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Le petit prince EDITION ORIGINALE ENVOI AUTOGRAPHE by SAINT-EXUPERY Antoine de - Signed First Edition - 1943 - from Librairie Le Feu Follet and


by SAINT-EXUPERY Antoine de

Condition: Fine

New-York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943. Fine. Reynal & Hitchcock, New-York 1943, 18,5x23cm, reliure de l'éditeur sous chemise étui. - Third printing, produced a few weeks after the first and the same as the first edition ("marque au corbeau", price, publisher's address), but in a blue-grey binding and with the notice "third printing" on the front free endpaper. The only copy known to date of the Little Prince in French inscribed by Saint-Exupéry. Publisher's blue-grey cloth with illustrated dust jacket (two small repairs to foot of spine). A very rare and handsome autograph inscription by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry : "Pour Malou et Jean Michel Sturm avec toute l'amitié de Antoine de Saint-Exupéry [For Malou and Jean Michel Sturm with friendly good wishes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry]". Drawings by the author. This copy has a protective chemise by Julie Nadot, featuring the illustrations from the dust jacket on the covers. "Fairytales are like that. One morning you wake up, and you say to yourself: 'it's nothing but a fairytale...' You smile at your foolishness. But deep down, you're not convinced. We all know that fairytales are the only really true things in life" (Saint-Exupéry, Lettres à l'inconnue, May 1943). It is generally known that Saint-Exupéry, who left for combat before the French version of the Little Prince appeared could only inscribe - before his departure from New York - a few rare copies of the English version. During the 16 months he spent in North Africa, where his books were banned, he had only one copy, which he "never len[t]...and ma[de] people read it at [his] home, in [his room]" - even his closest friends. Nonetheless, two children from Algiers, unknown to Saint-Exupéry's biographers, had the honor of owning this extraordinary inscribed copy of what Martin Heidegger called "one of the great Existentialist books of the century." A universal fairytale if ever there was one (the Little Prince is, after the Bible, the most-translated book in the world), this hymn to travel, friendship and childhood was considered a masterpiece right from the start. It took - in the guise of a children's story - a profound look at the tragic present, revealing a more complex philosophy on the author's part than that for which his critics gave him credit at the time.   Though we don't know precisely the genesis of the character - Annabella, the actress', reading of Andersen, the gift of a box of watercolors by René Clair, an idea from his publisher Elisabeth Reynal, or simply the memory of his late brother - the actual writing of this tale was heavily marked by the war, by exile, and by Saint-Exupéry's difficult relationship with the authorities of the French Resistance. Demobbed in 1940, the writer celebrated for Terre des Hommes [Wind, Sand and Stars] in 1939, sought refuge in New York where he wrote and published (in February 1942) Pilote de Guerre [Flight to Arras] in an effort to convince American public opinion of the courage of French soldiers despite their inevitable defeat. Too Philo-Semitic for some and too defeatist for others, this story, quickly banned in France, earned him the ire of both the Petainists and the Gaullists, who forced him into inaction despite the fact that North Africa had been retaken by the Allies, opening the way for renewed armed combat. Despite an intense social and emotional life, it was with a feeling of profound solitude and being misunderstood that Saint-Exupéry wrote, in 1942, the Little Prince for his publisher in New York, who had just published Mary Poppins, Eugene Reynal & Curtice Hitchcock. At the end of 1942, Saint-Exupéry added fuel to the fire by broadcasting on the radio and then publishing his Lettre aux Français [Letter to the French People] which called on Frenchmen abroad and the French in France to unite against Nazism. His call for a reconciliation and a united front without exceptions against the common enemy, his refusal to judge the choices made by a people oppressed and his implied criticism of the power struggles between the combatant parties earned him the inimitable dislike of the followers of De Gaulle, who were at the time competing for power with those of General Giraud. Accused of being overly tolerant, this radio message drew some very sharp criticism, including from a writer dear to Saint-Exupéry, the philosopher and theologian Jacques Maritain. These violent