Translation Louise Thunin
In a busy Paris neighborhood, I noticed a tramp sitting on his mattress beneath a carriage entrance. It was probably his only home. He was surrounded by the traditional plastic bags which probably contained all his possessions. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to passers-by. Moreover, he wasn’t begging, because he was busy with other things. Sitting there on his mattress, he held a laptop computer on his knees and was carefully typing on the keyboard. An unusual scene.
I was struck by the contrast between this man’s situation, being reduced to living in the street, yet nonetheless isolated from today’s society, and this discrete companion, this state-of-the-art technology that guaranteed him a modicum of modernity and no doubt a link to the world, replacing one he had lost.
Our society, alas, rejects onto its outer margins the people who, like this man, have suffered misfortune. But computer science sneaks in everywhere, invades everything, and even meets up with people who live on the unsure fringe.
I would have liked to speak with this man, to learn what sort of activity he was pursuing with his electronic appliance. Was he only playing games ? Or was he corresponding also with friends, or did he have a small paying job ? Was he writing a novel or a narrative of his turbulent life ? Did he have an Internet connection ? All that was a mystery to me, and I wondered what sort of life he must lead and how he could keep busy and live all day long with or without his computer.
A certain embarrassment or lack of simplicity or courage kept me from questioning him. I didn’t know how to talk to him. If he hadn’t had that computer in hand, I wouldn’t even have noticed him. He would have melted into the commonplace background.
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