"The Little Prince", Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's celebrated philosophical children's book, is one of the world's most widely translated literary works. Originally published in 1943, the book's enigmatic story of an angelic child who befriends a stranded pilot in the North African desert has been debated for years. Translated into more than 375 languages (more than any book but the Bible), "The Little Prince" has been embraced across a vast swath of culture, especially by people whose languages and cultures are endangered, and for them, this timeless tale of friendship, alienation, loneliness, and eternal life resonates, understood by those who are themselves outcasts and exiles.
In THE MIRACLE OF THE LITTLE PRINCE, director Marjoleine Boonstra visits the people who have translated this little masterpiece from French into Tibetan, Tamazight (North Africa), Sámi (northern Finland and Scandinavia) and Nawat (El Salvador). All of these languages are under threat. Passionately enthusiastic language researchers, teachers and translators talk about how the observations of an alien prince on earth are interpreted in their own culture. They also recall the first time they read the book, and, naturally enough, discuss the linguistic challenges they faced how do you translate water faucet if there's no such term in your world? This original approach and the exquisite, calm cinematography allow for the telling of personal stories that are as bizarre, human and painful as the experiences of the titular prince. It's a film that inspires wonder -- a testimony to the imagination and the solace and liberation it offers.
Stuart Klawans of The Nation says, "Sitting in a world capital, writing in an English that's spoken almost everywhere and is just as widely abused, it's easy to despair of literature and to dismiss as sentimental the idea that a book might speak to people in many different conditions. Boonstra has evidence to the contrary. It's worth listening to in Tamazight, Sámi, Nawat, Tibetan, or any tongue you can name." And Richard Scott Larson of Slant Magazine writes, "In a world increasingly resistant to cultural exchange, the miracle of The Little Prince is how it's become so universally beloved, and Boonstra's film is a worthy homage to its passionate translators who've been so inspired by Saint-Exupery's story about a boy whose open curiosity about our world makes us all see it anew, that they've committed to strengthening its roots through the act of translation."
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* Trailer: youtube.com
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