The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 106 pages.
Read on June 5, 2018.

When I realized I was two books behind my reading goal I was frantically looking for a short book on my to-read list to help me catch up. This book has been on my list for a while as it is considered a classic piece of children’s literature, but if I am honest I knew absolutely nothing about this book before reading it other than that. This book is one of the world’s most translated books, over 250 languages in fact. Even in Hong Kong, you can find the book just about anywhere and there is tons of cute apparel and swag that you can buy your kid to accompany it. This is a kid’s book that is kind of meant for adults, hence why it is so appealing to both the young and old.  Many people adore this book and revere it, perhaps I got a bad translation (I did find a free copy online) or maybe this book is best read in French, but this book did not meet the hype for me.

The plot is about a little boy who lives on a planet by himself. The planet is not very big and he has to tend to it otherwise this certain type of tree will grow and destroy his ability to live on the tiny planet. He also has a sheep and a rose. The boy tends to the rose dutifully and does whatever it asks of him in order to make it comfortable. However, the boy decides to leave his planet one day after growing tired of the monotony of it all. On his journey, he encounters other people on their own planets, each of them with a different drive an purpose, like the businessman who is all about money and greed.  The boy eventually finds himself on Earth in which he meets the narrator who is trapt in a desert after a plane crash. The boy also befriends a fox who reminds him of his responsibility and care to his planet, sheep and especially the rose.

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Antoine-de-Saint-Exupéry – photo from Britannia

The plot of this story is like an intense acid-trip that creates a somewhat-fun and philosophical children’s story.  I mean, that isn’t what happened to the author but his own personal story and history is actually quite interesting and based on his inspiration for the book you can kind of understand how the Little Prince came to be. Not only was Antoine an accomplished writer but he ended up becoming an infamous pilot as well. Antoine failed in architecture school before joining the military where he became a pilot. Prior to WWI, Antoine flew everything from mail routes to testing piloting, he even attempted to beat a world record for the fastest trip between Paris and Saigon, in which his plane crashed in the Sahara desert. You can see this experience directly in The Little Prince, with the narrator having also become stranded in a desert from a plane crash. So perhaps The Little Prince is a heat/water-deprived hallucination inspired story? Antoine disappeared during one flight and was presumed dead after he was not found in summer of 1944.

The story is intriguing but my translation definitely seemed clunky, I imagine much of the lessons that the Little Prince learned are much more poignant in French.  I found the story did little to capture my imagination and I am curious as to what a kid today would think of the story.  As an adult, I caught on to the messages of the story but found myself wanting to know more about Antoine, the author, than the story of the Little Prince and his silly rose. I would, however, re-read this book. I think there is more to be taken from it and I think perhaps a better translation might lend itself better to the story.

Parents, what do your kids think of this story? Do you read to them out of nostalgia and do they appreciate it? Perhaps this book is better left for adults even though it was written for kids.  Overall, I am still glad that I read it and can now at least understand and appreciate the references made to this novel in other works.

 

Tea and Tea Set by Li Hong

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”
-Lin Yutang

4/5 stars
Paperback, 159 pages.
Read from May 28, 2018 to June 1, 2018.

Buying a book spur of the moment is one of life’s greatest pleasures. After I swore off buying new books when I moved abroad I altered the rules a little bit to acquire this book under the guise that it was a souvenir. 30140894 I have always had a love of tea and have enjoyed learning about it. Admittedly, there is much more to tea, its history, growth, preparation and drinking than I anticipated so I still have a lot more reading to do.

I picked up this book while I was visiting one of my favourite places in Hong Kong, the Nan Lian Garden which is located parallel to the Chi Lin Nunnery. Within the gardens, there is a teahouse, Song Cha Xie, that is donned in traditional Tang dynasty style architecture and is set within the middle of the beautiful gardens.

After removing my shoes and slipping on some sandals, I was whisked away into the tranquil environment of the teahouse where I was able to choose from a variety of traditional Chinese teas. I settled on a 20-year old pu-reh, my favourite type of tea.  I was shown how to make the tea properly with a proper Chinese tea set and inquisitively asked about all the different tea-tools at the table. Even though I was at the Nan Lian Gardens on a writing assignment, I had always wanted to visit the teahouse, despite the steep (no pun intended) prices, and decided to venture in and find a way to include the visit in my piece.

