White dog (chien blanc in French)
Both a personal memoir and a French novelist’s encounter with American reality, White Dog is an unforgettable portrait of racism and hypocrisy.
Set in the tumultuous Los Angeles of 1968, Romain Gary’s story begins when a German shepherd strays into his life: “He was watching me, his head cocked to one side, with that unbearable intensity of dogs in the pound waiting for a rescuer.” A lost police canine, this “white dog” is programmed to respond violently to the sight of a black man and Gary’s attempts to deprogram it. This dog is sent to a boarding school for further treatment.
Romain Gary reveals part of his American life with actress Jean Seberg and their pets, including Batka, the German shepherd, “white dog” who dislikes black humans in this novel published in 1972. The book narrates Gary’s attempts to protect Seberg and her activism for the black community, as well as his own struggles to break free from the confines of his own identity. Throughout the novel, Gary weaves a tale of love, activism, and self-discovery, culminating in a powerful call to action for readers to confront their own prejudices and work towards a better.
The author provides reflections on the condition of oppressed people in our societies. The dog is a mirror of the human soul: one does not become racist when one is a dog, one becomes one, by training: “where there is hatred, there is no education”.