attacks on the writer obscured, for his contemporaries, the profound intimacy shared by this call to arms for adults and the tale for children which appeared a few months later. The forced exile from his country "lost somewhere in the night, all its lights extinguished, like a ship," the France that "must be saved...both in the spirit and in the flesh," the absurdity of people who drew apart even to the point of fighting among themselves and the two questions "what is a spiritual inheritance worth when there are no more heirs?" and "What good is an heir if the Spirit is dead?" of his Lettre aux Français are all themes developed in what would be the last and most important of all his books, the Little Prince; that "little book [written] only for friends, those who understand it". The latter did not fail to read the tale in light of the manifesto and would have recognized in the wisdom of the Fox warning the Little Prince, "language is a source of misunderstanding," the almost perfect echo of the fighter addressing his fellow-countrymen: "language is an imperfect instrument." Inspired by a childlike character that Saint-Exupéry doodled in the margins of his letters and notebooks and which was originally a self-portrait, the Little Prince is just as much poetic fable as philosophical testimony. In that sense, the death of the child hero of the tale, which Saint-Exupéry refused to cut to the great chagrin of his publishers, would not have been alien to his stubborn nature, which sent him hurtling to his heroic and absurd death. In essence, Saint-Exupéry had had only one preoccupation since his arrival in the United States, which was to obtain a commission in his former unit, Group 2-33, which he had immortalized in Flight to Arras. In February 1943, despite his age, despite the enmity of the Gaullists, and despite his failing health, Saint-Exupéry was finally mobilized in the "Free French Air Force", formed after the liberation of North Africa by the Americans. At the start of April, on the 12th or the 13th, he left for Algiers, never to see America again. It was at that point that the fate of the work and the fate of its author took permanent leave of each other. The Little Prince, which was meant to appear simultaneously in French and English in a translation by the publishers, was in the end published first in English on the 6th April 1943. Was Saint-Exupéry there to take part at the publication? Contemporary accounts vary. Nonetheless, we know that he signed 785 large paper copies (possibly only the justification sheets before they were bound) and, above all, inscribed a few precious copies of the Little Prince, of which only three are known: - The first, to the French actress Annabella, is in a speech bubble on the cover of an incomplete set of proofs: "I wrote this book only for friends, who would understand it, like Annabella, and if it does not please her, I will be even sadder than I am on this photograph...And I send her all my deepest and oldest love, St Ex," (the "photograph" in question is the drawing of the Little Prince on the cover) [in the Jean Bonna collection]. - The second was to Dorothy Barclay, Hélène Lazareff's secretary, to thank her for her research on the number of stars in the heavens: "he'd been absolutely mad to choose this planet! It was only nice at night when its inhabitants were sleeping... / The Little Prince was wrong. There are on the earth some inhabitants, whose bearing, kindness and generosity of heart make up for the avarice and egotism of the rest. For example, Dorothy Barclay...In friendly remembrance Antoine de Saint-Exupéry" [in a private collection]. - We have found no trance of the third known copy, which belonged to Nelly de Vogüe. The few more or less complete typescripts were left by Saint-Exupéry in the days before his departure to his friend Nadia Boulanger, his translator Lewis Galantière, and two others we've been unable to identify.   The original manuscript, given to his lover Sylvia Hamilton, is now in the Morgan Library, while the final drawings which served to provide the printed versions were taken by Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry and are now in private hands. All these gifts and inscriptions were made in New York before Saint-Exupéry left, and - aside from the manuscript and the typescripts - were all copies of the English translation. But for Saint-Exupéry, who was absolutely uninterested in the translation of his book and whose English was so poor that he could not even understand the radio transmissions from control towers (the only phrase he knew, memorized by rote for the benefit of American Military Headquarters, was "I want to die for France"), the only edition that mattered was the one in French.   