in English would be a waste of time in comparison or that it would somehow cheapen the original French version.

In my nineteenth century French theater class* we just finished reading a piece called On ne badine pas avec l'amour by Alfred de Musset (rough translation of title: Don't Mess Around With Love). At the end of the final scene of the second act is my favorite passage from all that we've read so far this semester:

[M]ais il y a au monde une chose sainte et sublime, c'est l'union de deux de ces êtres si imparfaits et si affreux. On est souvent trompé en amour, souvent blessé et souvent malheureux ; mais on aime, et quand on est sur le bord de sa tombe, on se retourne pour regarder en arrière, et on se dit : J'ai souffert souvent, je me suis trompé quelquefois, mais j'ai aimé. C'est moi qui ai vécu, et non pas un être factice créé par mon orgueil et mon ennui.

I wish I had more French speaking friends with whom I could share such passages. So instead I'll just pretend that you all understood that and enjoyed it as much as I did.

*When I tell people I'm taking a nineteenth century French theater class they usually think it's a performance class. Nope. Sadly, it's merely a literature class.

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