Romain Gary Literature Month: wrap-up

I wanted to publish this a little bit earlier but work got in the way. May is over now and so is Romain Gary Literature Month. It’s time to wrap things up and give you the list of the Romain Gary billets I’m aware of. If there are some more, please let me know.

Gary_CentenaireCaroline published a billet about a collection of short stories and unfortunately, she wasn’t thrilled by them. Gary is better with novels; it seems to me his prose blooms better in longer works. Passage à l’Est re-read Education Européenne and the novel was up to her memories. It’s a good one to read. Gary wrote it while he was roasting in Africa and it’s set in the cold and snowy winter of a Poland at war. Guy wasn’t enthralled by Your Ticket is No Longer Valid. It is not one I’d recommend for a Gary beginner unless you’re also a Philip Roth fan. I hope Guy will still want to try another one. Vishy loved Promise at Dawn and he’s willing to read The Roots of Heaven and White Dog. Déborah read Le Vin des morts. This is an early novel that had never been published. It’s been released for Gary’s centenary and now I need to read it too. I’m curious about it and Gary fans seem to like it. James Henderson re-read The Roots of Heaven and wrote an excellent review of Gary’s first Goncourt. And I read White Dog, the English version of Chien Blanc. My billet is here; it’s really excellent and I highly recommend it. (the book, not the billet)

Thanks to all of you for participating, reading or re-reading my favourite author. I will add links to you blogposts on my new page Reading Romain Gary. For late bloomers or late participants, let me know if you write something about him and I’ll add it to the page.

Meanwhile in France, his centenary was well celebrated. The great news besides Le Vin des morts is that Romain Gary’s work will be published in the edition La Pléiade. For non-French readers, La Pléiade is a luxurious edition of literature. It’s an honour for a writer to have his books in this collection. It is named after the famous group of French Renaissance poets. Gary would be proud to be edited in this collection, I think. For book publishing, it’s like royalty. Gary’s publisher Gallimard edited special bookmarks for the occasion and I’m glad my favourite independent bookstore gave me a set. Finally, bookstores celebrated the event, like here in Divonne-les-Bains:


If you want to know more about Gary’s celebration in France, have a look at Delphine’s blog Romain Gary & moi.

I hope other readers will discover him, just like one of my friends recently did. She’s on her way to read them all.

  1. davidsimmons6
    June 4, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Help! I seem to have misunderstood the plan. I finished Gros-Câlin in May and tried to reach you by email about how I should post my review. I’m still not clear on what I should do.


  2. June 4, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Nice post, Emma. Thanks for all the links. I missed some of the reviews of the participants and I would love to read them. It is so wonderful to know that Gary’s books have been published in the Pléiade edition now.

    Thanks for hosting Romain Gary month. I enjoyed participating and reading my first Gary book. I look forward to reading more in the future.


    • June 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks for participating, Vishy. Let me know when you get the Petits Beurres.


  3. June 5, 2014 at 3:07 am

    I have two other Gary novels on the shelf so there will be more of his novels in the future. The good thing about reading Your Ticket is No Longer valid first is that I’ll probably enjoy the next novel more.


    • June 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Which one do you have besides White Dog?


      • June 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm

        I take it back. I have three others here: Lady L, White Dog and the Life Before Us.


        • June 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm

          I’m sure you’ll like Lady L and White Dog. I’m curious to read your response to the child narrator in Life Before Us.


  4. June 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I’ve not given up on this Emma! I am however still reading, very slowly, the same not very long novel I started reading back in May. It’s been a lousy start to the year for me readingwise.

    Still, I have a Romain Gary and I am aiming to read it before too long. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do so in May though as I’d planned.


    • June 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Don’t I know what it is! I’ve been reading No Beast So Fierce and Manhattan Transfer for ages.
      I hope you’ll have a good time with Promise at Dawn when you get to it. (I’ve yet to hear about a reader who didn’t like this one)


  5. June 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Oh, what are your thoughts on Madame Rosa, also titled The Life Before US, by the way?


    • June 5, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      The French title is La vie devant soi, Life Before Us. It’s Gary’s second Goncourt prize. It’s not my favourite because of the child narrator but it’s excellent. I had a friend in school who didn’t like to read at all. He liked this Gary when he studied it in school. It’s very well-written with a unique style and the story is poignant, mixed with an incredible sense of humour.


  6. June 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    I will read Les racines du ciel later this year. I’m glad you wrote about it. I’m pretty sure I’ll like it.


    • June 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Wonderful. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about it. There’s plenty to write about.


  7. davidsimmons6
    June 10, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Gros-Câlin is weird, but I enjoyed it. For one thing, it supports my preference for the Émile Ajar works over those of Romain Gary. The best feature is the way he uses humor in exploring serious subjects. For example, living with Big Hug, a huge python, highlights how a lonely man (akin to Albert Camus’ Meursault and George Baker’s Sad Sack) leads an isolated and isolating existence. Should you choose to read the book, be aware that the first edition decimates Ajar’s final chapter, weakening the message dramatically, so be sure to track down the later edition that appends the full original chapter.


    • June 12, 2014 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks for participating David.

      Gros Câlin is one of my favourite Gary. (there are two billets about it on the blog)

      Cousin is a nice character, eccentric for sure but so human. My heart went out to this very lonely man. I also think Gros Câlin is extremely funny, even if it’s sad. Gary created comic scened with the python: when Cousin feels guilty about the mice he’s supposed to feed the python with or the time Gros Câlin went down the toilet pipe.


      • davidsimmons6
        June 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

        I agree with everything you say, Emma. Blondine, the mouse, came close to deserving recognition in the title. The interrogation scene after Gros Cålin emerged from the toilet and acted up was hilarious, too. The way Cousin misinterpreted everything about Mlle Dreyfus was at once comical and pathetic. Were you lucky enough to get to read the Ajar’s full final chapter?


        • June 12, 2014 at 10:49 pm

          You’re right about the interactions between Cousin and Mlle Dreyfus. It’s sad but comical. Cousin is clueless and you can’t help feeling sorry for him.


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