If he only inscribed copies of The Little Prince in English, that was because, no matter the precise date he embarked on the Stirling Castle, his leaving predated the printing and publication of the original French version, which was only put on sale 15 days after the English.  Thus, it was not until he wrote to his publisher from Oudjda on the 8th June 1943 that Saint-Exupéry could ask how his book was doing: "I know nothing of the Little Prince (I don't even know if it's come out [in French]!)...I know nothing at all; write me!" Published in a far smaller number of copies than the English version, the first edition in French, his editor replied, had already sold almost 7,000 copies by mid-summer 1943 (and 30,000 for the English version). Sales continued at almost a 1,000 copies a week. Nonetheless, despite this success (the book ran to at least three printings before the end of the summer of 1943), the French version of the Little Prince did not manage to cross the Atlantic before the death of its author. Thus Saint-Exupéry could take with him only one copy of the true "Petit Prince" specially printed for him in a hurry before his departure (as Henry Elkin, who made the crossing with him, recalled). He did not receive any more copies in Algeria where, because of his disagreements with De Gaulle, his books were simply banned, as they were by the Vichy government in France. He complained of this in his correspondence, especially to Nelly de Vogüe: "all these books coming in from America. Except mine. BANNED IN NORTH AFRICA" (December 1943); "a huge shipment of books arrived here from the States. Mine are the only ones not for sale. I am a leper..." (January 1944). We know, thanks to some precious inscriptions made after his departure from the United States that Saint-Exupéry took a few rare copies of his other works to Algeria. Thus he gave his own copy of Pilote de Guerre to Henri Laugier (perhaps the only trace of a friendship - fleeting - with a Gaulliste), and another copy to the Chabberts, who hosted their friend at their house in Casablanca in 1943. But there is no trace, even in these collections, of an inscribed copy of the Little Prince in French. An episode in Saint-Exupéry's life in Algiers seems to confirm that he was not able to get hold of another copy of his precious fable. Living during the whole of his stay in Algeria with his friend Doctor Georges Pélissier, in an uncomfortable room which he did not - however - want to leave for fear of offending his host - for whom he bore a profound affection - Saint-Exupéry mentioned, in an argument with the former, the unique nature of his precious copy: writing to his host, he accuses him, in essence, of having lent his copy just when he wanted to give it to an English film producer. "I never lent it to anyone, knowing that I would need it today and why." In the absence of this sole copy, the producer left and Saint-Exupéry bitterly reproached Pélissier: "If I lose 50,000 dollars in 5 minutes, I think it's worth 30 seconds to discuss it. Where is my book?" Pélissier having confided that he'd borrowed the Little Prince in order to re-read it, Saint-Exupéry calmed down and then apologized profoundly: "Old man, don't think I'm angry at you. If you'd lent my book to someone (given that I never lend it to anyone, it being my only copy, and make people read it at home, in my room), I would have been livid. But the fact that you took it for yourself moves me deeply." Then, in a letter written "ten minutes later": "friends can't be bought even with billions. If you enjoy reading my book and Mr Korda has to wait and leave without it, I don't care...Korda's money is worth what it's worth, which is to say...: nothing. But I would not have lost the advantages Korda had to offer so that some no-name passerby for whom I care nothing and to whom I would not have lent my book, could read it. Which was the source of a reflex reaction that I would never have entertained if I had thought you were "enjoying" re-reading my little book." That this close friend did not have his own copy of the most important work by his guest and that the latter indicated the importance of his book never being lent out so virulently are also proof of the extreme rarity of this work in Algiers. How is it then that the only inscription on a French language copy of the Little Prince should be to a family completely absent from biographies of Saint-Exupéry? Grounded a short time after his arrival in Algiers for having destroyed a P38 on landing because of a lack of due attention (which was becoming habitual for him), Saint-Exupéry was at the time going through a period of profound despair. What's