‘One life is not enough for everything’, says poet and novelist Richard Gwyn, but this dizzying memoir testifies to the many lives he has crammed into his own. At seventeen he left a comfortable upbringing in Wales to make his first independent sortie abroad, and from then on, this latter-day François Villon could not resist the lure of the vagabond’s breakfast of ‘garlic sausage, a litre of rouge and the open road.’ After some years in England constantly reinventing himself – as labourer, milkman, advertising salesman, or sawyer – he spent nine years wandering around the Mediterranean, working on farms, factories and fishing boats between bouts of travelling, but always pursuing his addiction to alcohol, tobacco and risk-taking.
Back home, recording the untimely deaths of his old companions of the road, he observes with an almost detached intellectual curiosity the race between the progression of his life-threatening liver disease and the search for a life-saving organ transplant.
Far from being a simple misery memoir, this extraordinary book by a 21st-century heir to Welsh supertramp W.H. Davies, analyses forensically the addict’s destructive choices, finding as much illumination in literature as in medical science. Ultimately it is not the transplant alone that will save him, but the loving support of his family and above all his own ability to write himself back to health.
With its almost hallucinatory intensity, The Vagabond’s Breakfast is a vivid, unsparing and unforgettable account of a fight for survival.
'Takes us through a Madame Tussauds thronged with addicts, misfits, lovers, all the extreme people who may (or may not) have been part of [Gwyn’s] past.'
New Welsh Review
After The Vagabond's Breakfast, Welsh writing is not going to be the same. More strength to Gwyn, the ultimate survivor.