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    Romain Gary

    Jew Score:
    13

    I4

    O4

    K5
    (Roman Kacew)
    May 21, 1914 – December 2, 1980

    The Prix Goncourt is France's most prestigious literature prize. It's been given out since 1903; its winners include... you know what, we're obtuse Americans. We haven't heard of most of these. Oh, here we go, Marcel Proust, winner in 1919! That will do.

    Here's one we have heard of: Romain Gary. Born in Vilna as Roman Kacew, and got out of Russia after the revolution. He flew for France during World War II, changed his name, and became one of his adopted country's most popular writers. Gary won in 1956 for "The Roots of Heaven", a book about saving elephants that serve as an metaphor for all humanity. (We could use some of that nowadays.)

    Here's another winner we know: Emile Ajar. He won in 1975 for "The Life Before Us", about a Muslim boy who lived with a Jewish old woman. Ajar was born in Vilna as Roman Kacew, and got out of Russia after the revolution. He flew for France during World War II, changed his name, and became one of his adopted country's most popular writers.

    No, the above was not a copy-and-paste error. Gary and Ajar were the same person. The Prix Goncourt could only be awarded to a writer once, so Gary found a clever loophole. The academy that awarded the prize had no idea!

    P.S. We wrote this whole profile, failing to mention that Gary once challenged Clint Eastwood to a duel over a woman. That would be actress Jean Seberg, Gary's wife who met Eastwood on the set of... "Paint Your Wagon". (See the profile of Alan Jay Lerner, linked below.) Oh, Jew or Not Jew, you're the gift that keeps on giving!

    Verdict: Jew.

    March 30, 2020

    See Also

    Andre Gide

    Alan Jay Lerner

    Georges Perec

    Marcel Proust

    Leon Werth
    © Jew or Not Jew, 2006-2020.