French homeless man writes bestseller

Jean-Marie Roughol's book "Je tape la manche" published by Calmann-Lévy
Jean-Marie Roughol's book "Je tape la manche" published by Calmann-Lévy DR

A homeless man who begs on top fashionable Paris avenue has become a celebrity after writing a bestselling book with the help of a former French interior minister.


Aged 47, Jean-Marie Roughol begs outside a Chanel boutique on the very fashionable avenue Montaigne in Paris, near the Champs Elysées.

In his book, Roughol tells how he met former French interior minister Jean-Louis Debré after offering to look after his bicycle while he did some shopping.

Roughol tells how their friendship was cemented when a couple who saw them chatting said “Look, it’s Debré with a hobo!”

He says he uses to see daily the high Parisian society and once the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo gave him 10 euros and France’s most famous chat show host Michel Drucker always tossed him a coin.

Roughol, who has been on the streets for 25 years, said he has to make 80 euros a day to pay for his food and board, adding “begging is a profession.”

Since the success of his book, he has written on park benches, Roughol has appeared on television, including in Drucker’s show, although he is still on the streets.

“In 10 months I will start getting my royalties, but I would prefer to have them now,” he told the AFP.

But from the small advance he has received, Roughol has bought a smartphone to keep up with his followers on Facebook.

“People write to me from everywhere and I am stopped every day by people who have read my book,” he said.

“Last week, I was taken to a restaurant by a man from Tennessee who bought 15 copies of my book, and another one came from Switzerland with chocolate for me!” he said.

Roughol said he did not spend much time at school, so Debré – now head of France’s constitutional court – helped him and corrected and proof-read his drafts.

“I hope people who have read the book could look differently at beggars,” said Roughol who thanks the book for helping him find one of his long-lost brothers.

Roughol now hopes to fulfill his life’s dream of opening a creperie, but “when I have my own apartment I will buy a computer so I can continue writing books,” he said.


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