Son of a French Holocaust survivor, Alan Kaufman was an alcoholic so mauled by his indulgences it’s a marvel he was alive enough to get into recovery. Drunken Angel, published in November 2011 by Viva Editions, is the story of how he climbed up from the abyss of a life pickled in self-pity, self-loathing and guilt to become a celebrated writer, editor, organizer and father to the daughter he’d abandoned for 20 years.
Kaufman’s descent takes the reader from the street gangs of the Bronx to the intellectual centers of Manhattan; from the battlefields of Gaza and the West Bank, where he served in the Israeli army, to the punk rock nights of the East Village, the poetry stages of Europe and San Francisco, as he was a force in the nascent spoken word poetry movement.
The brutal account of his ceaseless, losing battle against his addiction and the glimpses of beauty that emerge as he begins to find his way is mesmerizing. For the frontispiece of Drunken Angel, Kaufman chose the Diane Arbus quote, “It’s very thrilling to see darkness again.” Reading this book is like watching an accident to see if any of the victims crawl away barely alive. Kaufman did, and here delivers a lacerating cautionary tale.
With his estranged daughter as inspiration, Kaufman cleaned himself up at age 40, taking full responsibility for nearly destroying himself, his work and so many loved ones along the way.
Few titles have captured a more harrowing depiction of alcoholic ruin or recovery’s spiritual triumph. Drunken Angel probes the consciousness of an addict to expose the true horror of alcoholism.