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Romain Gary captures my fascination for America in one sentence

I’m reading White Dog in English for Romain Gary Literature Month in May and on the second page, here’s a quote that sums up

That day, a rainstorm hit Los Angeles with the kind of larger-than-life fury you soon come to expect in America, where everything tends to be more dramatic and violent than elsewhere, with both nature and man trying to outdo each other at the art of showmanship.

I’ve been to America several times now and every time the size of everything hits me. Everything seems huge from buildings, to cars, roads, portions in restaurants. And renaming French fries into Freedom fries is a perfect illustration of the dramatic side of the country, one that leaves me dumbfounded.

Incidentally, the equivalent of that sentence in the French version of the book is:

Ce jour-là, une averse démesurée comme le sont la plupart des phénomènes naturels en Amérique lorsqu’ils s’y mettent, s’était abattue sur Los Angeles.

The second part of the English sentence is absent from the French one. I knew there was a good reason to read White Dog in English. I suspect it’s going to be a slow read if I’m tempted to check the French version of every quote.

PS: Here’s Delphine’s billet about Promise at Dawn illustrated by Joann Sfar. She included pictures of Gary and the corresponding drawings by Sfar.

  1. April 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I know what you mean, and that, btw, is a great quote.
    Speaking of America, I had a good laugh when I saw this: a new American reality show that isn’t reality in a sense: the genre is subverted



    • April 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      Good to know you liked the quote, it’s from your humbook. 🙂 I love how he manages to pack a lot of things and ideas in one single sentence.


  2. April 26, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Beautiful quote, Emma. Loved it! Gary’s comment on nature and man trying to outdo each other in the art of showmanship made me smile 🙂

    Thanks for the link to Delphine’s billet on the new edition of Gary’s ‘Promise at Dawn’. I loved the pictures she has posted – the sketches from the book and the actual photographs next to each other. That book is really a collector’s item. I loved the last sentence from her review – “J’ai relu ce texte magnifique avec beaucoup d’émotion, avec parfois l’impression d’avoir Gary tout à côté de moi.” – so beautiful!


    • May 1, 2014 at 1:56 am

      This book is full of great quotes.
      The illustrated version of Promise at Dawn seems amazing. I’m looking forward to having my own copy.


  3. April 26, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I had no idea Romain Gary wrote White Dog. I saw Sam Fuller’s film version of it years ago and it has always stayed with me. I guess it seems odd that a Frenchman should have written something that seemed such a quintessentially American film about America; but I suppose, from my small reading of Gary, he does seem to be interested in communities outside the main community.


    • May 1, 2014 at 2:00 am

      White Dog is available in English, it’s one of the few Garys that aren’t OOP in English.
      Somewhere in the book he is told that he can’t understand the problem since he’s a foreigner. He says he never feels like an outsider, whatever the country and that it’s even truer for America.
      I’d be interested to read your thoughts about that book.


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