Wednesdays with Romain Gary – Part Twelve

Les oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou. 1962 English title: Birds in Peru.

Les oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou is a collection of short stories and a film directed by Gary himself, starring Jean Seberg. The film is notoriously bad, so don’t bother. I picked this quote from the first short story of the collection:

Il faut espérer que l’âme n’existe pas : la seule façon pour elle de ne pas se laisser prendre. Les savants en calculeront bientôt la masse exacte, la consistance, la vitesse ascensionnelle… Quand on pense à tous les milliards d’âmes envolées depuis le début de l’Histoire, il y a de quoi pleurer. Une prodigieuse énergie gaspillée : en bâtissant des barrages au moment de leur ascension, on aurait eu de quoi éclairer la terre entière. L’homme sera bientôt entièrement utilisable. On lui a déjà pris ses plus beaux rêves pour en faire des guerres et des prisons.

Let’s hope that the soul doesn’t exist, it’s the only way for it not to get caught. Scientists will soon compute its exact mass, its consistency, its rate of climb… When you think about the billions of souls that have ascended since the beginning of times, you have good reason to weep. Such a tremendous amount of energy wasted: if we had built dams at the moment of their ascent, we would have had enough energy to light up the entire planet. Humanity will soon be entirely usable. Their best dreams have already been taken away from them to start wars and build prisons.

Translation reviewed by Erik McDonald.

Gary_LecturesFor me, this quote shows two of Gary’s obsessions. The first one is that everyone should keep their part of mystery. It’s not necessary to know everything, to explain everything with science or rationally. We live better if there’s room for dreams and imagination in our lives. Love isn’t that magical if you think of it in terms of hormones.

The second idea is that humans can’t be disposable goods. He rejects the trend considering that anything is marketable. Not everything is marketable. Humans are not. Wilderness should be protected and also everything related to art. Not every human activity should be evaluated according to its return on investment or its usefulness. I wonder what he’d think of surrogate mothers, fights to exclude films and books from international trade agreements and in general of how money has become the unique compass to assess someone or something’s worth.

  1. April 2, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Nice quote, Emma. Enjoyed reading your commentary on the quote too. It is sad that things are monetized the way they are today – looking at monetary worth or usefulness as the main way of judging a thing’s value – but it is also nice that people are fighting against this trend in their own corners. It is interesting that the story was made into a movie directed by Gary himself and it didn’t come out as well as expected. I sometimes find that brilliant novelists want to make movies and direct it themselves and then they discover that things are not as easy as they thought it would be. The reverse also happens – famous directors or actors / actresses try to write a book or write a song and put it to music, because they think it is the easiest thing to do, but when the work is done, what has come out is not that good.


    • April 2, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      Monetise, that’s the word I was looking for yesterday night. What’s brilliant is that he wrote it early in the 1960s. You’ll find that regularly in his work: he’s sharp. He’s got a good understanding of the world he lives in a d can grab the deep trends.
      Not easy to switch from one art to another. He wasn’t good at directing films, or so I’ve heard.


  2. Bella
    April 2, 2014 at 11:47 am

    The whole idea of evaluating and measuring the worth of things and sadly, people in terms of is so very bad. It’s capitalism at it’s worst.


    • April 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Well, I think it’s inherent to humanity. Capitalism is just very obvious in its doing so. It’s our role to refuse to get too much caught up with it. It starts with not giving money to children to do chores at home. They’re part of a family, of a community and some things must be given for free.


  3. April 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    What’s the title of the film? Just curious.


    • April 4, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Birds in Peru, I think.


  4. May 5, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I totally agree with you that we do have a choice. And yes seriously, I fail to understand the concept of giving money to children for lending a hand in the house. I get it when they get paid when they work the summer at their uncle’s barn or whatever but daily chores…No way.


    • May 5, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      True, otherwise you just teach them that everything deserves a payback.


  1. No trackbacks yet.

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Literary Potpourri

A blog on books and other things literary

Adventures in reading, running and working from home

Liz Dexter muses on freelancing, reading, and running ...

Book Jotter

Reviews, news, features and all things books for passionate readers

A Simpler Way

A Simpler Way to Finance

Buried In Print

Cover myself with words

Bookish Beck

Read to live and live to read

Grab the Lapels

Widening the Margins Since 2013

Gallimaufry Book Studio

“To leave the reader free to decide what your work means, that’s the real art; it makes the work inexhaustible.” -- Ursula K. Le Guin

Aux magiciens ès Lettres

Pour tout savoir des petits et grands secrets de la littérature


Adventures in reading

The Pine-Scented Chronicles

Learn. Live. Love.

Contains Multitudes

A reading journal

Thoughts on Papyrus

Exploration of Literature, Cultures & Knowledge

His Futile Preoccupations .....

On a Swiftly Tilting Planet

Sylvie's World is a Library

Reading all you can is a way of life

JacquiWine's Journal

Mostly books, with a little wine writing on the side

An IC Engineer

Just another weblog

Pechorin's Journal

A literary blog

Somali Bookaholic

Discovering myself and the world through reading and writing

Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

Supporting and promoting books by Australian women

Lizzy's Literary Life (Volume One)

Celebrating the pleasures of a 21st century bookworm

The Australian Legend

Australian Literature. The Independent Woman. The Lone Hand

Messenger's Booker (and more)

Australian poetry interviews, fiction I'm reading right now, with a dash of experimental writing thrown in

A Bag Full Of Stories

A Blog about Books and All Their Friends

By Hook Or By Book

Book Reviews, News, and Other Stuff

madame bibi lophile recommends

Reading: it's personal

The Untranslated

A blog about literature not yet available in English

Intermittencies of the Mind

Tales of Toxic Masculinity

Reading Matters

Book reviews of mainly modern & contemporary fiction


words, images and musings on life, literature and creative self expression


Book reviews by someone who loves books ...

Dolce Bellezza

~for the love of literature

Cleopatra Loves Books

One reader's view

light up my mind

Diffuser * Partager * Remettre en cause * Progresser * Grandir

South of Paris books

Reviews of books read in French,English or even German

1streading's Blog

Just another weblog

Tredynas Days

A Literary Blog by Simon Lavery

Ripple Effects

Serenity is golden... But sometimes a few ripples are needed as proof of life.

Ms. Wordopolis Reads

Eclectic reader fond of crime novels

Time's Flow Stemmed

Wild reading . . .

A Little Blog of Books

Book reviews and other literary-related musings

Lectures épicuriennes

Tony's Reading List

Too lazy to be a writer - Too egotistical to be quiet

Whispering Gums

Books, reading and more ... with an Australian focus ... written on Ngunnawal Country


Thinking, writing, thinking about writing...

%d bloggers like this: