Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Romain Gary, writer and diplomat, (1914-1980)

Romain Gary was in the French diplomatic service for about 20 years (1945 – 1961), he was been posted in Bulgaria, in Switzerland, briefly in Bolivia and finally was the French Consul in Los Angeles (1956-60).

He was one of France's most popular and prolific writers, authoring more than thirty novels, essays and memoirs, some of which he wrote under the pseudonym of Émile Ajar. Gary also wrote one novel under the pseudonym of Fosco Sinibaldi and another as Shatan Bogat.

Gary, who wrote his works both in French and in English, is the only person to win the Prix Goncourt twice. This prize for French language literature may only be awarded once to any given author. Romain Gary, who had already received the prize in 1956 for Les racines du ciel, published La vie devant soi under the pseudonym of Émile Ajar in 1975. The Academie Goncourt awarded the prize to the author of this book, without knowing his real identity. Gary's cousin Paul Pavlowitch posed as the author for a time. Gary later revealed the truth in his posthumous book Vie et mort d'Émile Ajar.
Many of his books have been adapted for the cinema. Clair de femme (Womanlight, 1979) directed by Costa-Gavras, with Yves Montand and Romy Schneider as main characters, and La vie devant soi (Madame Rosa, 1977) directed by Moshe Mizrahi, who won the Academy Award as best foreign language film with Simone Signoret in the role of Madame Rosa, who won the César as best actress.
He has directed several films, such as Kill! (1971) and Les Oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou, (Birds Come to Die in Peru, 1968)
Romain Gary, suffering from depression, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on December 2, 1980 in Paris, France.