Home > French Literature, Gary, Romain, Made into a film, Wednesdays with Gary > Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part Four

Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part Four

February 5, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments


Gary_LecturesWednesdays With Romain Gary is back! This week I want to share with you a quote from Lady L. which was first written in English before a French version was made. It was published in 1963. Gary’s first wife was the British writer Lesley Blanch (Lady L., like Lesley?). 1963 is the year he divorced Lesley to marry Jean Seberg. I read Lady L. a long time ago and what I remember most about it was an incredible style and a furious sense of humour. It is is told from the point of view of the said Lady L. who is now quite old and sees life through a curious and rebellious lense. I loved that character, probably because of her nonconformist mind. She doesn’t like weaknesses, see what she thinks of tears:

Les larmes sont des filles faciles et soixante ans d’ironie, d’humour glacé et d’Angleterre n’avaient pas encore appris à ces trotteuses indécentes un peu de retenue. Tears are loose women and sixty years of irony, ice-cold humour and England had not yet taught these indecent wanderers the least bit of restraint. (translation reviewed by Erik McDonald)

 I have a copy from 1963 and the blurb is actually a word by Gary himself about the book.

J’ai toujours été fasciné par un certain côté terroriste de l’humour anglais, cette arme blanche froide qui rate rarement son but. On rencontre souvent dans l’aristocratie britannique une sorte de tolérance universelle non dépourvue d’arrogance et que seuls peuvent se permettre des gens que rien ne saurait menacer. Dans Lady L., je me suis efforcé d’explorer ce thème et de faire en même temps le portrait d’une très grande dame qui a bien voulu me faire quelques confidences. Je me suis permis également de me peindre moi-même sous les traits de son compagnon et souffre-douleur, le Poète-Lauréat, Sir Percy Rodiner. Et comme les idéalistes m’ont toujours paru être, au fond, des aristocrates ayant une très haute et noble conception de l’humanité, cette autre très grande dame, l’histoire d’Armand Denis et de son extraordinaire amour ne pouvait manquer de m’intéresser. J’ai essayé de la raconter en respectant dans toute la mesure du possible la vérité historique. A ceux qui seraient un peu choqués par la façon dont finit mon récit, je dirai d’abord que je n’ai rien inventé et ensuite que le terrorisme passionnel a toujours été jugé chez nous avec indulgence. Humanité, humanité, que de crimes on commet en ton nom ! I’ve always been fascinated by a certain terrorist side of the British sense of humour. It’s a cold knife that rarely misses its target. One often meets among the British aristocracy a sort of universal tolerance not lacking of arrogance and that can only afford people to whom nothing can happen. I tried to explore this topic in Lady L. I also wanted to portray a great lady who confided in me. I also indulged in portraying myself under the traits of her partner and scape-goat, the Laureate-Poet Sir Percy Rodiner. Since I’ve always thought that idealists are aristocrats who have a very high and noble opinion of mankind, this other great lady, the story of Armand Denis and his extraordinary love couldn’t fail to interest me. I tried to tell this story and respect the historical truth as much as possible. To those who might be shocked by the ending, I’ll say that I didn’t invent anything and that love terrorism has always been judged with indulgence here. Humanity, humanity, how many crimes are committed in your name! (My clumsy translation)

Just typing and translating this makes me want to read the book. Used copies are available in English and it was been made into a film directed by Peter Ustinovn, starring Sophia Loren and Paul Newman. I haven’t seen it. Perhaps the second semester of 2014 should be dedicated to Gary’s books made into a film. What do you think?


  1. February 5, 2014 at 4:07 am

    I haven’t seen this film either, but I’ve always intended to. Yes a series on the films would be great.


    • February 5, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      Is there an American film you’ve never heard of? (except silly teen movies) 🙂
      I’m not sure I’ll manage to put my hands on the films.
      As far as I know, there’s a film version of :
      – White Dog (by Samuel Fuller)
      – The Roots of Heaven (by John Huston)
      – Life Before Us (by Moshé Mizrahi)
      – Clair de femme, (by Costa-Gavras)
      – Lady L (by Peter Ustinov)
      – The Ski Bum (by Bruce D Clark)
      – Gros Câlin (by JP Rawson)
      – Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid (by Georges Kaczender)
      – Les Cerfs-volants (by Pierre Badel)

      I’ll think about it. There might be things available on You Tube
      – The Impostors (Frédéric Blum)
      – Les Oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou (Romain Gary)
      – Promise at Dawn (Jules Dassin)


  2. February 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Nice quote, Emma! I also loved Gary’s thoughts on his book. Especially about the terrorist side of British humour and love terrorism. Nice to know that ‘Lady L’ has been made into a movie with Sophia Loren and Paul Newman. Would love to watch that.


    • February 5, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      I’ve started to re-read Lady L. It’s excellent, I love the character Lady L, her way of thinking.


  3. davidsimmons6
    February 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    A wonderful series.
    A few simple questions.
    Did Gary do his own translations into French for the two English books you have cited so far?
    How many books did he write in English?
    Since he was bilingual, did he translate his French works into English?
    Can you resist comparing your translations to his original English?
    Given your extensive knowledge of the man, have you considered writing about on him?
    Thanks so much!


    • February 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks David, I’m glad you enjoy our Wednesdays with Gary.

      Now, your questions.
      According to the bio by Anissimov, Gary wrote the following books directly in English:
      – Lady L
      – Talent Scout
      – The Ski Bum
      – The Gasp (Charge d’âme)
      – Flight Direct to Allah (Les têtes de Stéphanie)
      – White Dog.

      He translated himself:
      – Promise at Dawn
      – The Guilty Head

      He reviewed the translations of:
      – The Roots of Heaven,
      – A European Education
      – The Dance of Gengis Cohn
      – Europa

      I don’t think he was bilingual French-English. He was probably quadrilingual(?) Russian-Polish-Yiddish-French. Funnily, he never wrote anything in Russian.
      I don’t have his original English books, otherwise I wouldn’t translate the quotes back. I only have The Ski Bum and White Dog. And the quote from Adieu Gary Cooper, the French equivalent to The Ski Bum, is not in the Ski Bum. I have the book, but I had to translate anyway!

      I’ve never considered writing about him, at least nothing else than gooey-ectatic blog entries. I wouldn’t have the talent to do it. Good for me because I don’t have time anyway. 🙂


  4. Kat
    February 6, 2014 at 4:35 am

    You have a fascinating blog here, and I love your translations. Tears and loose women? Odd but interesteing. I also adore Jean Seberg: there was a film festival devoted to her a few years ago in her hometown, which of course spurned her during her actress days. Anyway I’ve gone off the subject but will have to read some Gary.


    • February 6, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Thanks Kat and welcome to Book Around The Corner.
      Erik and I discussed the translation of “filles faciles” and he suggested loose women. I think it’s appropriate because of Lady L. herself (now you have to read the book to understand why) and because I like “loose” next to the word “tears” as tears might run loose on one’s cheeks.


  5. February 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I would have translated “fast girls” not “loose women”.


    • February 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      Erik suggested “easy girls” too. I prefer “loose women”, Lady L is eighty. I have trouble using “girls” in that sentence.
      I’ve never heard “fast girls”, I just learnt something.


      • February 8, 2014 at 9:34 am

        Fast was used a lot in the past (it’s even used in The House of Mirth, which I’m reading at the moment), bt it’s still used today.


  1. March 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm

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