more, he was subject to humiliations by the Gaullists, who intercepted his mail, refused to publish him, prevented him from getting his commission again and accused him of Pétainist sympathies, all the while spreading the rumor in the cafes of Algiers that De Gaulle - who had already left him out of his homage to the exiled French writers - had personally rejected his request for a new commission in the fighting forces, saying: "leave him in Algiers - he's only good for card tricks, anyway." It was perhaps in this context that Commandant Saint-Exupéry was chosen "at random" to look after the children of Marcel Sturm, who had lost his wife and two of his four children during a typhoid epidemic in 1941. Head of the Protestant Chaplaincy to the armies, Marcel Sturm undertook field visits to operational sites in Algeria and Tunisia. Also the head of a Resistance network specializing in false papers, this widowed pastor had frequent "missions", which took him away from his children Malou and Jean-Michel. Sturm and his family were to leave Algeria in 1944 to go back to France and take part in the Liberation. The pastor was then named Chaplain in Chief of the occupying French troops in Germany and charged with establishing links between the French and German Churches, which earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Göttingen.   Saint-Exupéry's biography makes no mention of this foray by the pilot into "babysitting". Only the memories of the Sturm family and the inscription on this copy bear witness to this moving episode in the life of the writer.   But no matter how close the obvious affection that the precious and unique inscription on this copy represents, this third printing of the Little Prince in French cannot be Saint-Exupéry's personal copy. It may have belonged to the Sturm children, without our being able to determine exactly how they themselves got hold of it. A manuscript ex libris on the first page of text with the name "Madeleine Picinbono" may, however, give us a clue. There was, in fact, a young woman of that name and the same age as Malou, living in Algiers in 1943. Did she have the tale in her possession and did she happen to give it to her schoolmate when she found out he knew Saint-Exupéry? Or, did the Sturms make a present to this friend of this tale of hope, not to be had in Algeria, when they left to rejoin the front? The final moments of Saint-Exupéry's life are largely swathed in obscurity; and though the received wisdom has been for some time that he could not have signed any copies of the French version of the Little Prince aside from the justification leaves of the de luxe copies and a few extremely rare copies of the English version before he left New York, the existence of this improbable copy underlines the lacunae in our documentation of the last eight months of the life of the pilot. Thus, no one knows what became of his personal copy, from which he was never apart, after his disappearance on the 31st July 1944 at the controls of his Lightning plane. This third printing of the first edition in French is today the only known inscribed copy of "Le Petit Prince". But even more than a unique inscription on a major work of world literature, this mark of affection addressed to some children who had lost their mother and sisters as "the former child" Saint-Exupéry had lost his father and brother, serves to safeguard the intimate relationship of the writer and his Prince. And it is thus not far from the Little Prince's dunes of sand that the pilot, once more grounded, "tames" by a stroke of his pen this little girl and this "little boy, just like a hundred thousand other boys" and girls. The departure of his "little pal" left the writer "terribly sad." His flying ban plunged the patriotic pilot into despair. In this final year of his life, it was with the children of another man fighting for freedom, inspired by the same faith in mankind and the desire to repair the broken links between peoples, that Saint-Exupéry wove again a "single [link] to the world" before a hit from a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf took him in his turn. Just like his Prince, we can only suppose that "he went back to his planet, since when the sun came up [they] did not find his body."  - [FRENCH VERSION FOLLOWS] Troisième tirage imprimé quelques semaines après le premier et conforme à l'édition originale (« marque au corbeau », prix, adresse de l'éditeur), mais sous un cartonnage bleu gris et comportant une mention « third printing » sur la page de garde. Un des deux seuls exemplaires référencés à ce jour du Petit Prince en français dédicacé par Saint-Exupéry. Reliure de l'éditeur en pleine toile bleu-gris, dos lisse, exemplaire complet de sa jaquette illustrée qui comporte deux petites restaurations en pied du dos. Très rare et précieux envoi autographe signé d'Antoine de Saint-Exupéry : « Pour Malou et Jean-Michel Sturm avec toute l'amitié de Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ». Ouvrage illustré de dessins de l'auteur. Notre exemplaire est présenté sous une chemise étui de Julie Nadot reprenant les illustrations de la jaquette pour illustrer les plats. « Les contes de fées c'est comme ça. Un matin on se réveille. On dit : "ce n'était qu'un conte de fées..." On sourit de soi. Mais au fond on ne sourit guère. On sait bien que les contes de fées c'est la seule vérité de la vie. » (Saint-Exupéry, Lettre à l'inconnue, mai 1943) Il est communément admis que Saint-Exupéry, reparti au combat avant la parution de la version française du Petit Prince, ne put dédicacer, avant son départ de New-York, que quelques rares exemplaires de la version anglaise. Durant les seize mois qu'il passa en Afrique du Nord, où ses livres étaient interdits, il ne posséda qu'un unique exemplaire  qu'il « ne prêt[ait] jamais [...] et fais[ait] lire chez [lui], dans [s]a chambre », même à ses plus proches amis. Et pourtant, deux enfants d'Alger, inconnus jusqu'à lors des biographes de Saint-Exupéry, ont eu l'heur de posséder cet improbable exemplaire dédicacé de ce que Martin Heidegger considèrera comme « l'un des grands livres existentialistes du siècle ». Conte universel s'il en est - Le Petit Prince est l'œuvre la plus traduite après la Bible -, cet hymne au voyage, à l'amitié et à l'enfance fut dès l'origine considéré comme un roman à clefs, offrant, sous couvert d'un récit pour enfants, un regard profond sur l'actualité tragique et révélant chez l'auteur une philosophie plus complexe que ne lui prêtaient alors ses détracteurs. Si l'on ne sait avec exactitude quelle est la genèse de ce personnage - la lecture d'Andersen par l'actrice Annabella, la boîte d'aquarelle offerte par le réalisateur René Clair, une idée de son éditrice Elisabeth Reynal ou simplement la mémoire de son frère disparu - l'écriture du conte lui-même fut très fortement influencée par la guerre, l'exil et les relations difficiles de Saint-Exupéry avec les autorités de la Résistance. Démobilisé en 1940, l'écrivain plébiscité en 1939 pour Terre des hommes, se réfugie à New-York où il écrit et publie en février 1942 Pilote de guerre, relatant, à l'attention de l'opinion publique américaine, le courage des soldats français malgré l'inéluctable défaite. Trop philosémite pour les uns et trop défaitiste pour les autres, ce récit, rapidement interdit en France, lui vaudra l'inimitié des pétainistes mais également des gaullistes qui le contraignent à l'inaction tandis que l'Afrique du Nord reconquise par les Alliés ouvre des perspectives de reprise du combat armé. Malgré une vie sentimentale et sociale intense, c'est dans un sentiment de profonde solitude et d'incompréhension que Saint-Exupéry compose, durant l'année 1942, Le Petit Prince pour ses éditeurs new-yorkais qui viennent de publier Mary Poppins, Eugene Reynal & Curtice Hitchcock. à la fin 1942, Saint-Exupéry accentuera encore cette animosité en diffusant à la radio puis en publiant sa Lettre aux Français appelant à l'unité entre les Français de France et les expatriés contre le nazisme. Son incitation à la réconciliation pour une lutte unie et sans concession contre l'ennemi commun, son refus de juger le choix des hommes oppressés et sa critique implicite des luttes de pouvoir entre les combattants, dresse irrémédiablement contre lui les partisans de de Gaulle qui sont alors en rivalité avec ceux du Général Giraud. Jugé d'une tolérance excessive, ce message radiophonique suscite de très fortes accusations dont celle d'un écrivain cher à Saint-Exupéry, le philosophe et théologien Jacques Maritain. Ces violents anathèmes à l'égard de l'écrivain masquent à ses contemporains la profonde intimité qu'entretiennent pourtant cet appel adressé aux adultes et le conte destiné aux enfants qui paraîtra quelques mois plus tard. L'exil forcé loin de sa terre « perdue quelque part dans la nuit, tous feux éteints, comme un navire », cette France qu'il faut « sauver [...] dans son esprit et dans sa chair », l'absurdité des hommes qui se déchirent, jusque dans le combat commun, et cette double question : « Que vaut l'héritage spirituel s'il n'est plus d'héritiers ? À quoi sert l'héritier si l'Esprit est mort ? » de sa Lettre aux Français sont autant de thèmes développés dans ce qui sera le dernier et le plus important de tous ses livres, Le Petit Prince, « ce petit livre [écrit] seulement pour des amis qui peuvent le comprendre ». Ceux-là ne manqueront pas de