Employee talks about the prince in her life
Roche colleague collects favorite book in different languages and has interesting stories to tell.
People have all kinds of hobbies and interests. Roche’s Odeta Rimkeviciute has one, too. She collects different language versions of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French in 1943. Her travels to different countries around the world are not complete till she scours through book shops, even antique shops, till she locates a local edition of the book. And these have led to some very interesting experiences.
“When I go to a new country, a visit to bookstores is a must. Before leaving, I first research online to check if a local edition is available in that country. And then my search begins,” says Odeta, Communications Director at the UAE Management Center. The searches have been very fruitful, and she’s been able to get rare first edition copies, special editions with original sketches by the author, and even a copy that probably belongs to a school library! In all, she has 48 copies of the book in different languages and dialects. The book has been translated into over 200 languages and dialects and is considered the most-read and most-translated book written in French.
Not love at first sight
But it wasn’t love at first sight. Odeta’s mother used to read from the novella in her native Lithuanian when Odeta was still only five or six years old. “It wasn’t even my favorite story, and honestly I did not like the illustrations either. Later, it became a compulsory book in secondary school, and I was still not keen about it. It was only when I read the book during the course of my French literature studies in Vilnius University that I actually fully understood and fell in love with it. Since then The Little Prince travels everywhere with me,” she states.
It was during her last days at university when she began to travel that she decided to bring back souvenirs with a difference. “In May 2003, I went to Bratislava, Slovakia, and was looking for some books when my eyes fell on the cover of a book. It was the same as my copy of The Little Prince. So I picked it up. I loved the story, so why not try and collect the book in the native language of the country I was in.
Odeta is aware of a global community of like-minded Little Prince lovers. But she has preferred to stay away from such groups. Many of them have full collections, but they were buying and selling or exchanging copies online. Her principle was different. For her, buying the book herself in the country she was visiting next was part of the excitement. The search in many ways was as much fun as owning the book itself.
When I go to a new country, a visit to bookstores is a must...And then my search begins.
And some of the searches have been memorable. “In 2005, I went to Cuba,” Odeta tells myRoche, “and stayed in a town called Cienfuegos. We met some local people and spent some time out one evening. It was during this outing that I ended up chatting with a teacher in a local school, and among other things we discussed the book. I asked him whether it was available locally, as I had heard about censorship in Cuba. But to my surprise he told me that he knew about The Little Prince and would look for it in some local book shops.”
The next morning, the teacher visited them at the place, Odeta was staying with her friends and gave her a copy of the book in Cuban Spanish with a kind dedicated note as well. “It was only after I got back to Lithuania and had a better look at the book that I saw a stamp on one of the inside pages stating Biblioteca escuela (school library). I think he just took the book from his school library and presented it to me. But it is different, as the Cuban edition is censored and much shorter than the original, and it is also in black and white.”
Old and expensive
After a long search, Odeta also located the Swedish version of the book. She finally found it in an antique store and it turned out to be the oldest and the most expensive one in her collection. It was from the first print run of the book. In Argentina she was able to get a book with original sketches by Saint-Exupéry himself. “In the 1930s, he worked as a director of the Argentinian airline Aeroposta and was very well known there. The one with his drawings is one of the most beautiful versions I have.”
She also has editions in different dialects. For instance she has books in three different Spanish dialects—Catalan, Castilian and Cantabrian. In France, she has been able to pick up from the large variety of editions available for different age groups, including some with drawings only. In Muscat, Oman a bookshop owner turned up with a copy of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when she asked for a local version of her favorite book. On being told that this wasn’t the book, the man smilingly told her: “You look for a prince, I give you a princess.”
When Odeta moved to Dubai, she took her books with her. Today, The Little Prince has pride of place in her book collection. For the sake of her Little Prince she is willing to undertake several more journeys across mountains and seas.