"The Kites"


Romain Gary

For Ludo, the narrator, the one true love of his life begins in the forests of his native Normandy in 1930, when at the age of 10, he meets a young aristocratic Polish girl, Lila Bronicka, holidaying in the region with her parents. Following the death of his immediate family, the young boy is brought up by his uncle Ambroise Fleury, known as the "potty postman" on account of his marvellous world-renowned kites. Gifted with the extraordinary family "historical" memory and faithful to the values of the compulsory public education, the young Norman never forgets Lila. He strives to make himself worthy, studying, and suffering jealousy on account of the fine young German, Hans von Schwede, and becomes assistant to Count Bronicka before the departure of the family for Poland. He rejoins them there in June 1939, just before the Second World War explodes upon Europe, an event which forces him to return to France.

The separation then begins for the young lovers. In all his tests, in defending his country and human values, and in regaining his love, Ludo is always sustained by the image of the great kites, their with their symbol of audacity, poetry and liberty written across the skies.

As a kite flier, at the time taking French lessons, when I saw "Les Cerfs-volants" ("The Kites") by Romain Gary (ISBN 2-07-037467-X Edition Gallimard 1980) on the library shelves, I just had to try it. This was the first full length novel I read in French, and I was so taken with it that I wanted to share it with other kite enthusiasts, and anyone else who enjoys a good read. Here are a few sample chapters that I have translated.

Chapter 1 contains a captivating portrait of Ambroise Fleury, a fictitious old French kite maker.

Chapter 3 in which Ludo meets the love of his life.

Chapter 30 introduces a proud French chef who displeases the Resistance.

Chapter 38 The kite maker's reaction to news of the deportation of Jewish children. The best chapter yet!

Chapter 43 A little hope in a place of utter despair. For a while...

In due course I might translate one or two further extracts, but less than 10% of the book (for copyright reasons quite apart from limitations of time). The book is not hard to read in the original - if you have a working knowledge of French, it will repay the effort of reading.

The resumé above and the biographical notes below are translated from the rear cover and the flyleaf.

If you wish to be notified by email when further extracts appear, send a blank email here .

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Born in Russia in 1914, Romain Gary moved to France at the age of fourteen. He completed his secondary education at Nice, read law at Paris, and in 1938 he joined the air corps, becoming shooting instructor at Salon Flying School. In June 1940, he rejoined Free France and from 1940 to 1944, as captain of the Lorraine Squadron, he took part in the Battle of Britain and in the campaigns in Africa, Abysinia, Libya, and Normandy. He was made Commander of the Legion of Honour and Companion of the Liberation. In 1945, he entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Secretary and Advisor at the embassies in Sofia, Bern and then at the Direction d'Europe at the Quai d'Orsay. Spokesman at the UN from 1952 to 1956, he was then made Chargé d'Affaires in Bolivia and Consul General in Los Angeles. He left his diplomatic career in 1961 and for ten years he traveled the world for American journals. As screen-writer and producer, he shot two films, Les Oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou (1968) and Kill (1972). He was married to the comedienne Jean Seberg from 1962 to 1970.

From his adolescence, literature always took pride of place in Romain Gary's life. Between two missions during the war he wrote Éducation européene which was translated into twenty seven languages and won the Prix des Critiques in 1945. Les racines du ciel received the Prix Goncourt in 1956. Gary's work comprises some thirty novels, essays and recollections.

Romain Gary died on December 2nd 1980. Several months later it was revealed that he was also the author of the four novels published under the pen-name of Émile Ajar.

Copyright Notice: The original French is marked © Edition Gallimard , 1980. Two separate attempts to contact them for permission to publish this translation have failed to elicit a response. They are invited to if they wish to discuss copyright. Avis de copyright: L'original, en français, porte la marque © Edition Gallimard , 1980. Deux fois, j'ai essayé de me mettre en contact avec eux pour obtenir l'autorisation de publier cette traduction, sans aucune réponse. S'ils veulent discuter la question de copyright, je les invite à .

A correspondent at Princeton University has informed me that Gary retained the English language rights to all his books for himself, and that these rights are now owned by his son Diego Gary. I understand that Hebrew and Russian translations exists, but no other or more complete English version.