Gary, Romain

Gary, Romain rōmăNˈ gĕrēˈ [key], 1914–80, French novelist, b. Vilna (now Vilnius), of Russian parentage, as Romain Kacew. In France after 1928, he fought in World War II and later entered the diplomatic service. While he explores many subjects in his many novels and is a fine and often ironically humorous storyteller, Gary is above all a moralist, dealing with the struggles to distinguish between good and evil. He won acclaim for L'Éducation européenne (1945, tr. European Education, 1960), concerning the pain of war. Les Racines du ciel (1956, tr. The Roots of Heaven, 1958, film 1958) reflects his passion for wildlife conservation. His other works include The Talent Scout (in English, 1960; pub. in French as Les Mangeurs d'étoiles, 1961), the autobiographical La Promesse de l'aube (1960, tr. Promise at Dawn, 1961, 2017), Chien blanc (1970, tr. White Dog, 1972, film 1982), and Les Cerfs-volants (1980, tr. The Kites, 2017), his last novel. La vie devant soi (1975, tr. The Life before Us, 1986), written (as were three other books) under the pseudonym Émile Ajar, was a huge critical and popular success, garnering, as did Les Racines du ciel, the prestigious Prix Goncourt. Gary also wrote several screenplays, notably part of The Longest Day (1962). A year after the suicide of his actress wife, Jean Seberg, he himself committed suicide.

See his biography by D. Bellos (2010); study by R. Schoolcraft (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: French Literature: Biographies