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Monday, May 2, 2011

Elise Shifrin: Reading Elise Through the Little Prince

The Little Prince-Katherine Woods Translation

Elise has been described by Rob Pattinson fans as cold, frigid, aloof, asexual, and, well, you get the idea. I am following The Little Prince in reading her. She appears out of nowhere it seems all day long. If you go to the blog that has the map on it you will see that she is always ahead of Eric Packer, her husband of 22 days. In other words, he is her shadow, he is following her all day long. She appears and disappears and this occurs in a sharp cut in continuity, connected with breakfast, lunch and dinner and then..... It is non-linear, non progressive, non historical. In other words, discontinuous.

The Little Prince also appears out of nowhere. The pilot has landed in the desert with engine trouble. His airplane will not start and if he can't fix it he will die in the desert.  The Little Prince begins to ask questions and make his demands. And he tells the pilot about the tiny planet he lives on. On sad days he can keep moving his chair and see the sunset over and over all day long.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Another always-to-be-remembered example of a passage from Woods' translation dealing with the interaction of the little prince and the fox. When the little prince has to say goodbye to the fox, the fox says, "Ah, I shall cry."

"It's your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

Before the little prince tamed the fox, the wheat field had "nothing to say to" the fox. "But," he had said to the little prince, "you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..." 

Finding her in the bookstore Eric takes her to lunch.

Eric: You were one of those silent wistful children. Glued to the shadows.

Elise: And you?

Eric: I don't know. I don't think about it.

Elise: Think about one thing and tell me what it was.

Eric: All right. One thing. When I was four, I figured out how much I'd weigh on each of the planets in the solar system.

Elise: That's nice. Oh I like that. And she laughed lingeringly.

And then Eric Packer returns to matters of consequence: sex. The circulating rats come in here for the first time.

At dinner Eric talks about wanting sex and what she is wearing and noticing her mood.

Elise: I'll tell you what the problem is. I don't know how to be indifferent. I can't master this. And it makes me susceptible to pain. In other words, it hurts.

And, "Look. I married you for your beauty but you don't have to be beautiful................."

 I just have to be indifferent.

He smells of sex. And she cannot be indifferent.

And after they have had sex and he has told her he lost all her money,

Elise: What do poets know about money? Love the world and trace it in a line of verse. Nothing but this. And this. And she begins to kiss him passionately. And then he knows he loves her and at that instant she slides down his body and disappears.

And another time I will read Elise through Gradiva.


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