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Romain Gary
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    (May 21, 1914-December 2, 1980)
    Born in Vilnius, Lithuania
    Birth name was Roman Kacew
    French novelist and diplomat
    Served as secretary for the French delegation to the UN (1952-54) and French consul in Los Angeles (1958-61)
    Wrote the novels 'A European Education' (1945), 'The Company of Men' (1949), 'The Roots of Heaven' (1956), 'Lady L' (1958), 'The Ski Bum' (1965), 'White Dog' (1970), 'The Life Before Us' (1975) and 'Pseudo' (1976)
    Screenwriter for 'The Longest Day' (1962)
    Directed the films 'The Birds of Peru' (1968) and 'Kill!' (1971)
    Married to journalist Lesley Branch (1944-60) and actress Jean Seberg (1961-70)
    Committed suicide by shooting himself
    In describing his childhood, he constantly changed the details.
    He was described by one biographer as a 'sexual glutton' with a penchant for teenaged prostitutes.
    His son Diego said, 'Even when he was around, my father wasn't there. Obsessed with his work, he used to greet me, but he was elsewhere.'
    Commenting 'I was tired of being nothing but myself,' he created a new literary persona, Emile Ajar, including creating an elaborate backstory for Ajar and hiring a cousin to pose as the author at press conferences.
    Although he initially enjoyed pulling a fast one on the French literary establishment, he became jealous when 'Ajar' found greater critical success than he did.
    His suicide note bore the headline 'To the press.'
    He was fluent in Russian, Polish, Yiddish, French and English.
    He was a pilot in the Free French air force during World War II, earning the Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre.
    Jean-Paul Sartre called 'A European Education' the first great novel about WWII.
    He challenged Clint Eastwood to a duel over Jean Seberg's affections.
    He became the only two-time winner of France's top literary honor, the Prix Goncourt (which is supposed to be a one-time honor), when he won for 'The Roots of Heaven' (1956) and Emile Ajar won for 'The Life Before Us' (1975).

Credit: C. Fishel

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