(1914 - 1980)
Romain Gary was born to a Jewish family on 21st May 1914 in Vilnius (then part of the Russian empire, today in Lithuania) as Roman Kacew. Romain and his mother Nina Owczynska emigrated to France in 1928 and settled in Nice. Gary went to school in Nice and then studied Law in Paris.
He was naturalised in 1935 and served in the French army during the Second World War. His diplomatic career (1945-1961) took him to Sofia, Bern, Bolivia, Los Angeles and New York (UN). His first wife was the English writer Lesley Blanch (1904-2007) and his second wife was the American actress Jean Seberg (1938-1979).
His first book, L'Éducation européenne, appeared in 1945. He also published novels under the pseudonyms Emile Ajar, Shatan Bogat and Fosco Sinibaldi. He obtained the Goncourt prize for Les racines du ciel in 1956. He was awarded a second Goncourt in 1975 for the novel La vie devant soi, written under the pseudonym Emile Ajar. Since it is impossible for the same author to receive the Goncourt twice, Paul Pavlowich (Gary's nephew, whom he used to throw the public off the scent as to his authorship) refused the prize.
Apart from French, Gary was fluent in English, Russian and Polish. He wrote Lady L, Talent Scout (Les Mangeurs d'étoiles), The Ski Bum, The Gasp (Charge d'âme), Flight Direct to Allah (Les Têtes de Stéphanie) and White Dog directly in English. He committed suicide on 8th December 1980.