Wednesdays With Romain Gary – Part Five
Life is a serious matter because of its futility. That’s what M. Cousin says in Gros Câlin. (1974). I have written two billets about this bittersweet tale of a sensitive and lonely man who lives with a python named Gros Câlin. Câlin is a word that means cuddle. The accent on the a makes the a last a bit longer. It sounds like the softness of a mother, the tenderness of a lover and it evokes warmth and happiness. Strange that a python might be named like this. It’s one of my favourite Gary and if you’re really fluent in French, it’s worth reading. It’s beautifully written and totally different from anything you’ve read before.
The first quote is about brotherhood, a theme often present in Gary’s books. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood) is France’s motto and the immigrant Roman Kacew still hiding behind Romain Gary believed in that slogan. Gary was also scarred by war and he had a strong experience of brotherhood in his combat unit. (He was in England, in an airplane squad.). It’s important to him, so I picked that quote:
|Je pense que la fraternité, c’est un état de confusion grammaticale entre je et eux, moi et lui, avec possibilités.||I think that brotherhood is a state of grammatical confusion between I and them, me and him, with possibilities. Translation kindly reviewed by Erik McDonald.|
I love the way he pictures the feeling and twists the language on his way.
The second quote is typically Gary too. Gros Câlin is about loneliness. Cousin is isolated, anonymous in a big city and Gary nails down the feeling when Cousin describes his hesitation about beds:
|Les lits m’ont toujours posé des problèmes. S’ils sont étroits, pour une seule personne, ils vous foutent dehors, en quelque sorte, ils vous coupent vos efforts d’imagination. Ca fait I, sans ambages, sans ménagement. « T’es seul mon vieux et tu sais bien que tu le resteras » Je préfère donc les lits à deux places, qui s’ouvrent sur l’avenir, mais c’est là que se présente l’autre côté du dilemme. Les dilemmes sont tous des peaux de cochons, soit dit en passant, j’en ai pas connu d’aimables. Car avec un lit pour deux chaque soir et toute la journée samedi et dimanche, on se sent encore plus seul que dans un lit pour un, qui vous donne au moins une excuse d’être seul.||Beds have always been a problem for me. If they’re narrow, single beds, they throw you out, in a way; they cut short all your efforts of imagination. It makes an I, without beating around the bush, bluntly. “You’re on your own, my friend, and you know you’ll stay that way.” I therefore prefer double beds, which are open to the future but that’s where the other side of the dilemma comes in. Dilemmas are bitches, by the way, I’ve never known a nice one. Because with a bed for two, every night and all day Saturday and Sunday, you feel lonelier than you would in a bed for one, which at least gives you an excuse for being alone. Translation kindly reviewed by Erik McDonald|
This is Gary at his finest: funny and serious, talking about a serious matter through a futile preoccupation.
Please, can a publisher contact Alexandre Diego Gary who’s in charge of his father’s work and acquire the rights to translate this wonderful novel into English? Meanwhile, for other readers, it exists in German (Monsieur Cousin und die Einsamkeit der Riesenschlangen.), in Italian (Mio caro pitone), in Spanish (Mimos) and probably in other languages too. What is the Anglophone world waiting for?
I Am a Cat by Soseki
Eddie's World by Charlie Stella
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
The Radetsky March by Joseph Roth
#TBR20 books – 2016
1) Le judaïsme n'est pas une question de sang by Romain Gary
2) Ces femmes que j'aime by Romain Gary
3) Letters to Fanny Brawne by John Keats
4) 1974 by David Peace
5) In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff
6) Three Horses by Erri de Luca
7) The Brotherhood of Mutilation by Brian Evenson
8) The Sermon of the Fall of Rome by Jérôme Ferrari
9) Apathy & Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan
10) Tango for a Torturer by Daniel Chavarria
11) Eddie's World by Charlie Stella
12) The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
13) Ce qui plaît aux dames et autres contes galants by Voltaire
My little boxes
Looking for something ?
Les copines d’abord are currently reading
The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki
Join us if you want to.
- The Boy by Marcus Malte
- What ladies like by Voltaire
- Javotte by Simon Boulerice
- Catching up with #BookshopDay
- The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
- The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay
- The Firemaker by Peter May
- Sex, jazz and literature or when Bukowski meets Baldwin
- Back to Literature, la rentrée littéraire 2016
- Sad to be back in the office after the holidays? Have a good laugh with Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan.
Manifesto: I read, therefore I am
The 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac
1) The right to not read,
2) The right to skip pages
3) The right to not finish a book,
4) The right to reread,
5) The right to read anything,
6) The right to “Bovary-ism,” a textually-transmitted disease
7) The right to read anywhere,
8) The right to sample and steal,
9) The right to read out-loud,
10) The right to be silent.
Your favorite posts
- The Learned Ladies by Molière
- Atala - René by François-René de Chateaubriand
- Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith
- The Boy by Marcus Malte
- Reading lists
- Charlus, Albertine and others: homosexuality in Sodom et Gomorrah
- The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
- Silk by Alessandro Baricco
- Reading Proust
- Charming Mass-Suicide by Arto Paasilinna
Posts I Like
If you wish to contact me :
Or Twitter: @BookAround
Can I use Book Around The Corner’s posts?
Using the texts I write is at your own risk since I have no competence of any kind in literature.
Although I'm a lousy photographer and my pictures have to monetary value, I'd appreciate that you ask permission before downloading the photos I insert in my posts.