2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars
Wonderful tale. Flat translation., Oct. 1 2003
This is a wonderful book in a disappointing new translation. "The Little Prince" is one of the most beautiful, wise and significant books I've ever read. Part of the deep appreciation I have long felt towards Antoine de Saint-Exupery for writing it has now emerged, for reading this new translation by Richard Howard, as an appreciation of Katherine Woods' inspiration and insight in her (1943) rendition of the story.
Publicity for the new (2000) translation criticises Woods' version as "slightly wooden or didactic." I think it could be said that, insofar as this is so, it is 'wood' with a living quality, a 'didacticism' with warmth, irony, understanding and humour, a care and gentleness lacking in Howard's version, which in comparison is rather metallic. It feels a bit of a shame that anyone would read a more mechanical interpretation when they could be reading the Woods version. It is saddening indeed to think that this new translation will actually replace Woods' in bookshops.
Howard's version being widely publicised as superior to me says far more about those standing to profit from sales than it does about the nature of The Little Prince. So I write this as a small appeal to you adults. " 'Children,' I say plainly, 'watch out for the baobabs!' " Endeavouring to advise, it is easy enough to slip into fooling oneself or others in some way. Mr. Howard's own assurance in his Translator's Note to the new version, that he has surpassed Ms Woods' rendition, runs notably foul.
(You may think this is just a matter of opinion. You may think I am being somewhat fussy. You will, perhaps, think like grown-ups on the issue!)
The Little Prince is about feeling; feeling and the relationship of our energy and capacity for this to our changing worlds of perception. It's not easy to define the full extent of what I'm referring to in expressing my preference for, my valuing of, Woods' version over Howard's. I could speak of differences in associative power in the language used, of interplay between words and how they work within, of narrative flow and persona - one can analyse and hypothesize, but the key remains something vital and tricky to formulate, as with the impact of verbal style in Hoban's "Riddley Walker" or Mitchell's "Hog's Wholey Wash". Not that Katherine Woods' tailoring of words makes for such a challenge to read; her version of The Little Prince both reads better immediately and yields more on digestion than what we are now presented with as the "new and improved version". One might simply speak of what is felt as going to depth and echoing with a ring of magic, compared to what rings with a muted industrial clank.
However true it may be to the letter of Saint-Exupery's original, Howard's version is, sure as eggs is eggs, not as true as Woods' to the spirit of The Little Prince.