In these heartless times, The Little Prince reminds us what it is to be human

Azar Nafisi in The Guardian:

AzarDo you remember the fox? Not just any fox, this one is a sage; the one that reveals the truth to the Little Prince, who reveals it to the pilot, who reveals it to us, the readers. As he says goodbye to his friend, the fox tells the Little Prince, “Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” When as a child I first heard my father read me The Little Prince in a sunny room in Tehran, I was not aware that the story, along with tales from Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, Pinocchio, the work of Mulla Nasrudin, the Alice stories, The Wizard of Oz and The Ugly Duckling, among others, would become one of the main pillars of my “republic of imagination”. My father’s democratic way of introducing me to these stories shaped my attitude towards works of imagination as universal spaces, transcending the boundaries of geography, language, ethnicity, religion, gender, race, nationality and class. I knew that although this fox and his prince were products of a Frenchman’s mind, and although the book was written in a language foreign to me, at a time before I was born and in a place I had never seen, by virtue of hearing and later reading it, that story would also become my story, that Little Prince and fox belonged as much to me as Scheherazade and her 1,001 nights belonged to the French, American, British, Turkish, German and all other readers who would in reading cherish them and “tame” them, the way the Prince learned to tame the fox.

This is how I, a little girl from Iran, came to know and love France, through a little prince and a fox. I had met foxes before; in fact, my father introduced me to the animal in a fable by Jean de La Fontaine. In this story, like most stories, the fox is sly and clever, cheating a simple crow of his meal. Later, my father translated La Fontaine’s fables complete with their beautiful illustrations which he, an amateur painter, drew himself, copying from the originals. In those and most other illustrations the fox looked pretty, with a gorgeous bushy tail and wide eyes. The Little Prince’s fox was not pretty; its bushy tail, more like an upright broom, was not beautiful and his eyes were so narrow they could be barely seen. Yet this animal forever changed my attitude towards the fox – I began to see it in a different light. From this perspective, the fox’s slyness was not due to malice, but to the need to survive. Although I felt sorry for the chickens (which didn’t prevent me from eating them), the fox hunted them so that he could stay alive, unlike some human beings who not only kill and eat the chickens but hunt foxes for entertainment and sport. Gradually, I came to understand why those wide eyes, always brimming with anxiety and fear, seemed to be on the lookout for some invisible but very real menace.

More here.