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The Night Cleaner

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5199-6
184 pages
April 2011, Polity
The Night Cleaner (0745651992) cover image
The idea was simple: pack a suitcase, go to another city where you have no connections and try to find a job, anonymously. That was the idea that took Florence Aubenas - one of France's most
accomplished undercover journalists - on a journey into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Day after day she searched for work, one unemployed worker among others, with no special skills or qualifications. She immersed herself in the crowd of job seekers, going from one employment office to
another, eventually managing to cobble together a few hours working as a night cleaner on a ferry that crossed the English Channel.

For many people the global financial crisis seems real enough but remote from their daily lives. They have little sense of what it really means to be unemployed in the midst of a recession. Florence Aubenas was determined to find out. This book is the story of her
journey.

The Night Cleaner became an instant number one bestseller in France and has subsequently become a bestseller in many countries throughout the world. Better than any academic treatise on the topic, this book shows what recession means today.

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Florence Aubenas has worked as a journalist for over 20 years for Libération and the Nouvel Observateur. She has visited war zones, police stations, courts and factories on strike in the course of her reporting. In 2005 she was kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq and held hostage along with her interpreter, making front-page news worldwide. She emerged 157 says later unscathed.
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  • This is the first publication in English of a book that is an international bestseller. It went straight to number one in France, where it was first published, and it is a bestseller in many other countries.
  • The book tells the story of a well-known journalist who goes undercover to find out what it really means to be unemployed and trying to find work in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
  • She describes what it's like to go from one employment office to another, one person looking for work along with dozens of others, with no special skills or qualifications. Eventually she manages to find a few hours work on a night ferry that crosses the English channel.
  • Beautifully written, this book that enables people to understand what the economic crisis really means today for the people who are suffering most from it.
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"Aubenas's story is bleak because it lacks a conviction that things could be different. The story lies in the rubble - literally - of the achievements and failures of organised labour."
The Guardian

"The Night Cleaner records Aubenas' time among those for whom the job of supermarket cashier is 'prestigious' and a refuse collector is 'well paid' ... While 'l'exception francaise' may still mean something to those in the middle, there is little sign of it in the world documented by Aubenas. Perhaps she has hit on the exception to the exception."
London Review of Books

"This personal account of the unmaking of the French working class is not only great journalism, it is a true work of literature: beautifully written, intense, unforgettable."
Katha Pollitt, The Nation

"Follow Florence Aubenas into the armies of the night, among the invisible souls who clean up the mess we make by day, absorb her insights into the great recession and its impact on the most marginal."
Beatrix Campbell, author of Wigan Pier Revisited

"Too often, the impact of the global recession is reduced to general statistics. But in Florence Aubenas' provocative and passionate book it is captured in exquisite detail, emotion, and human faces. Whether in Cairo, Caen, or Wisconsin, the desperation that accompanies the soul-destroying search for work and economic stability continues to push people to the brink of their patience and dignity. What makes Aubenas' book so brilliant is that this culmination of her undercover investigation does not simply linger on their lack of hope, but also on the depth of their spirit."
Nomi Prins, author of It Takes a Pillage

"A vivid account of the insecurities and indignities of trying to cobble together a living from the part-time, temporary jobs of the West's postindustrial economy. The insufficient hours, abrupt layoffs, and inadequate wages Aubenas describes so clearly will be with us long after the current global recession ends."
Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families

"Recommended for those wanting to understand more about what it means to be on the bread line."
New Times


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