Masterfully translated into English for the first time, The Kites weaves whimsy with raw emotion. Each sentence is so carefully crafted and evocative without being overwrought. Utterly quotable prose and a rich story.
New York Times Notable Book 2018
Romain Gary’s bittersweet final masterpiece, a novel of courage and resistance—never before in English
The Kites begins with a young boy, Ludo, coming of age on a small farm in Normandy under the care of his eccentric kite-making Uncle Ambrose. Ludo’s life changes the day he meets Lila, a girl from the aristocratic Polish family that owns the estate next door. In a single glance, Ludo falls in love forever; Lila, on the other hand, disappears back into the woods. And so begins Ludo’s adventure of longing, passion, and love for the elusive Lila, who begins to reciprocate his feelings just as Europe descends into World War II. After Germany invades Poland, Lila and her family go missing, and Ludo’s devotion to saving her from the Nazis becomes a journey to save his love, his loved ones, his country, and ultimately himself.
Filled with unforgettable characters who fling all they have into the fight to keep their hopes—and themselves—alive, The Kites is Romain Gary’s poetic call for resistance in whatever form it takes. A war hero himself, Gary embraced and fought for humanity in all its nuanced complexities, in the belief that a hero might be anyone who has the courage to love and hope.
About the Author
Romain Gary (1914–1980) was born Roman Kacew in Vilnius to a family of Lithuanian Jews. He changed his name when he fled Nazi-occupied France to fight for the British as an RAF pilot. He wrote under several pen names and is the only writer to have received the Prix Goncourt twice. A diplomat and filmmaker, Gary was married to the American actress Jean Seberg. He died in Paris in 1980 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Miranda Richmond Mouillot is a writer and translator and the author of A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France. She won a PEN/Heim Translation Award for The Kites.
Epic and empathetic.
The Kites is indeed a treasure, capable of accessing an enormous node of insight and almost-overwhelming beauty spliced with bittersweet candor. For Gary the novelist, it is not only love and fellow-feeling that unites us, but “the expression of suffering.” Perhaps it took the suffering that claimed Gary’s life for him to write as expansive a work of devout humanism as The Kites. Whatever the case, we are lucky to have it at last. We’re going to need it.
Hero of the French Resistance, diplomat, and two-time recipient of the Prix Goncourt under two different pen names, Gary examines the fates of young love, naiveté, and idealism in his final novel, set in France during World War II and being published in English for the first time...A rich and layered love story that begins in innocence and moves through hardship toward a broad humanity.
Unbelievably, two-time Prix Goncourt winner Gary’s luminous last work is only now appearing in English, but it was worth the wait... Gary uses limpid, accessible language (deftly translated) to deliver certain truths: memory can ground us or blind us; imagination, perhaps even a bit of craziness, is essential for survival; and we cannot easily be divided into heroes and villains. Smart and wonderfully life-affirming. — The Kites
Gary handles the emotional tightrope of espionage and the brutal reality of battle with clarity and precision, all captured magnificently by Mouillot’s translation...This is a wonderful translation of a French classic.
What emerges, overwhelmingly, is the sense that, in Gary’s hands, fiction itself is a form of resistance.
Just before he killed himself, Gary published his last novel — and one of his best — “The Kites,” which has never before appeared in English but has now been given a stylish translation by Miranda Richmond Mouillot.
To figure out who Gary was and how he arrived at his intricate marriage of absurdist comedy and humane instruction, you have to turn to that memoir, “Promise at Dawn,” a matchlessly entertaining and psychologically persuasive book. — Adam Gopnik
[A] hugely enjoyable read...
Romain Gary has created a gallery of heroes who are willing to die for liberty but have to settle for the lesser victory of self-knowledge.
Most delicious and extraordinary. — James Laughlin