lire le conte à la lumière du manifeste et sauront reconnaître dans la sagesse du Renard avertissant le Petit Prince : « le langage est source de malentendu » l'écho presque parfait du combattant s'adressant à ses compatriotes : « le langage est un instrument imparfait ». Inspiré d'un personnage enfantin que Saint-Exupéry crayonne en marge de ses lettres et carnets et qui était à l'origine un autoportrait, le Petit Prince est tout autant une fable poétique qu'un testament philosophique. En ce sens la mort de l'enfant, héros du conte, qu'au grand dam de ses éditeurs Saint-Exupéry refuse de supprimer, ne saurait être étrangère à l'opiniâtreté de celui-ci à se précipiter vers sa fin héroïque et absurde. En effet, depuis son arrivée aux états-Unis, Saint-Exupéry n'a qu'une préoccupation, obtenir une affectation dans son ancienne unité, le groupe 2-33 qu'il a immortalisé dans Pilote de guerre. En février 1943, malgré son âge, malgré les inimitiés des gaullistes, malgré sa santé défaillante, Saint-Exupéry est enfin mobilisé dans les Forces aériennes françaises libres formées après la libération de l'Afrique du Nord par les Américains. Début avril, le 12 ou le 13, il embarque pour Alger et ne reverra plus jamais l'Amérique. C'est alors que le destin de l'ouvrage et celui de son auteur vont définitivement s'éloigner. Le Petit Prince, qui devait paraître simultanément en français et dans une traduction anglaise réalisée par les éditeurs, est finalement d'abord publié en anglais le 6 avril 1943. Saint-Exupéry a-t-il assisté à cette publication ? Les témoignages sont discordants. On sait cependant qu'il a signé les 785 exemplaires sur grand papier (peut-être uniquement les feuillets de justification avant le brochage) et, surtout, qu'il a dédicacé quelques précieux exemplaires du Little Prince dont trois seulement sont connus : - le premier, adressé à l'actrice française Annabella, est réalisé dans un phylactère sur la couverture d'un jeu d'épreuves incomplet : « J'ai écrit ce petit livre seulement pour des amis qui peuvent le comprendre comme Annabella et, si ça ne l'amuse pas, je serai encore plus triste que sur cette photographie... Et je l'embrasse avec toute ma profonde et vieille amitié, St Ex » - la « photographie » en question est le dessin de la couverture représentant le Petit Prince (Collection Jean Bonna), - le second fut envoyé à Dorothy Barclay, la secrétaire d'Hélène Lazareff, pour la remercier de ses recherches sur le nombre d'étoiles de la voute céleste : « Il faut être absolument fou pour avoir choisi cette planète-là ! Elle n'est sympathique que la nuit, quand les habitants dorment... / Le Petit Prince avait tort. Il y a sur la terre des habitants dont la droiture, la gentillesse, la générosité de cœur consolent de l'avarice et de l'égoïsme des autres. Par exemple Dorothy Barclay... Avec mon plus amical souvenir Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ». (Exemplaire en main privée), - nous n'avons pas retrouvé la trace du troisième exemplaire référencé, celui de Nelly de Vogüé. Les quelques tapuscrits plus ou moins achevés furent légués par Saint-Exupéry les jours précédant son départ à son amie Nadia Boulanger, son traducteur Lewis Galantière, et deux autres personnes que nous n'avons pas identifiées. Le manuscrit original offert à sa maîtresse Sylvia Hamilton est aujourd'hui conservé à la Morgan Library tandis que les dessins définitifs qui ont servi à l'impression furent emportés par Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry et sont aujourd'hui en main privée. Tous ces dons et dédicaces ont été effectués à New-York avant le départ de Saint-Exupéry et hormis le manuscrit et les tapuscrits, ils ont tous été effectués sur la traduction anglaise. Or pour Saint-Exupéry, qui ne s'est absolument pas intéressé à la traduction de son livre et dont le niveau d'anglais était si pauvre qu'il ne comprenait pas les messages radio transmis par les tours de contrôle - sa seule phrase, apprise par cœur à l'intention de l'état-major Américain, était : « I want to die for France » - seule importait l'édition en français. S'il ne dédicace que des exemplaires du Little Prince c'est donc que, quelle que soit la date exacte à laquelle il embarque sur le Stirling Castle, ce départ a lieu avant l'impression et la publication de la version originale française qui n'a été mise dans le commerce que quinze jours après la traduction anglaise. Aussi n'est-ce que lorsqu'il écrit à son éditeur de Oudjda, le 8 juin 1943, que Saint-Exupéry peut s'enquérir du destin de son ouvrage : « Je ne sais rien du Petit Prince (je ne sais même pas s'il a paru !) [...] Je ne sais rien sur rien ; écrivez-moi ! » éditée à beaucoup plus petit nombre d'exemplaires