Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part two

January 22, 2014 Leave a comment Go to 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the first Gary book I’ve read, Au-delà de cette limite votre ticket n’est plus valable, or in English, Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid.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 YOUR TICKET IS NO LONGER VALID is a novel of sexual and financial decline, of the endgame between necessity and desire; but, more profoundly it is an examination of the nature of love which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!

  1. January 23, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    It seems to me, and remember that I’ve yet to read a book by this author, that he has quite a range. Funny isn’t it, how some authors write on familiar themes and others seem to tackle more subjects. Am I right about Gary?


    • January 23, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      I’m not sure I got you.
      Do you mean to ask if he tackles with a lot of different themes? Yes and no. There are recurring themes in his work. What I find fascinating in Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid is how he managed to weave a love story and a thoughtful analysis of the 1973 economic crisis. And thoughts about ageing. So may be shocked by how he gets to the point.
      Plus it’s a coup to cover up his trail: he was reinventing himself with Emile Ajar and how could you link that “young” writer to this older one who complains about ageing and seemingly put something of himself in Jacques Rainier? It worked. Literary critics were fooled and Life Before Us was awarded the Prix Goncourt.


  2. January 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    That’s very true about racism. People tend to associate it with things people say, using certain words, but that’s just a manifestation. The underlying cause is just what Gary describes. They don’t count. We can say these things, do these things, and it doesn’t matter. We don’t have to be ashamed. We’re still good people. Very interesting way of looking at the subject. Thanks for posting it.


    • January 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      I like this quote a lot because I think it’s the core of the problem.
      He’s very good to point out things and sum up complex concepts in a few sentences.
      I also like that one “Le patriotisme, c’est l’amour des siens. Le nationalisme, c’est ms haine des autres” A fee words and the blurry line between the two words becomes clear.


  3. February 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Beautiful quote, Emma! Very thought provoking. I also found the theme of the book quite interesting the I liked the title too. Looking forward to reading your next Romain Gary quote. I have not been online much these past few weeks and so I am catching up on all your posts that I missed, now.


    • February 5, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      He wrote that book when the economic crisis of 1973 started. His insight is incredible. He has a capacity to analyse events on the spot, that I find fascinating. (you find that again in White Dog)


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