The Kites

First published in 1980, The Kites is the brilliant final novel from Romain Gary (The Life Before Us), a film director and decorated French aviator in World War II. He was also a popular, prolific author who won the Prix Goncourt in 1956 and 1975.

Ludo, the orphaned narrator and protagonist, lives with his pacifist postmaster uncle in small-town Normandy, France. His uncle is a kite artist who builds fantastical and political figures. Ludo suffers from his family's "excess of memory"; for him, the past is as vivid as the present. As a boy, Ludo meets Lila, an aristocratic Polish girl, and promptly falls in love with her for life. His rivals are her Polish cousin, a German aristocrat and an Italian peasant and pianist; Lila calls them her "four horsemen of the anti-Apocalypse." As his idyllic childhood recedes, Lila vanishes, and the Nazis invade Poland and then France, Ludo and other characters hold firm to their various fantasies and ideals. "You have to watch out for an excess of lucidity and good sense: life has lost some of the prettiest feathers in its cap to them."

Gary pulls off a delicate balancing act in this stubborn comedy of darkest Europe. His humor and optimism are counterweighted by the realities of wartime and by his assertions that inhumanity is all too human. This is a very French novel with international resonance, asserting the persistence of joy in life without letting anyone off the hook for the horrors. --Sara Catterall

Powered by: Xtenit