The French pilot and author, Antoine Saint Exupery, whose cult work Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), was first published in 1943 and just like it is all over the world, in Turkey too it has become one of the most sold and read books. Up until now, 150 million copies of The Little Prince has been sold, and it has been translated into 250 different languages, even including those that are spoken only by twenty thousand people. In other words, it is almost competing with the Bible. This book, which has attracted so much attention and has become such a phenomenon, would have surely become a surprise if it hadn’t received the same attention amongst the Turkish readers.
An Escape from the Materialistic World
The Little Prince, translated by the poet Ahmet Muhip Diranas was first published in Turkey in 1953 in a children’s magazine. The interest in the book has increased steadily ever since that date. In this case, the question is as follows: “What are the reasons for such intense attention for The Little Prince in Turkey?” I am not sure whether it is possible to produce a unique and accurate answer to this question in terms of Turkey. Just as I had touched upon it in the first paragraph, we are talking about a phenomenon that is read and spoken about all over the world. Surely, the reasons for the attention to The Little Prince will exceed the borders of Turkey. In attempting to find an answer to this question, one ought to consider the universal values that Exupery explores and reminds us of.
The critic, Tulin Sadikoglu, who had an article printed in the Star newspaper in relation to The Little Prince, states the following: “Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote The Little Prince during a time when he was residing in America towards the end of World War II. The two great wars had forced people into a deep insecurity with all the destruction that was caused. Just like many other people, Saint-Exupery too had experienced many questionings of existentialism. During a time, when the meaning of life ceased to exist or became uncertain, he felt lonely. People, on such slippery slopes as this, perhaps created a more materialistic world without even realising it. Poetry and stories were no longer a part of the realities of this world, and nor did they have a place within the world of adults. Saint-Exupery became uncomfortable with such a materialistic perspective. No matter what, he always had a positive attitude towards life and people.” Based on this quotation that summarises the matter, we can say the following; the interest in The Little Prince is the manifestation of an escape. It is the small manifestation of escaping this world which has become a place where winning and materialism is worshipped and which has become a world torn apart by wars. It will not be incorrect to reach this same conclusion for the Turkish readers either.
Publishers always want ‘a book that sells’
During these days, in Turkey, we can come across how the biggest bookstore chains and online book-sellers have The Little Prince in the first five most sold booklist. In fact, when talking about The Little Prince, it will be unfair to simply say that it is ‘a bestseller’, as this expression does not give value to the interest towards The Little Prince in Turkey. When we say that a book is a bestseller, don’t we actually think of those books that instantly hit the shelves with a big bang and suddenly the attention dies down? Therefore, it will be a more appropriate expression to say that The Little Prince is ‘a long seller’. Perhaps it will not always have ‘high sales’, but you can be assured that it will ‘always’ sell.
One of the targets of all publishers is to have a book that ‘always sells’ or to obtain the right of sale of such books. Therefore, the attention of publishers towards classics will always exist. We have absolutely no doubt that The Little Prince is also a classic. It is for this reason that many publishers would print it as soon as it hit the public domain and that is exactly what had happened. The Little Prince was published by tens of publishing houses in Turkey since the beginning of 2015. In consideration of the Bern Agreement, which was signed 20 years ago, once 70 years pass over the death of the author, the copyright is cleared.
With the copyrights ending for the books of Antoine Saint Exupery, the number of alternative translations in Turkish have also increased. In fact, many translations before 1995 had been undertaken, yet, under the conditions of the agreement we mentioned earlier, only one translation was found (Fatih Erdogan).
The Adults are more Interested
We can state that children’s publishing in Turkey is quite developed. It could therefore be stated that The Little Prince has a much more deeper meaning than ‘just being a children’s story’. In fact, the Turkish reader would not consider The Little Prince as a children’s story. It is a novel. Adults display more interest to the book compared to children. It is for this reason that one of the first books that children read is The Little Prince. Even the Ministry of Education advises children to read The Little Prince, as it is easy to read, has a powerful story aspect and has a high literary value.