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Romain Gary Edit Profile

also known as Roman Kacew; Émile Ajar

diplomat , writer

Romain Gary was an author, French diplomat, member Lorraine Bombing Squadron of Free French, Abyssinia, Libya, Syria, who is the only author to have won the Prix Goncourt under two different names.


Gary, Romain was born on May 21, 1914 in Vilnius, Lithuania. He moved with his family to Poland in 1921 and then to Nice, France, in 1926. His mother had a strong personality and a shaping influence on his life. His father, who was deported to Germany during World War II, he called “the man who gave me his name.”


Student of University Aix-en-Province.


He was a fighter pilot during World War II, French consul in Los Angeles (1956-1960), and at the same time an author of repute. He joined Charles dc Gaulle and the Free French Forces in London and took part in many air raids until the liberation of France. He wrote his first novel, "A European Education" (1945; English translation, 1945, 1960), in London. It reflected the sorrows of war and was a great success. "Lady L" (1958) and "The Ski Bum" (1965) also appeared in English.

There he also published "Promise at Dawn" (I960; English translation, 1961) in which he describes his mother’s character and the air raids for which he received the Croix de la Libération from de Gaulle.

He was deeply shaken by a trip to Warsaw which made him sharply aware of his Jewish heritage and the problems and feelings aroused in him by the Holocaust. Following this he wrote "The Dance of Genghis Cohn"(1967; English translation, 1969), the story of a Jewish comedian whose ghost returns to haunt his Nazi killer.

In the later years of his life the autobiographical aspect of his work was more predominant than the fictional. He also wrote two books under the pen name Emil Ajar. His identity, which he had meant to keep secret, was revealed when he was awarded a second Prix Goncourt for one of them, "La vie devant soi" (1975). These two books (the other was L angoisse du roi Salomon) had deep Jewish content. Several of his works were made into successful films in which, as in his written work, humor mingles with a secret sadness. Gary committed suicide after the death of his wife.


...The Nazis stamped the yellow star on the Jewish dreamers to punish these usurers who have continuously endowed society with treasures of imagination, music, philosophy, and religion and demand in return an exorbitant interest in currency of progress, revolutions, and universal love.

Romain Gary, Europa


Member Lorraine Bombing Squadron of Free French, Abyssinia, Libya, Syria, 1940-1943.


Quotes from others about the person

  • “His mother’s constant refrain, “You will be a hero, d Annunzio, French ambassador” exasperated him, but most of her fantasies about her son were fulfilled.”


Jean Seberg - French

He himself directed his wife, Jean Seberg, in the film Les oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou (1968).