The Little Prince drops in on Brazil

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The Independent Culture

The Little Prince, the intergalactic boy traveler part of many childhoods around the world, is visiting Brazil in a show also honoring his adventuresome creator.

The exhibition at Sao Paulo's OCA museum highlights the voyages and lessons learnt by the character dreamed up by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in 1942, two years before his death at age 44.

Displays include a full-scale mock-up of the author's plane crashed in the Libyan desert, and a reconstruction of part of the Little Prince's tiny planet, complete with his rose companion and, overhead, spinning 3-D planetoids featured in the famous book.

Brazil's affection for the naive character who discovered human frailties and values was evident in the crowds who came out in force for the show.

"I saw his heart, his drawings," said a wide-eyed two-year-old, Eduardo Carnaval, as he enthused to his mother about one computerized attraction where digitized birds flocked around him as he walked.

"I'm 39 and I'm here again to see that all again, that magic," said another, older fan, Fabio Seelig, visiting with his girlfriend.

Mariangela Nicolellis, having a look with other friends aged in their 40s, added that it was a tradition for Brazil's innumerable beauty queens to cite "The Little Prince" as their favorite book, to show their culture, their curiosity and their connection to their inner child.

But the exhibition had echoes in South America as well.

Apart from being one of the prime events of the Year of France in Brazil cultural festival now winding down, the show -- put together with input from Saint-Exupery's estate -- also shone the spotlight on the aviator-author who created such an enduring character.

Apart from his literary works, Saint-Exupery has been lionized in Brazil for his part in pioneering Aeropostale -- the region's first air postal network -- for which he flew.

Archive footage showed the biplanes used back then: flimsy contraptions barely clearing the snowcapped Andes, reminders of a time when pilots regularly risked their lives to maintain contact between Europe and South America.

"Brazilians remain very impressed by Saint-Exupery, as if he were a hero -- or even a superhero," explained the exhibition's curator, Sheila Dryzun.

Among the fictional creations and real-life artifacts making up the collection is Saint-Exupery's bracelet, recovered in 1998 in waters off southern France.

France's most famed aviator-writer perished there when his plane went down while on a World War II reconnaissance mission.

His legacy, though, lives on in the wonderment and imagination of children around the planet who have read his book, and seen themselves reflected in the ever-questioning altruism of The Little Prince.