Home > 1970, 20th Century, French Literature, Gary, Romain, Memoirs, Wednesdays with Gary > Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part Eight

Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part Eight

Gary_LecturesThis week I’d like to share with you a quote from Promise at Dawn. It’s one of Gary’s most famous book, a memoir, an ode to his mother Nina. As Gary’s biographers will point out later, he took some liberties with the truth and rewrote certain parts of his personal history. But still. Promise at Dawn remains a beautiful book about the unconditional love of a mother for her son and an exceptional ode to France, his adoptive country.

There are dozens of wonderful quotes in Promise at Dawn. I’ve chosen one that represents Gary to me:

Je crus mourir de honte. Il va sans dire que j’avais alors beaucoup d’illusions, car si on pouvait mourir de honte, il y a longtemps que l’humanité ne serait plus là. I thought I’d die of shame. Needless to say I had a lot of naive ideas then because if one could die of shame, humanity would have disappeared a long time ago. (Translation reviewed by Erik McDonald)

In two sentences, he mentions a deep personal feeling (I thought I’d die of shame or of embarrassment since honte covers the two meanings in French), makes fun of himself and branches out on a thought about mankind. He goes from the intimate at human size to consideration about humanity with a hint of self-deprecating humour. Talented man. He has a way to put things in perspective. No need to dwell upon your little miseries, they’re nothing in the grand scheme of things and you’ll move on and feel better.

I know that some of you will read Promise at Dawn in May. I’d love to know if this quote is in the English translation/version of the book and how it’s been translated. Let me know if you come across that part.

PS: As I’m writing this, my husband is watching a program about Khrushchev’s visit to Los Angeles in 1959. He started yelling, I turned my head towards the telly, and guess who was in the audience? Romain Gary.

  1. March 5, 2014 at 6:20 am

    Beautiful quote, Emma! I can’t wait to read ‘Promise at Dawn’ in May. Spotting Romain Gary on TV – that must have been wonderful 🙂


    • March 5, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about it. I hope you won’t be disappointed.


  2. March 6, 2014 at 3:22 am

    I’m keeping mum on my May selection, but I’d like you to guess (you can let me know if you guessed correctly in May) just for fun.


    • March 6, 2014 at 7:26 am

      I have an idea and I’ll see in May if I guessed right.


      • March 8, 2014 at 7:11 pm

        Ok, if you guess correctly, I’ll have to give you a prize.


        • March 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm

          I’ll have my reward if you enjoy yourself with this book and write a glowing review.


  3. davidsimmons6
    March 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    I tried googling for a translation of this quote without success. It looks like there are “free” eBook translations out there (for example, here: http://getebook.org/?p=199219). However, I chickened out of downloading them because I don’t know it it’s ethical, legal, and/or safe.

    The quote appears in chapter 29 of the French edition, which might help if someone buys the English translation or takes it out of the library.


    • March 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      For some mysterious reason (the link perhaps?) your comment was in the spam folder.
      Thanks for locating this quote in the novel. It’s been in my notebook for years and I didn’t know where it was.


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