Welcome to the website of the French Institute of South Africa!
Bienvenue sur le site de l'Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud !
In 2009, at the peak of economic recession in Europe, the well-known reporter Florence Aubenas ceased to send stories from Afghanistan, Iraq or Kosovo to her newspaper. Instead, she went looking for a job in Caen, a mid-sized city in Normandy. To employers and civil servants of the national employment agency, she presented a blank resume and a all-too-common story: she was a 40-something recently divorced ex-housewife, she had never worked but now needed to, since her ex-husband would not care for her any more. With no specific competences and no work experience, she was quickly oriented to the cleaning sector, an industry where employees pile up short-term contracts (a few hours a day, from one day to one month, never more) and perilously flirt with the minimum wage.
Cleaning holiday resorts, offices or ferries that bring British tourists to Normandy, she befriended people for whom a permanent job as a supermarket cashier is "prestigious", and a refuse collector is "well-paid". Aubenas resigns the day she is proposed a permanent contract - having said she would not want to block such a position. Despite her past adventures in war-zones, her story reveals how unprepared she was to be embattled on the front line of poverty in her home-country. "The Night Cleaner" is the story that results from her experience, a terrible yet fascinating book that lay bare the devastation of economic recession in Europe.
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Tel. (+27) 11 646 1115
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