diumenge, 31 de maig de 2009

No Gary Cooper in this Legion

"At 25, Jaime Salazar had it made. Fresh out of Purdue University with an advanced degree in mechanical engineering, he was on the fast track at Siemens, the German conglomerate. He drove a BMW and collected a big paycheck. There was one problem: he was bored.

Mr. Salazar slept through training lectures. He became the first recruit in 15 years to fail the company's telephone-efficiency test. And then he made a fateful career decision: he joined the French Foreign Legion.

Not a good choice.

From an air-conditioned Chicago office, Mr. Salazar took the express elevator straight to hell. "Legion of the Lost" is his story, the improbable, very funny tale of a sensitive, bookish child of Mexican immigrants who walked away from a promising career and, for romantic reasons, threw in his lot with a motley assortment of thugs, drunks, drug abusers and desperate refugees from the far corners of the earth. And those are the ones giving orders.

After signing his name on the dotted line at a recruiting outpost on the outskirts of Paris, Mr. Salazar was assigned the nom de guerre of Juan Sanchez and ordered to change into his new clothes, "a green tracksuit smelling of sweat and vomit with a hole in the crotch." Soon he was whisked away to boot camp at "the Farm," a decrepit installation in the foothills of the Pyrenees where the legion does the noble work of hammering "mindless hoodlums into efficient killing machines."

William Grimes, No Gary Cooper in this French Foreign Legion. The New York Times.