Exhibition Dedicated to the French Writer Romain Gary

March 28, 2022

On March 23, an exhibition “Romain Gary: The Return to Vilnius” (French: Romain Gary: un retour à Vilnius) was opened at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

The French writer Romain Gary (born Roman Kacew) has been an important part of the multicultural history of Vilnius. The exhibition showcased the significance of Vilnius in his life, the links with Lithuania and its capital and the experiences he had here, which had been captured in his novels.

Although the young Gary lived in Vilnius with his mother for only a few years, they were significant in the future writer’s life. He grew up in a multilingual environment where Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish were spoken. Vilnius was a city of the Vilna Gaon and Stephen Batory University and a city that lived through the national liberation movement at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. All this became the soil that nourished the work of Gary, the greatest mystifier of all time. His childhood memories influenced Gary in such a way that he became a true European and remained one.

Jean René Bourrel, a specialist in Francophone literature and culture, was present at the opening of the exhibition. He was also one of the patrons of this exhibition, who kindly lent important artefacts and collectables. According to the guest, Gary will always remain a phenomenon in Vilnius.

The exhibition included some of Gary’s first publications, original editions of his most important works revealing the writer’s talent, documents and exhibits reflecting his activities and ideas as a humanist and a dedicated fighter for freedom. Special attention was drawn to Gary’s relationship with two people who, according to the writer himself, guided and essentially shaped his later life: André Malraux, France’s first Minister of Culture, and General Charles de Gaulle. The panorama of early 20th-century Vilnius was also presented in the exhibition: the buildings, the expanding street network, the socio-cultural life, and the press of the time.

With this exhibition, Gary returned to Vilnius not only as a writer but also as a fighter for a united European spirit. The event was accompanied by the news that the exhibition was featured in one of France’s most important daily newspapers, Le Figaro.