October 15, 2014 2 Comments
Marc Augé’s book No Fixed Abode: Ethnofiction (Seagull Books, 2013) is reviewed by Dale Leorke from the University of Melbourne.
French anthropologist Marc Augé’s book No Fixed Abode follows the plight of Henri, a retired tax inspector and aspiring writer living in Paris. He has become homeless after his recent divorce left him unable to continue paying the rent for his flat. Balancing the modest income from his pension against the monthly spousal support he owes from his first failed marriage, he calculates that if he sells all of his furniture and begins sleeping in his car he will be able to get by. He watches as the antique dealers assess the financial value of each item in his flat and take them away one by one. He experiments with sleeping in his car parked in the garage at night, hoping that none of his neighbours catch a glimpse of him before he sneaks back to his almost bare apartment early in the morning. Soon the lease expires, all but his old Mercedes and most basic possessions have been auctioned off, and he no longer has a home. Henri must simultaneously adjust to his new life while attempting to maintain a façade of normalcy by keeping his condition from friends and former colleagues. He perpetually struggles to find a place to park his car (the “golden age” of streets with no parking meters are no more); he drifts from café to café to do his writing (he no longer owns a table or chair); contemplates where he will next be able to shower or use the toilet; and witnesses his savings gradually dwindle. He meets Dominique, an artist who is sympathetic to his circumstances and at first seems to offer an escape from them. But he comes to the realisation that this is a false hope and ultimately accepts the reality of his new life.
This synopsis might read like the plot of a novel or short story, or perhaps (if you are familiar with Augé’s earlier work) the opening anecdote of an ethnographic study of homelessness. In fact, it is neither of these. Augé’s book does not characterise itself as a novel, nor is this an ethnography. Rather, it is “ethnofiction”, an intermingling of the two, blending together both ethnographic research and fictional narrative. Continue reading Dale’s review here.
Further information about the book can be found here.