It took me a while to get through Breadline, written by Alain Dizerens, mostly because it is so descriptively rich that it was like eating a double chocolate fudge cake with dark chocolate icing: you can only digest a little at a time.
This is an autobiographical novel of a man trying to experience, and find his place in, the world – while trying to support himself. He is a self-proclaimed “adventurer of dreams” and his first adventure is in Vietnam during the war there. He experiences the conflict first hand, never expecting to see the next day’s dawn, until he decides he’s had enough and returns home.
He wallows in the comfort of western civilization for a few weeks, before the feeling of well-being wears off. There follows a series of experiences that leave him discouraged: a distributor of laundry powder samples to housewives, never being able to fulfill his quota; an assembler of tiny components in a sewing machine factory; a hunting guide who’s never fired a gun in Cameroon; part-time custodian at a Picasso exhibit; a night watchman who’s afraid of the dark; a volunteer in a kibbutz after the Yom Kippur War, where he works in a brush factory while reading the Torah at night – all of these jobs are described with great wit and not a little humor.
His descriptions of being a custodian at the Picasso exhibit resonated profoundly with me; as a tour guide I experienced many of the appalling and curious tourist behaviors he did, but was never as sanguine. I certainly couldn’t describe them with as much fun.
His descriptive paragraphs are vivid, if composed of one long run-on sentence:
“On miniature stuffed wicker stools in front of small bistros with a single, nanked light bulb and walls painted in absinthe green of Sahara blue, unshaven men in the black and white checkered keffiyeh drink coffee in tiny dirty glasses while others, wearing turbans and wrapped in old coasts, string their sup’ah absently to the sounds of lamenting Arabic music.”
Home again in Europe, he takes a dream job (good pay, nights off, and the use of his creative skills) in a professional training center with several thousand, minority apprentice mechanics, masons, electricians, fitters, butchers, hairdressers and florists. There he teaches a bit of law, accounting, correspondence, French, civics and economics. More laughs, this time out loud.
Unfortunately, he runs into the brotherhood of ‘sworn-in methodologists,’ which make his job a nightmare. And more laughs, this time based on my own personal experience.
And then, he writes a book…
To read Breadline is a unique experience, and one I recommend everyone try. Part philosophy, part humor, part captivating prose – this book has it all. The one minor flaw was the tendency of the prose to assume a shade of purple in some spots, a little over the top. Perhaps because this book is a translation from the French?
In any event, I can recommend Breadline. I know many of Rosie’s followers will enjoy it, even in small bites.
About the author
Excerpted from Amazon:
Alain Dizerens was born in Geneva in 1948. In his 20s, feeling restless and with a constant urge to explore the world, he finds a job with a humanitarian organization and so his adventures begin, often more life threatening than recreational. Breadline is his autobiographic recounting of these adventures.
After a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and several decades of teaching, Alain Dizerens also presented a variety of “crosstalk kinetic” (dance, electro) performances, particularly in the context of the Swiss summer in Geneva in 1986. He has written other books – Miroir-Temps and l’Arpenteur sidéral among many as well as published a number of photo e-books. Written with a poetic touch, his books quickly absorb the reader in a realistically magical universe, which at the same time never lacks a bit humor.
You can find Alain on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dizerensalain/
And twitter: @alaindizerens
Breadline is available on Amazon: