Romain Gary (1914 - 1980)


Written by Romain Gary

White Dog, 1970

I drive through Coldwater Canyon with enough stones in my heart to build a few more cathedrals. The broad avenues between the proud, tall palm trees are deserted: only the cars are inhabited. I go around and around in circles in this motorized emptiness, then follow Wilshire Boulevard, where there are sidewalks and people. A sidewalk here is an oasis.

I end up at a friend’s house. His days are numbered, after three major operations. A well-known screenwriter, he was one of McCarthy’s “victims” during the witch-hunting days in the fifties and was kept from working for ten years, until his health was gone and a sort of mild yet unshakable sadness set in. I found him busy working at a model city he is building with all sorts of clever do-it-yourself kits. He has been putting his fucking utopia together for two years now, interrupting this crazy, dedicated work only to dash off one of his science-fiction scripts for TV. All that is left of his hope, love, and belief in man’s future goes into the building of his ideal city. “The City of Lights,” he calls it. He puts it together, then demolishes it, rebuilds it again and lovingly polishes every detail, then starts from scratch again, never satisfied, working in a shed at the bottom of the garden, beyond his pool. […] I give him a hand with his Palace of Culture with a beautiful view over the sea, but after half an hour I’ve had enough and leave him to his masturbation.

The car radio announces riots in Detroit. Two dead. Since Watts and its thirty-two dead, this country is haunted by the thought that America is a land where a record never remains unbroken. Still my belief in this people’s future remains unshaken and unshakable. Americans are notoriously bad at not solving problems, in the sense that they are incapable of living with thorns in their side. It may well be due to the absence of what can be called a “tradition of acceptance and forbearance,” so evident in European history, a mixture of absolute power of kings with catholic submission. Whatever the reason, this refusal to accept misery and suffering as part of our human fate is more striking in America than in any other nation I can think of.

 

© 1970 Romain Gary; New York: NAL

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