Romain Gary (1914-1980) was born Roman Kacew in Vilnius to a family of Lithuanian Jews. He changed his name when he fled Nazi-occupied France to fight for the British as an RAF pilot. He wrote under several pen names and is the only writer to have received the Prix Goncourt twice. A diplomat and filmmaker, Gary was married to the American actress Jean Seberg. He died in Paris in 1980 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Ralph Manheim (1907-1992) was an American translator of German and French literature, as well as occasional works from Dutch, Polish and Hungarian. The PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, a major lifetime achievement award in the field of translation, is named in honor of Manheim and his work. James Laughlin (1914-1997) founded New Directions in 1936 while still a student at Harvard. He wrote and compiled more than a dozen books of poetry as well as stories and essays; seven volumes of his correspondence with his authors are available from W.W. Norton.
"Macabre but beautiful, The Life Before Us is one of the all-time greats." -- Roslyn Fuller - Metro Eireann [Dublin]