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Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part two

January 22, 2014 6 comments

Gary_LecturesHello everyone, it’s Wednesday again !

Time for our weekly quote by Romain Gary. Great news! I got help for the translation of the quotes! When I asked on Twitter if an Anglophone who could also speak French fluently would help me with the translation of quotes from the French, Erik MacDonald answered my tweet and came to my rescue. So Erik kindly reviewed and co-translated the quote you’re reading today. You may want to check his blog here.

Today I chose one from the first Gary book I’ve read, Au-delà de cette limite votre ticket n’est plus valable, or in English, Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid. It was translated by Sophie Wilkins, a “real” translator, not Gary hiding behind a pen name this time. This novel was pulished in 1975, the same year as La Vie devant soi. So he was able to write two books at the same time with very different styles.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Gary_Ticket It is hard to conceive of any subject that would be taboo in the contemporary novel, but Romain Gary’s latest theme, the onset of male impotence with age, attacks the myth of unassailable virility that may well be held sacred by our society Gary’s hero, Jacques Rainier, is a prisoner of his own maturity, of a lifetime of hard-mindedness and of his own highly evolved personal style. In what should be the prime of life, he finds himself facing the humiliation of vanishing manhood. Tycoon and Resistance hero, a man accustomed to power Rainier must suffer the waning of his virility at a time when his country France, must endure the economic upheaval of the energy crisis. His business empire is jeopardized, as is his affair with Laura, a beautiful young woman with whom he is deeply in love. He engages in desperate financial strategies and finds himself in bitterly comic consultations with the medical profession. Then Ruiz enters his life and, more significantly his consciousness. A thief, a foreigner, the embodiment of sexual potency Ruiz may also hold the possibility of release. Rainier’s options range from resignation and fantasy to suicide; his choice, finally is a disturbing one. YOUR TICKET IS NO LONGER VALID is a novel of sexual and financial decline, of the endgame between necessity and desire; but, more profoundly it is an examination of the nature of love which forces a reevaluation, a revision, of ourselves.

I still wonder how Gary reached out to my eighteen year old self with such a plot. Now the quote I want to share with you:

Le racisme, c’est quand ça ne compte pas. Quand ils ne comptent pas. Quand on peut faire n’importe quoi avec eux, ça ne compte pas, parce qu’ils ne sont pas comme nous. Tu comprends ? Ils ne sont pas des nôtres. On peut s’en servir sans déchoir. On ne perd pas sa dignité, son honneur. Ils sont tellement différents de nous qu’il n’y a pas à se gêner, il ne peut y avoir… il ne peut y avoir jugement voilà. On peut leur faire faire n’importe quelle vile besogne parce que de toute façon, le jugement qu’ils portent sur nous, ça n’existe pas, ça ne peut pas salir… C’est ça, le racisme. Racism is when it doesn’t count. When they don’t count. When you can do anything to them, and it doesn’t count because they’re not like us. You understand? They don’t belong. We can use them without demeaning ourselves. We don’t lose our dignity, our honour. They’re so different from us that there’s nothing to worry about, there’s no…there’s no question of them judging us, that’s it. We can have them do whatever lowly task we want because the judgment they pass on us doesn’t exist anyway. It can’t sully us…This is what racism is.

I chose a quote about racism, which is a theme that touched Gary deeply. He was Jewish and it wasn’t easy to be one in France in the 1930s. His mother never ceased to fear deportation when they were in France. He also lived in the USA during the fight for the civil rights and through Jean Seberg, he observed closely the movement of the Black Panthers.

I like this quote because it’s true. Racism is failing to see a fellow human being in someone who looks different. It’s looking down on someone because of the colour of their skin and feeling protected by this difference to do to them what you wouldn’t do to someone you acknowledged as your equal. This is why the Valladolid debate was so crucial.

This is not the place for such debate and I’ll add that there are lighter quotes in that book. Despite Jacques Rainier’s preoccupations being far away from mine, his way of considering love and relationships talked to me in a special way. Plus I fell in love with Gary’s style and unique sense of humour.

Thanks again to Erik for taking the time to review that quote and others to come. I feel grateful and lucky to experience the best that social networks can give.

See you next week!

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