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Cornell University

Author Romain Gary

Romain Gary’s life itself reads like a novel. Born Roman Kacew in 1914, possibly in Moscow, but probably in Kursk, a small city near the Turkish border, he was a child of prodigious imagination. His mother had been an actress who worked as a maid to support herself and her son after they had been abandoned by his father. They moved around Europe finally landing in France where he studied law, learned to fly with the French Air Force and changed his name to Romain Gary. Fleeing to England after the occupation of France by the Nazi’s, he served with the Free French and was a much decorated war hero. Following the war he joined the diplomatic service in France and in 1956 was posted to Los Angeles as Counsel General where he became part of the Hollywood milieu. At the time of his suicide in 1980 he had become one of France’s most prolific writers having published over thirty novels, essays and memoirs under four different pseudonyms. His marriages, first to Lesley Branch the British writer and then to American actress Jean Seberg brought him celebrity. He is the only person to win the Prix Goncourt twice—first in 1956 for his novel Les racines du ciel, and second in 1975 for this novel which he published under the pseudonym Émile Ajar, creating an elaborate hoax which was finally resolved in his suicide note where he stated that he was, indeed, Émile Ajar.

The Telegraph: Romain Gary: au revoir et merci.

Books and Writers: A Short Biography

Tablet. A New Read On Jewish Life
Great Pretenders, In Romain Gary’s family, invention was the necessity of mother and son

CUL Study Guide