Wednesdays with Romain Gary, Part Fourteen
Les Racines du Ciel. 1956 English title: The Roots of Heaven.
Romain Gary won his first Prix Goncourt with Les Racines du ciel. It was published in 1956 and it’s the story of Morel who is in Africa to save elephants. Great challenge. This novel is an ode to wilderness and a plea to humanity to preserve natural resources. Gary advocates that preserving natural beauty is a way for humanity to prove its superiority to its basic instincts. Elephants are at stake, but there’s more to the story than preserving elephants and stopping illegal hunting. Morel is an idealist, a type of character Gary liked to explore. I picked a quote that sums up Morel’s fight and vision of nature:
|Est-ce que nous ne sommes plus capables de respecter la nature, la liberté vivante, sans aucun rendement, sans utilité, sans autre objet que de se laisser entrevoir de temps en temps ?||Are we no longer able to respect nature— freedom in living form —, which offers no yield, no usefulness, which has no other aim than to let itself be observed from time to time? Translation more than reviewed by Erik McDonald.|
I had a lot of trouble translating this; the French sentence with all the commas isn’t easy to put together in English. Many thanks to Erik for his help. That quote asks the ultimate question: are we still able to admire and respect beauty for free. Where is our civilisation going if we can’t value beauty for itself not for what it brings us?
Les Racines du Ciel was written nearly sixty years ago and I can’t help wondering what Morel would do about global warming. The preservation of elephants is the cause Morel fights for. Gary takes advantages of his character’s presence in Africa, in the soon-to-be former French colonies to discuss decolonisation and more importantly, its aftermath. He always has a sharp analysis of the world he lives in. These regions will be free from the French in the early 1960s and Gary already sees the dictatorships coming. I admire Gary for his capacity to decode the world around him. He’s sharp about politics but he also feels the trends in society in France or abroad. White Dog, Lady L, The Ski Bum, Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid…a lot of his books have that side analysis seep through the pages.
In my opinion, The Roots of Heaven is an excellent book but perhaps not the one I’d choose for a first Gary. It’s been made into a film which I haven’t seen.
PS: The celebration of Gary’s centenary continues in France and you’ll find useful links here, in Delphine’s post. I really want that version of Promise at Dawn illustrated by Joan Sfar. It weighs two kilos so it’s not very handy but I’m really curious about it.
La part du mort by Yasmina Khadra
De loin on voit la mer by Philippe Besson
Teen Spirit by Virginie Despentes
B Is For Beer by Tom Robbins
Joe by Larry Brown
My little boxes
Looking for something ?
Les copines d’abord are currently reading
March: De là on voit la mer by Philippe Besson
April : Fathers and Sons by Turgeniev
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
- Friday Fun: Bookshops in Lyon
- The Learned Ladies by Molière
- La Locandiera by Carlo Goldoni
- The Best British Short Stories 2011. Part I
- Charming Mass-Suicide by Arto Paasilinna
- The Boy in the Last Row, by Juan Mayorga
- Mafalda and me
- Guest post: Leroy reviews Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist
- The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
- The guy next grave
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.