Promise at Dawn
Promise at Dawn (French: La promesse de l'aube) is a 1960 autobiographical novel by the French writer Romain Gary. Two films based on the novel, and sharing the same title, have been released: one in 1970 directed by Jules Dassin and another in 2017 directed by Eric Barbier.Romain Gary tells the story of his childhood and his youth with his mother, a former Russian actress carried by a love and unconditional faith in her son. The story, full of humor and tenderness, tells the story of her tireless fight against adversity, the extravagant energy she deploys so that he knows a great destiny and the efforts of Romain, who is ready to do anything to make his life coincide "with the naive dream of the one he loves".
The first part begins with the reveries of a mature Romain, remembering how, out of love for his mother, he decided to challenge the stupidity and wickedness of the world. She then relates her childhood years in the Polish city of Wilno (now Vilnius). Romain's mother instills in him his dreams of triumph: he will be a great man, admired and adulated, a great seducer, a great artist. They will go to France, a country she has all the virtues of. During a brief period of prosperity, linked to the success of a "haute couture house" led by his mother, he enjoys an extravagant lifestyle and a myriad of teachers. His mother pushes him unsuccessfully into various artistic activities and he himself does his best to discover talent. He begins to write (or more precisely to seek pseudonyms evocative of his future glory). He reveals that he has become what his mother predicted: a recognized writer, a war hero, evoking the penniless period that followed their arrival in Wilno. His mother, to his great shame, proclaimed his ambitions to the neighbors, and was quenched in return for quips. The bankruptcy of the fashion house brings them back to hard times. They settle in Warsaw, "of passage" before returning to what they consider their "real" country, France. A humiliation at school - he did not react when his mother was called "cocotte" - decides to leave for Nice.
In the second part, the narrator refers to his adolescence in Nice: the mother of Romain, despite her energy in the face of adversity, is forced to ask for help - we imagine that she addresses the father of Romain. Romain devotes himself to writing, in order to reach the expected glory. He also makes his first experiences as a man, provoking his mother's pride. She finally finds stability by becoming a manager of the Hotel-Pension Mermonts. Existence becomes happy. However, Romain is won by the anxiety of not succeeding in time to offer his victory to his mother, when it turns out to be diabetic, which she had been hiding for two years. Sick, aged, she continues to struggle with force and to convey to her son his certainty of a bright future for him. He went to Aix, then to Paris to do a law degree, and in 1938, became an officer cadet at the air school of Salon-de-Provence. But his promotion is refused because he is naturalized too fresh, and he must invent a lie to avoid his mother too painful disappointment. When the war breaks out, he leaves as a corporal. He sees her again in 1940, on leave, and leaves her very unwell.
The third part is devoted to the war years, during which he receives from his mother innumerable letters of encouragement and exhortation to valor. Having joined the air force of Free France, he fought in Great Britain, Africa and ended the war with the rank of captain. He is made Companion of the Liberation, officer of the legion of honor. He published in 1945 European Education in England, which received a favorable response and was offered to enter diplomacy for "exceptional services". Returning to Nice at the end of the war, he discovers that his mother died three and a half years before his return, after having charged a friend to transmit to her son over 250 letters that she had written for her son.
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La promesse de l'aube
date of publication: 1960
genre: autobiographical novel