Monday, January 27, 2014

Before He Fell To Earth, 'The Little Prince' Was Born In N.Y.

One of the world's most beloved books is The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery. Published in 1943, almost two million copies are sold every year, in about 250 languages.

If asked where you think the book was written, you might say Paris. You'd be wrong. Try Long Island — as in Long Island, N.Y.

When the late Nikos Kefalidis bought the house on Beven Road in Northport, Long Island, in the late 1970s, he knew that 30 years before, Saint-Exupery had written and illustrated part of Le Petit Prince in that house.

It was something known in the community, but not in many other places. His wife, Laurie Kefalidis, has stood in the room where Saint-Exupery wrote, and is happy about the book's connection to her house. She has copies of The Little Prince in some 30 languages.
"I think it's about life and death, and what's important in life," she says. "I think he talks about falsehood, or untruths, or hypocrisy, or duplicity in a very charming way, actually."

Saint-Exupery also wrote the book in Manhattan. The Morgan Library and Museum bought the original manuscript of The Little Prince in 1968, along with many other drawings, including precursors to what ended up in the book.

The museum had an exhibition on the 50th anniversary of publication, 20 years ago, but a new exhibition, open until May, looks at the author's creative process.
The curator of the show, The Little Prince: A New York Story, is Christine Nelson. Saint-Exupery, Nelson says, was a meticulous craftsman, but his working habits were somewhat chaotic.

"Wherever he went, he had stacks of onionskin paper with him, and always a cup of coffee or tea by his side, always a cigarette hanging out of his mouth," she says. "The manuscript we have here even has stains on many of the corners of the pages. One of the drawings even has a cigarette burn, which we've left for people to see."

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