A Parisian beggar is now a bestselling author after his book detailing his life as a homeless man sold nearly 50,000 copies.
In his 176-page book, Je tape la manche: Une vie dans la rue (My Life As A Panhandler: A Life on the Streets), Jean-Marie Roughol wrote about his 27 years of living in Paris’ poshest streets asking people for money.
The posh spot where he usually sits (outside a Chanel boutique on the Avenue Montaigne) gives him access to well-known French celebrities. In his daily encounters with them, he experiences the good and the bad: the former outnumbering the latter. This added material to his book where he includes anecdotes and memorable experiences with the famous people he encounters.
He started writing his life story two years ago in school books while sitting on public benches. Roughol met an unlikely friend and future editor in French interior minister Jean-Louis Debre. The two met after Roughol offered to look after his bicycle while he did some shopping.
Fast forward to today, when Roughol has become an unlikely star with some TV guestings and a growing Facebook popularity, Roughol is still seen in the same Paris streets begging for money. Despite all the high book sales the popular author is still a homeless beggar while he waits for the royalties from his book. He reveals to AFP that he still has ten months to wait before he receives his earnings. Publisher Calmann-Lévy gave him a small advance which he used to buy a smartphone so he can respond to his growing Facebook friends.
Waiting for his income has not bothered Roughol at all as the book’s fame has led him to meet helpful, kind people who would offer generosity:
“Last week I was taken to a restaurant by a man from Tennessee who bought 15 copies of my book and another person came from Switzerland with chocolate for me,” Roughol tells AFP.
The book also helped him reunite with his long-lost brother. “He saw me on the TV and didn’t know I was homeless. When you are on the streets, you are ashamed and you turn in on yourself. Now I have nieces and nephews who want to meet me — imagine! — when I have always been alone.”
While he seemed to be enjoying what he does, as he considers being homeless a profession, his success with the book has given more motivation to pursue his dream of opening a creperie. In ten months time, this may become a possibility.