Full of Ordinary, by Étienne Tremblay | Being super fed up with work

With Full of ordinaryÉtienne Tremblay turns laziness into a gesture of resistance and the four walls of a gas station into the improbable setting of one of the best first novels of 2023.

“Shell’s not bad where it’s the most relaxed, if you want to grab your donut”, launches the 30-year-old writer who is in front of us and who knows about gas stations . Shell, Couche-Tard, Ultramar, Petro-Canada: Étienne Tremblay has worn each of their badly cut uniforms at least once. “Petros, I must have made four or five”, he specifies, his eyes sparkling, visibly amused by the formidable inconsistency of the teenager he was and from whom he borrowed the main features of Matthew.

Laziness black belt, Olympic-level soft flank, the perfect opposite of employee of the month; Étienne Tremblay’s alter ego in Full of ordinary ticks off the hours behind the counter of his Super Relais Boucherville, without ever losing sight of the clock, which will allow him at the end of his night shift to reconnect with his true passions: smoking weed, playing video games and wait for the divine inspiration which will make rise in him the most beautiful poems in the history of literature.

Mathieu sells gasoline and gradually moves away from his own. ” To work. Host. Work all the time. Life is too short to work, if you want my opinion”, sums up the touching layabout in this apprenticeship novel at the end of which his antihero may not have learned much, except that to inject a minimum of seriousness into its existence.

Melancholy-comic chronicle of suspended time specific to the last summer before CEGEP, Full of ordinary also has something of the ode to the purity of the vague aspirations of a young man who refuses that his existence becomes flat so quickly. And who deserts the banality of his Boucherville and sinking, in dreams, into his fantasies for his colleague Val.

Think of the shrewd humor of a François Blais (Iphigenia in Upper Town, Document 1) and the virtuosity of Stéphane Larue (The plunger) for spellbinding descriptions of surprisingly intriguing places.

“This decor was perfect for contrasting this teenager who is driven inside by great things, completely crazy and captivating, compared to what he concretely experiences day to day”, explains Étienne Tremblay in an interview in the Petro-Canada racket located at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Bernard. “When you’re a teenager, you’re full of hope, but you don’t necessarily have the mental tools to express it. »

At the school of alienation

“A third of people [en Occident] think that their job is useless”, lamented the anthropologist David Graeber in 2018 in the wake of the publication of his popular essay Bullshit Jobsa damning portrait of the relative usefulness of many of the jobs our society could do without.

“There is a moral bankruptcy in there”, laments Étienne Tremblay in turn, according to whom many of these summer jobs, like the one Mathieu occupies, cultivate early on an adherence to a world of work which would only allow in too few cases to flourish and where well-paid but superfluous positions would have multiplied.


Étienne Tremblay drew inspiration from his past jobs to tell the story of Mathieu, a teenager who refuses to let his life be nothing but work and banality.

“McDo, Petro and all those jobs teach you that your work won’t necessarily have any meaning, that it’s alienating, that’s how it works and that it will be like that until your retirement”, observes the one who earns his own crust as publishing coordinator for the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

We know that we would collectively have the means to work 15 hours a week, but since we refuse to make that choice, we have to invent jobs that prevent people from having free time.

Etienne Tremblay

Bouchervillois bovarysm

Inspired by Paul Léautaud’s aversion to metaphor – “I appreciate beautiful images, but I don’t have much patience for the humbug of useless artifices” – Étienne Tremblay also says he was marked by the lack of judgment with which Flaubert considers his characters. Your journalist points out to him that his lazy narrator has a lot in common with a certain Emma Bovary, who only managed to fully exist through her rich imagination.

“It’s true that there is a certain Bouchervillois bovarysme in Mathieu”, agrees the young author, laughing, very probably the first time in the history of humanity that these two words were pronounced in the same sentence.

Magnificently schoolboy novel, which cleverly camouflages its plea for another world behind the approximate thought of a boy who is as innocent as he is clairvoyant, Full of ordinary could be read as an invitation to reconnect with the intransigence of this precise moment when the absurdity of many aspects of adult life finally becomes clear to us.

“A lot of people will look down on a guy like Mathieu and he may actually need a few slaps in the face, recognizes Étienne Tremblay, but he is at the same time a guy who has other hopes than this job. which just eats up his time and doesn’t make him happy. »

Full of ordinary

Full of ordinary

Red Herbs

320 pages

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