Japan is a country that loves The Little Prince so dearly, it has dedicated a museum to him. Today, let us introduce you to Mino Hiroshi, university professor and writer, a specialist in the works of Camus and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and author of two books on The Little Prince.
Mino Hiroshi studied French literature at university. His favourite French authors are Camus, Sartre and Malraux. It was only after qualifying as a teacher and re-reading The Little Prince with his students that he discovered the charm and depth of the book: « It is a text that has since been at the heart of my concerns, » he adds.
The Enigma of the Little Prince, by Mino Hiroshi
After writing a book on L’Etranger (The Outsider) by Albert Camus (published in French translation by José Corti), Mino Hiroshi decided that his next subject would be The Little Prince. Saint-Exupéry’s book is certainly extremely popular in Japan, but is considered – wrongly – as being purely for children. Mino Hiroshi decided to analyse The Little Prince with almost surgical precision, examining the text in every detail from the opening dedication to Léon Werth down to the very last line of the last of the 27 chapters. He went over every word, every sentence, with a fine-toothed comb to tease out the possible hidden meanings and interpretations.
« Please… draw me a sheep, » is, according to Mino Hiroshi, a phrase that « produces » the tale. It is an appeal to which the aviator responds and which leads him into an extraordinary adventure. Rather than picking over the text for autobiographical details, as so many painstaking academics are wont to do, Mino Hiroshi lingers over each of the Little Prince’s statements to demonstrate that they are the expression of a philosophy and that their apparent simplicity in fact conceals a complex and rewarding system of thought.
Professor Hiroshi is currently working on a « mini encyclopaedia of The Little Prince, » a book aimed at « grown-ups » who have many unanswered questions about the various aspects of the book: its content, its history, its origins, its echoes, its circulation and its continuations
The Little Prince in Japan
For Mino Hiroshi, the opening of the Hakone museum is helping to make the Little Prince even more popular in Japan, where a good twenty or more translations of Saint-Exupéry’s philosophical tale are already to be found in bookshops. « The very number of these translations has served to widen the range of readers to every generation, » claims Mino Hiroshi, who compares the success of The Little Prince to that of Hayao Miyazaki’s work [Miyazaki is the world-famous director of such popular animated films as Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke. Ed.] In Mino Hiroshi’s view, Saint-Exupéry and Miyazaki exert the same « charm » over children and yet also prompt adults to reflect upon the problems of our modern society.
Children and adults alike wonder why the Little Prince is so sad. Why does he choose to die? They ask themselves all these questions, which all lead back to what is « essential« , to what can only be seen with the heart. In a country where children know about the fox, the rose and the snake even before they have read the book, Mino Hiroshi is convinced of the benefit all children, even the very youngest, gain from reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s wondrous tale.
To date, none of Mino Hiroshi’s works on The Little Prince have been translated into French.