“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” This is the message that DHSS Senior Lecturer, Ms Roser Cervera, wanted the audience to understand as she presented her ‘Le Petit Prince’ (The Little Prince) book collection. After being asked many times by her colleagues and students during her ten years at UIC about her book collection, Ms Cervera decided to arrange this special exhibition on 23 April and the reading session on 25 April as part of the annual Spanish Culture Festival, the 75th anniversary of The Little Prince and her 10th anniversary at UIC. The main idea was to combine Spanish Culture Week with UIC celebrating the International Day of the Book on 23 April.

Ms Cervera explaining on why she loves the story

All the books on display are part of Ms Cervera’s private collection. She is an avid collector of ‘Le Petit Prince’, and has collected the book in over 190 different languages, dialects, and symbols but has more than 430 copies of the book that she has collected since 1986.

Ms Cervera began by welcoming everyone before introducing the President of UIC, Prof Ng Ching-Fai. Prof Ng congratulated Ms Cervera as it was her ten year anniversary at UIC, then went on to explain what he thinks is special about this book’s story. “You may not be aware that this book is one of the most translated books on the planet”, Prof Ng said. He also mentioned how important foreign languages and cultures are in a Liberal Arts College. He then thanked Ms Cervera for the invite before reading a small excerpt from the book to the audience in English.

UIC President, Prof Ng, reading an extract from 'The Little Prince'

Since she first read the book at the age of six, Ms Cervera has been a collector of ‘The Little Prince’. She gave a quick introduction about her love for the book before continuing to talk about the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, as well as the characters and other collectors, which Ms Cervera has been in contact with. She also explained that she has some versions that even the biggest collector of ‘The Little Prince’, Jean-Marc Probst, does not have. She finds different versions on her travels, asks friends and students to buy versions in their local language, and exchanges her doubles with people around the globe.

Ms Cervera displays part of her book collection

The private collection of Ms Cervera consists of many versions in different languages, and she introduced some special versions for the audience. She displayed the books and asked the audience to guess where they were from. The versions in Assamese, Burmese and Hebrew are some of her most treasured versions of this story as there is a special story for each book. Other versions, like the one written in a Spanish dialect, are written by hand by a translator and are extremely rare.

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Ms Cervera fell in love the moment she read this book as a young girl and as she has a passion for languages, she went out and bought different versions of this story during her travels. True love, friendship and compassion are what Ms Cervera loves about ‘The Little Prince’ story. She explains that it is a simple story with a very important message especially about adult behavior. “I really want to show the students how important it is to learn different languages and understand different cultures as it will be very good for their future. With this presentation and exhibit, I hope to spark a light for the students to be interested in languages, cultures and literature”, explained Ms. Cervera.

Korean, Russian, Malay, Cantonese, English, Catalan, Spanish, French, Arabic, Estonian, Navajo and Polish versions of the same two paragraphs were read by different staff and visitors to end the exhibition. Ms Cervera then invited a UIC student from the audience to come and read the same two paragraphs, but in Mandarin.

DHSS Lecturer and Coordinator of CFLC, Dr Arum Kim, reading the Korean version

DHSS Foreign Intern, Ms Dalia Tanner, reading the English version of the story

DHSS Foreign Intern, Elizabeth Rodewald, who attended the session, said “I know how much work and preparation Roser put into this exhibition and I know how much she loves this book and her collection, so I feel very fortunate that she was willing to share all of that with us. It was really cool to see a book in so many languages.”

ELC Foreign Intern, Tyler Austin, mentioned how “It was a unique experience to see someone be impacted by such a simple book with an important moral.”

UIC Year Three Accounting student, Chen Yuming, attended and said that “the exhibition reminded me of what love is, what responsibility is, what tameness is and most importantly, how to see the world rightly with a gentle heart”. He stayed for the full reading session and added that “the reading session was beautiful; I didn't know there are so many languages at UIC before. As a fan of ‘The Little Prince’, I love the way people read it. They made it lively.”

The readers during the session

UIC President, Prof Ng Ching-Fai (English)

DHSS Lecturer and Coordinator of CFLC, Dr Arum Kim (Korean)

ELC Foreign Intern, Mr Aleksandr Vorona (Russian)

DHSS Assistant Professor, Ms Jackie Yeoh (Malay)

LRC Deputy College Librarian, Ms Fung Ying Cham (Cantonese)

DHSS Foreign Intern, Ms Dalia Tanner (English)

DHSS Senior Lecturer, Ms Roser Cervera (Catalan)

DHSS Spanish Instructor, Ms Betsabe Riera (Spanish)

DHSS Senior Lecturer, Ms Sophie Dubois-Pepin (French)

DST Assistant Professor, Mr. A. M. Elsawah (Arabic)

External visitor, Ms Inga Praks (Estonian)

External visitor, Mr Joel Tohtsonie (Navajo)

DHSS Assistant Professor, Dr Renata Paulina Wojtczak (Polish)

Year 4 ATS student Wang Yao (Mandarin)

Reporter: Samuel Burgess
Photographers: Lowry Qu, Ivy Liao, Ben Wen
Editors: Deen He, Samantha Burns
(from MPRO)