After being homeless for nearly three decades, Jean-Marie Roughol’s life is about to change for the better. The 47-year-old’s memoirs about begging on the streets of Paris has become a national bestseller this holiday season, selling nearly 50,000 copies and earning him cult status.
The 176-page book, titled Je tape la manche: Une vie dans la rue (My Life as a Panhandler: A Life on the Streets), tells Roughol’s story from his rough childhood to winding up on the streets of Paris. He recalls how he was abandoned by his mother and brought up by an alcoholic father, ending up on the streets in his early twenties after losing his job as a waiter.
Roughol started writing the book two years ago, sitting on park benches, making notes in school exercise books. He got help with writing and editing from a long-time friend, former French Minister of Interion, Jean-Louis Debré. The two met many years ago when Roughol offered to look after Debre’s bicycle as he shopped on the Champs-Élysées, a sweet tale that is also included in the book. He compares meeting Debré to winning the lottery.