After a few utterly delightful hours of drinking tea on my own with nothing but silence around me, I regretfully had to leave. On the way out was when I spotted this book. I knew I had to have it after my great experience in the tea house. Prime marketing right? There were two other books to choose from by the same author, one on pu-reh and the other on green tea, but I didn’t dally on the decision long before walking out with this book. I wish I had all three, perhaps I will go back and get the one on pu-reh…

The book details the brief history of tea, the different types of tea, where they’re grown as well as descriptions of their taste and colour. The final chapter is dedicated to different types of tea sets, their best use and their history.  Even though this book is short, the content is concise and interesting. It also has fantastic accompanying images that really bring life to the book.  I have read much larger books on tea but found myself inundated with too much knowledge all at once whereas this book was concise and to the point and is easy to look back and reference. By far, this has been the most straightforward and enjoyable book on tea I have read so far and one that I am sure I will use again when I have more inquisitions.

This book is a perfect introductory piece for tea and tea knowledge. There is a selection of the author’s works on Amazon, so if you are tea lover I would definitely recommend snagging a copy for your library, coffee table, tea room or kitchen.

Want to know more about the Nan Lian Gardens or the Chi Lin Nunnery? Check out the piece I wrote for Sassy Mama Hong Kong.

Interesting Facts about Ernest Hemingway

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the influence this man has had on literature and beyond.

Originally published on October 29, 2015.


On this day, 57 years ago, Ernest Hemingway passed away.  He was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois and he tragically committed suicide on July 2, 1961. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the influence this man has had on literature and beyond.  Here are some interesting facts that about Hemingway that you may not have known.

      1. When his favourite bar moved locations, Hemingway took a urinal from the bar to his Key West home because he claimed he had already ‘pissed away’ so much money into the urinal that he practically owned it. He converted it into a garden foundation that still stands today.
      2. Related, Hemingway loved cats. That garden fountain he created from the urinal served as a drinking spot for the ground’s cats. He had a six-toed cat named Snowball and it’s rumoured that the remaining six-toed cats on the grounds today are descendants from Snowball.

“Cat’s were put into the world to disprove the dogma that all things were created to serve man. “ – Ernest Hemingwayhemingwaycat

        1. He’s the Chuck Norris of authors. He survived two plane crashes (on consecutive days) a ruptured kidney, skin cancer, hepatitis, anthrax, malaria, diabetes, a ruptured spleen, a crushed vertebra, a fractured skull and a ruptured liver in his lifetime. The only thing that could kill Hemingway was himself, which he did with his favourite shotgun that he purchased at Abercrombie and Fitch.
        2. He served in WWI as an ambulance driver. His novel, Farewell to Arms, is a semi-autobiographical account of his time there. He actually wanted to fight as a soldier but was denied due to his bad eye-sight.
        3. For my Canadian readers, in 1919, after returning from WWI, he accepted a job in Toronto and wrote for the Toronto Star.
        4. During his 62 years of life, he was married 4 times and divorced 3 times.
        5. He once examined F. Scott Fitzgerald’s penis after a discussion he had with Zelda Fitzgerald in which she claimed that size of a man’s penis couldn’t make any woman happy. Hemingway reportedly said that Fitzgerald was of ‘normal’ size.
        6. He was a KGB spy. He grew paranoid in his last few years of life and believed that FBI was spying on him. He took the cover name of “Argo”. He didn’t end up being all that helpful to the KGB, but the FBI was indeed watching him, Edgard Hoover personally placed him under surveillance.

Random fact: There is an Ernest Hemingway look-a-like society: http://www.hemingwaylookalikes.com/


Sources:

http://www.biography.com/people/ernest-hemingway-9334498

https://huckberry.com/journal/posts/ernest-hemingway-in-key-west

http://www.biography.com/people/ernest-hemingway-9334498#personal-struggles-and-suicide

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway

http://www.messynessychic.com/2013/06/18/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-ernest-hemingway-like-he-was-a-kgb-spy/

http://www.kickassfacts.com/20-kickass-interesting-facts-ernest-hemingway/