que la version anglaise, l'édition originale française, lui répond son éditeur, s'est déjà écoulée à près de 7 000 exemplaires au milieu de l'été 1943 (et 30 000 pour la version traduite) et les ventes progressent au rythme de près de 1 000 exemplaires par semaine. Pourtant, malgré ce succès (au moins trois tirages successifs sont imprimés avant la fin de l'année 1943), Le Petit Prince ne traversera pas l'Atlantique avant la mort de son auteur. Ainsi Saint-Exupéry n'a-t-il pu emporter qu'un exemplaire du véritable Petit Prince spécialement imprimé pour lui à la hâte avant son départ, comme s'en souvient Henry Elkin qui fit le voyage avec lui. Il ne recevra pas d'autres exemplaires en Algérie où, à cause de son différend avec de Gaulle, ses livres sont tout simplement interdits comme ils le sont en France par le gouvernement de Vichy. Il s'en plaindra dans sa correspondance, notamment auprès de Nelly de Vogüé : « Ces arrivages de tous les livres d'Amérique. Les miens exceptés. Interdits en Afrique du Nord » (décembre 1943) ; « Il est arrivé ici une grosse cargaison de livres des états-Unis. Les miens seuls ne sont pas en vente. Je suis un pestiféré... » (janvier 1944). On sait, grâce à de précieuses dédicaces réalisées après son départ des états-Unis que Saint-Exupéry avait emporté quelques rares exemplaires de ses autres ouvrages en Algérie. Ainsi offre-t-il son propre exemplaire de Pilote de guerre à Henri Laugier (peut-être la seule trace d'une amitié, fugitive, avec un gaulliste), et un autre exemplaire aux Chabbert qui accueillent leur ami en 1943 dans leur maison de Casablanca. Par contre, il n'y a nulle trace, même dans ces bibliothèques, de Petit Prince dédicacé. Un épisode de la vie de Saint-Exupéry à Alger semble confirmer que l'auteur ne réussit à se procurer aucun autre exemplaire de son précieux conte. Hébergé durant tout son séjour algérien chez son ami le docteur Georges Pélissier, dans une chambre inconfortable qu'il ne veut cependant pas quitter pour ne pas offenser son hôte pour qui il éprouve une profonde affection, Saint-Exupéry évoque, lors d'une altercation avec celui-ci, l'unicité précieuse de son exemplaire : s'adressant à son hôte par lettre, il l'accuse en effet d'avoir emprunté son exemplaire au moment même où il souhaitait le présenter à un producteur de film anglais : « Je ne l'ai prêté à personne, sachant que j'en avais besoin aujourd'hui et pourquoi. » En l'absence de ce précieux exemplaire, le producteur est donc reparti et Saint-Exupéry le reproche amèrement à Pélissier : « Si je perds 50 000 dollars en 5 minutes, ça vaut peut-être 30 secondes de conversation. Où est mon livre ? » Pélissier lui avouant qu'il lui a emprunté le Petit Prince pour le relire, Saint-Exupéry s'apaise puis se confond en excuses : « Mon vieux, ne croyez pas que je vous en veuille. Si vous aviez prêté mon bouquin à quelqu'un (moi qui ne prête jamais mon exemplaire unique et le fais lire chez moi, dans ma chambre), je vous en voudrais. Mais que vous l'ayez pris pour vous, ça me touche beaucoup. » Puis dans une autre lettre rédigée « dix minutes plus tard » : « Je n'achèterais pas un ami avec cent milliards. Si ça vous plait de lire mon livre et que M. Korda attende et renonce, je m'en fous. [...] L'argent de Korda vaut ce qu'il vaut c'est-à-dire [...] : Rien. Mais je ne conçois pas que je rate les avantages de Korda pour qu'une péronnelle ou un péronneau inconnus, dont je me contrefous et auxquels je n'ai pas prêté mon livre, me lisent. D'où un désespoir mécanique que je n'eusse jamais éprouvé si j'avais pensé que ça "vous amusait" de relire mon petit bouquin. » Que ce précieux ami ne possède pas son propre exemplaire du plus important ouvrage de son hôte, que ce dernier manifeste de façon si virulente l'importance de ne pas prêter son livre, sont autant de preuves de l'insigne rareté de cet ouvrage à Alger. On ne connait aujourd'hui qu'un autre exemplaire dédicacé par Saint-Exupéry. Il est adressé aux enfants de son ami et camarade le colonel Lionel-Max Chassin, qui obtiendra à Saint-Exupéry son ultime affectation dans la 31ème escadre de bombardement en Sardaigne, alors sous son commandement. Comment se fait-il que la seule autre dédicace sur un Petit Prince soit adressée à une famille totalement absente de la biographie de l'auteur ? Confiné au sol peu de temps après son arrivée à Alger pour avoir détruit un P-38 à l'
  • Bookseller: Librairie Le Feu Follet FR (FR)
  • Bookseller Inventory #: 53337
  • Author: SAINT-EXUPERY Antoine de
  • Book condition: Used - Fine
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Reynal & Hitchcock
  • Place: New-York
  • Date published: 1943


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