Rambali, Paul

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Rambali, Paul




Home—Paris, France.


Writer, broadcaster, ghostwriter, documentary filmmaker, and music journalist. Creator of documentaries for television networks, including the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), Channel 4, and Canal Plus.


(With Frances Basham and Bob Ughetti) Car Culture, Delilah Communications (New York, NY), 1984.

French Blues: A Not-so-Sentimental Journey through Lives and Memories in Modern France, Heinemann (London, England), 1989.

In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, Heinemann (London, England), 1993, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY), 1994.

Boulangerie: The Craft and Culture of Baking in France, recipes and photography by Maria Rudman, Macmillan USA (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Marie Therese Cuny) Phoolan Devi, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India's Bandit Queen, Little, Brown (London, England), 1996, published as The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2003.

Barefoot Runner: The Life of Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals and magazines, including NME, Arena, and the Face. Arena, editor during the 1980s; the Face, editor, 1980-87.


Paul Rambali is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. Active as a music journalist during the punk-rock boom of the 1980s, Rambali covered the rebellious music scene and the sometimes contentious bands and musicians who rose to fame in the era of neon Mohawks, safety-pin piercings, and chains as fashion accessories. Now based in Paris, France, Rambali has written books that include detailed geographical profiles as well as biographies of obscure but interesting personalities.

In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil contains Rimbali's lush portrait of the multifaceted South American country. He contrasts the richest, most prosperous, and most modern areas of Rio with the dismal poverty experienced in the shanty-town area of the city, where violence is commonplace and where hundreds of homeless children try to scrape up enough food to survive. He tells about Escadinha, known as Rio's Robin Hood, and describes the breathtaking beauty, sensual charm, and stunning debauchery of the Carnival, when beautiful women and strikingly glamorous transvestites parade about in their flashiest and most daring costumes. In Sao Paulo, the economic boom is brought about by a working-class dedication to job, sports, and television. Crime, art, politics, music, television, festivals, and work are constant presences in Brazilian city life. Outside the cities, in the lush jungles and rainforests, the ancient ways of nature continue to unfold, with death a constant counterpoint to the luxurious environment. Rimbali's account of "Brazil's sprawling cities and brooding rain forests glitters and spins like a mirrored disco ball," commented Donna Seaman in Booklist. "No conventional travelogue, this is a vivid profile of a vast, complex country," concluded a Publishers Weekly critic.

In The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend, Rimbali and coauthor Marie-Therese Cuny recount the story of Phoolan Devi, an Indian woman who suffered hardship and abuse in her early life but who became a notorious presence in Indian lore and succeeded on her own terms. Devi told her own story to Rimbali and Cuny, since she was unable to read or write. Born into a family of boatmen in the lowest caste of her village, Devi suffered the humiliations and abuse of being a girl in a country that often denies recognition of even basic humanity to its lower castes. Devi describes her abusive family situation and the deprivations of her upbringing. She tells how she and her family were charged with the worst jobs, such as plucking the lice from others' hair, and were expected to do these tasks without hesitation or argument because of their low-caste position. She tells of the abuse and indignities suffered at the hands of higher-caste employers and strangers. She was married off at age eleven for a dowry of a cow and a bicycle, and rather than wait until she matured, her new husband took her immediately and sexually abused her. When she flees and returns to her village, Devi is ostracized for not remaining with her husband. Later, he also returns to the village to violently reclaim her. Devi's life changes dramatically when she is assaulted by bandits, but is saved from death by Vikram, the bandit king. The two fall in love, and Devi rises through the group to become Vikram's bandit queen. For many years, they lived a Robin Hood-type lifestyle, until Vikram was murdered by a member of the gang. Thereafter, Devi formed her own bandit gang, returned to her village, and took lethal revenge on twenty-two upper-caste men who had assaulted and victimized her. Now an outlaw and fugitive, Devi spent many years in hiding until a deal with Indira Gandhi ensured she would not receive the death penalty. Instead, she spent eleven years in prison. Startlingly, after her release, she became a politician and was elected to the Indian parliament. In 2001, however, she was assassinated, allegedly in retaliation for her murders of the twenty-two men she killed in revenge. "I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the plight of women in India, the cruelties of the caste system and the story of a woman who had nothing and never gave up but was able to fight back," commented Reader Views contributor Mary Greenwood. "She is truly a modern Robin Hood and as such her legend lives on."

Barefoot Runner: The Life of Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila is the story of Ethiopian running champion Bikila, who won an Olympic gold medal in the 1960 games in Rome and, against the odds, won another gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics four years later. Not only was Bikila the first African to win an Olympic competition, he astonished the judges and the crowds by running barefoot. Originally a soldier in the imperial guard of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, Bikila was recognized for his talent and he began training with Swedish track coach Onni Niskanen. Following his athletic victories, Bikila was well-known and well-loved throughout Ethiopia. Unwillingly drawn into a coup attempt against Selassie, Bikila was almost executed. Later, tragedy struck when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1969. Unwilling to be defeated by his injuries or to give up athletics, Bikala became involved in the paralympics, where he competed in archery and table tennis. In 1973, he died of a brain hemorrhage while undergoing treatment in the hospital, cutting short an exceptional life of resolve and determination to succeed, not only for himself but for his countrymen. "While this book does an excellent job narrating Bikila's athletic success, it is also able to capture how his victory affected not only Bikila's life, but also how it paved the way for other African athletes who, prior to Bikila's victory, were largely considered to be inferior to athletes of European descent," commented RunOhio reviewer Elaine Binkley.



Booklist, March 15, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, p. 1323.

Encounter, May, 1990, review of French Blues: A Not-So-Sentimental Journey through Lives and Memories in Modern France, p. 43.

Independent (London, England), September 28, 2006, Peter Carty, "Fairy-Tale Story of the Shoeless Wonder Who Left Us Gasping for Breath," review of Barefoot Runner: The Life of Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila.

Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Todd Spires, review of Barefoot Runner, p. 76.

New York Times Book Review, June 5, 1994, Rand Richards Cooper, review of In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, p. 61; December 4, 1994, review of In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly, February 28, 1994, review of In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, p. 67; March 19, 2007, review of Barefoot Runner, p. 53.

Reference & Research Book News, December, 1994, review of In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, p. 12.

Runner's World, June, 2007, Brian Sabin, "Runner's Bookshelf," review of Barefoot Runner, p. 36.

Running Times, July-August, 2007, Nicola Bucala, review of Barefoot Runner.

Times Literary Supplement, August 6, 1993, Alma Guillermoprieto, review of In the Cities and Jungles of Brazil, p. 9; January 26, 2007, Christopher Clapham, "Road Kill," review of Barefoot Runner, p. 12.


Anglo-Ethiopian Society Web site,http://www.anglo-ethiopian.org/ (December 5, 2007), John Mellors, review of Barefoot Runner.

Reader Views,http://www.readerviews.com/ (December 5, 2007), Mary Greenwood, review of The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend.

Rock's Backpages,http://www.rocksbackpages.com/ (December 5, 2007), biography of Paul Rambali.

RunOhio,http://www.runohio.com/ (December 5, 2007), Elaine Binkley, review of Barefoot Runner.